Deep in the Heart of Texas: Father-Daughter “Date” Night at Chick-fil-A

By Alyson Weiss, Field Intern

I have a confession to make: I am a bona-fide Texan feminist. I’ll let that sink in.

Despite how contradictory that label may sound to people on both sides, I’m proud of where I come from and who I am today. So the news that a Chick-fil-A in Dallas held a Daddy-Daughter Date Night right before Father’s Day has me conflicted along identity lines.

On the one hand, as a proud Southern girl who grew up with many father-daughter dances (and the classic after-party at Baskin Robbins) and knows firsthand the magic of Chick-fil-A sandwiches (and the particular craving that happens every Sunday, the day the Christian-run fast food chain is closed), I feel pleasantly nostalgic about this event.

I remember how nice it felt to dress up and go to a community center that had been decorated just for us. I remember the joy of getting thrown around like a potato sack by my enthusiastic but uncoordinated father before I learned that I was supposed to be embarrassed by him. I remember how nice it felt to spend some time just with my dad, and I hope other girls get to experience this in some capacity.

On the other hand, I do understand the qualms or the “ickiness” that many feminists see here. Calling the event a “date” does stand to fetishize youth, a trend we’ve been seeing far too much and which can have dangerous implications. The father-daughter faux-dating relationship can certainly be taken too far. Jessica Valenti beautifully exposed the creepy tradition of purity balls, where a father pledges his sexual morality in exchange for his daughter’s chastity pledge and then, many years later, entrusts her purity to her husband, in her book The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Putting fathers in “dating” roles can minimize the daughter’s right to come into her own sexual maturity while further institutionalizing heterosexuality and stereotypical gender roles. And, is it too much to ask if this practice might be mildly suggestive of pedophilia?

Still, I can’t help but think that anyone strictly opposed to such events might be missing some of their sweeter aspects. Despite the questionable name of the event as a “date” (and Chick-fil-A’s known homophobia), I just can’t quite see the evil in fathers and daughters eating the world’s most delicious chicken nuggets together and talking about their days. I value my personal experience with father-daughter dances and think they largely contributed to the positive relationship I have with my father today. I can only hope that Dallas fathers and daughters had a similarly positive experience last month.

But what do I know? I’m from Texas.

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