5 things every daughter needs to hear from her dad

Amen to this from Daniel Darling:

I love having daughters. There is something about having a daughter that softens a man, adds a certain tenderness to his soul. In that spirit, I’d like to share five things every daughter needs to hear from her father:

1) You are beautiful and you are loved…
2) Your mother is beautiful and she is loved…
3) You belong to God and were created for his glory…
4) You are forgiven…
5) You are accepted…

He develops further each of these five points, and you can read them here.


  • Don Johnson

    Honestly, not sure why this is directed only to daughters, these seem to me to be things children should hear. The beauty aspect should be understood thru the lens of Scripture, that inner beauty is what is important.

  • alastairjroberts

    I think that there are subtle differences in emphasis in the sort of messages that sons and daughters need to hear. Male and female identities, despite considerable overlap, tend to find their foci in slightly different places. Female identity, for fairly obvious reasons, has a particular focus on the relationship to the body (and by extension, belonging). Male identity has a particular focus on the relationship with agency (and independence). Both boys and girls really need both sets of messages, though. Consequently, given the extreme danger of so emphasizing the focus to the neglect of everything else, I would suggest that Christian dads need to learn to say ‘Good job!’ to their daughters a lot more.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    “Male identity has a particular focus on the relationship with agency (and independence).

    If there is any one thing that makes life not worth living it is that one is deprived of the normal agency of people around you. I work with disabled people all the time, and this is key. This is central for them, having agency.

    Frankly, if you want to deprive women of agency or make them of lesser agency by their very nature, why father a girl at all? I don’t get it. They are better off not born. This is, bar none, the most painful part of being a woman in an evangelical environment and the cruelty was burned into my being like a brand.

    • alastairjroberts

      Whoa, wait up a minute, Suzanne! I think that you are jumping to a few conclusions here.

      I said that male identity tends to have an especial focus on agency and female identity tends to have an especial focus on the body. This is a rather different thing from saying that women either: 1. women have a ‘lesser agency by their very nature’; or, 2. women should be ‘deprived’ of agency. In fact, if you read my comment, you will see that I argued that, although males and females may have different especial needs, which we should focus on addressing, we should not forget that everyone needs a sense of agency and belonging, even though some may generally need one more than the other.

      Feminine identity almost invariably focuses primarily on themes related to the body, community-formation, and belonging. This isn’t just an arbitrary cultural imposition, but develops out of the difference between male and female bodies. The sexed bodies of women are ordered towards copulation, child-bearing, childbirth, and nursing, and go through cycles that remind women of this fact. The telos of the sexual distinctives of the female body relate to a purpose that is achieved within the body and in long term relation to it.

      The female body also creates the natural bonds between people and doesn’t have the bodily autonomy characteristic of the male body. Childbearing is a great example of this. The debates about abortion illustrate the fact that it is incredibly hard to draw a line that divides the woman’s body and its autonomy from the body of her child. Even though both pro-life and pro-choice advocates often seek to draw such lines, they really can’t easily be drawn. The female body is a source and symbol of communion. While the male can enter into it, he does not know communion within his own body, while the female can bear a person that is related to her husband in her body for nine months and then later have her child feeding from her body for some time after that.

      Gender is the way in which we give these natural differences cultural and personal value and meaning. While gender always contains countless arbitrary and over-determined dimensions, it does take its fundamental bearings from essential distinctions, most particularly those between male and female bodies and their natural orientations. Being a woman is particularly shaped by a relationship to one’s body and its natural ends as a source of life and communion, which is why femininity and female identity generally tends to focus on the body’s appearance and upon traits of character related to the negotiation, formation, and preservation of close community. Women have a particular need to be affirmed in such things.

      By contrast, the male body only has one sexual organ and function, one of very brief duration. In itself, the male body is almost a nullity, without the great symbolic meaning that the female body has. The one sexual function that it performs is indeed focused on the male’s ‘performance’. Since the purpose of the male body isn’t something achieved within itself, in the way that the female body’s purpose is, the male body is propelled beyond itself towards that end. Masculine identity tends to focus on action and agency and the successful performance of functions. Masculinity has to be ‘proved’. While a female typically ‘becomes a woman’ when something happens to her body – puberty, penetration, or pregnancy – a male ‘becomes a man’ through action, through breaking with the childhood realm of the domestic and asserting independence, or through successfully pursuing a woman. As masculinity is focused on external-driven action and agency, masculinity needs to be ‘demonstrated’ in a way that femininity doesn’t. While women have fraught and complex relationships with their bodies, and are often objectified, the anxieties that accompany masculinity are principally related to action and performance. For this reason, men particularly need to be affirmed in these things.

      Now, none of this denies that men need places to belong and to be given a positive relationship with their bodies. It certainly doesn’t mean that men should be made not to belong or given negative relationships with their bodies. When this happens the results aren’t pretty. Conversely, all of the same holds in the case of women and agency. All that this means is that the different sexes will generally experience a different weighting of existential needs arising out of their distinct physiology.

      If we fail to recognize these differences we can deprive some and hurt others. For instance, for many boys identity is powerfully and positively forged through such things as play fighting, competition, larger and more hierarchically ordered groups, and performance-based rewards. All of these things play to the needs of the child who seeks identity primarily in their independent agency. However, for the child who seeks identity primarily in their belonging and in relationship to their body, very different forms of play and smaller and closer groups will be preferred and those tailored to the agentic child may hurt them.

      There is considerable overlap in preferences for each individual, because individuals are always more than their gender alone. However, when we do look for our gender identities, they tend to be located in these different areas. There are some women who are more agentic than many men as individuals, but their sense of femininity will still typically tend to be located in relationship to their body and, for instance, its integral desirability, or in a sense of belonging and helping others to belong. Likewise with men: although a man may be much more sensitive and communally and person-oriented, his sense of masculinity will almost invariably be focused upon some form of recognized agency or the quest for it.

      All of this said, however, as general tendencies, these things hold for both of the sexes overall. It is one of the reasons why some form of patriarchal (loosely defined) society is virtually unavoidable: the most effective and expansive power structures are primarily formed by people who are independent, competitive, agonistic, agentic, and who thrive in non-intimate, externally-oriented large groups.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    And the unmarried female never “becomes a woman.” Painful stuff here Alistair,

    In reply, I would say that women need special encouragement to develop full agency since they are more vulnerable in this area due to negative influences in their environment. Men, on the other hand, need encouragement to relate to their own bodies in a positive way.

    I appreciate what you are saying about men and agency, but I would argue that women need the same focus, for somewhat different reasons. I have seen from the inside and the outside how terrible it is to lack agency. It is a form of death. I don’t see any recognition of this in your essay.

    • alastairjroberts

      I never said that the unmarried female never ‘becomes a woman’, no more than I said that the man who never has sex never ‘becomes a man’. All I did was list some of the events associated with the achievement of male and female identity in various cultures, illustrating the fact that there are different gendered loci of identity.

      If you would read what I have written from my first comment onwards, you should notice that I actually do say that particular attention needs to be given to encouraging women to develop full agency, even though it isn’t typically the same focus of their gendered identity, precisely because those things that aren’t the focus are still essential, but are the most easily neglected. No one wants to have their agency denied, but allowing for and encouraging agency is a very different thing from treating it as a primary focus of one’s gendered identity.

      And you should be careful what you wish for. What I am talking about here is not just men and women having different culturally supported foci of interest or behaviour, but different deeply existentially demanding forms of identity. Agency isn’t just a permission or freedom – it is a demanding imperative. It is one thing to support women to develop a healthy agency. However, if women want to enjoy the same degree of powerful agency as men at all levels of society, they need to develop the same level of relentless existential need or desire for powerful agency that men can possess and be willing to sacrifice rather a lot in the areas that pertain to their more common primary existential needs to achieve it. The wearisome quest to ‘have it all’ – to fulfil deep existential needs for belonging and children and for powerful agentic careers, with deep frustrations on both counts – is the common result of this, as is the impression that women who do not maximize their independent agency and focus more of their personal resources on homemaking are failures to some extent or other.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    “However, if women want to enjoy the same degree of powerful agency as men at all levels of society, they need to develop the same level of relentless existential need or desire for powerful agency that men can possess and be willing to sacrifice rather a lot in the areas that pertain to their more common primary existential needs to achieve it.”

    Instead, we sacrificed the drive that we did have, and cashed it in, in order to get into evangelical heaven, to “please God” and surrender to “penetration” 😉

    And now the average women of my age, in my peer group, is deeply regretful of this capitulation. We are single, we support our young adult children and pay their college fees. We support our parents. We care for others and we work full time. And we cannot retire.This is a scandal.

    We graduated from university along with our brothers, we were driven, but it was not encouraged. We were treated differently from the boys. And now, tell me, who is going to pay our pensions? The church? The ex? Not likely. No we are going to pay into old age. We are going to work into our retirement years. It was bait and switch.

    I had the desire, and ambition, and I gave it up for dross and misery. Nobody can promise a woman that her husband will take care of her for the rest of her life. That is a small minority and the sooner women realize this the better. You can’t wish this into existence. Female agency and drive needs to be fostered first and foremost. Then she can confidently enter into parenthood.

    Unless you can personally underwrite a woman’s support yourself, for the rest of her life, then you need to foster her agency first. First, not second. You need to respect and foster independence in women unless you are endowing her. But even then you still should.

    PS Just a minor further point. While penetration is one way that some people describe sex, both male and female – it is not the normal way that healthy happy women talk about sex. We talk rather of invitation and embrace. The women invites and encompasses the man. She experiences this as agency. Everything else sounds like rape.

    Just want to express this, because I am old enough not to step back from being frank in public. I think the penetration talk has gone on long enough. Think of the biblical model. The women of the bible either seduce, invite, entice, and accept the male OR they are raped (penetrated) and beaten to death. Let’s put penetration to rest.

    • alastairjroberts

      I am not certainly saying that women don’t exercise agency in sexual relations. The word ‘penetration’ was chosen for a few reasons. First, because it fits alliteratively with the other words (pregnancy and puberty). Second, because it makes clear that it is a particular sort of sexual relation that is given significance, not sexual contact in general. Third, because the agency of the man is more of a defining and primary feature of the sexual relation in its fundamental and undeveloped form. The women’s agency is an inviting and receptive agency, but the decisive action is the man’s. Consequently, ‘penetration’ is a term that comprehends the essential form of the action that pertains over all of its forms, even those that are non-consensual.

      I am sorry that your experience has been so negative. However, I wonder whether it hasn’t led you to a rather jaundiced perspective on things. Just because your experience has been so negative doesn’t mean that all women should resign themselves to a situation where they will be cast entirely upon their independent resources, and won’t experience the mutual support appropriate to marriage.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    “No one wants to have their agency denied,” I have always understood that limiting female agency was the one central and necessary point to complementarianism.

    • alastairjroberts

      In which case, I submit that you have rather misunderstood it.

      To be honest though, Suzanne, we have been around this plenty of times before, and I doubt that we are going to make any progress rehashing the debate here. You come at this discussion from the perspective of a very painful personal history of how things can go incredibly badly wrong within some complementarian contexts. I come at this discussion from the perspective of someone who has plenty of issues with most complementarian contexts myself, and little desire to hold them up as examples of how everything should be done, but also as someone who believes that egalitarianism is ideologically, biblically, and theologically bankrupt, even though it is generally responding to genuine problems.

      I have seen complementarian contexts which are incredibly positive examples, with very empowered women, and I have seen egalitarian marriages where the logic of egalitarianism has taken a poisonous form, leading to break down of relationships. I think that it is very easy for both sides to choose the selective examples that prove their case, though. While I have definitely seen negative forms of complementarianism, I have seen enough contexts where fairly consistent complementarian just worked and men and women were happy to know that the notion that complementarianism is necessarily this horrid abusive system is bogus (much as I have seen enough to know that preachers of egalitarianism are often still poor spouses).

      Complementarianism and egalitarianism are poor terms, conflating many different positions that are wildly dissimilar. I don’t know of an author out there who expresses my form of complementarianism (if it can fairly be called such), although I have read quite a few major complementarian authors. If we could shelve the terminology, we might actually get somewhere beyond the constant guilt by association that accompanies your grouping of a host of positions into a relation with those groups that have hurt you in the past. While your personal experience is incredibly painful, sad, and regrettable, handled in such a manner it tends to lead to a rather unbalanced and careless treatment of the issues, as they are engaged with as emotionally weighted and shoddily delineated sides.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        In addition to my personal experience, the wife of one of the most well known complementarians in NorthAmerica, is not herself a complementarian. There are a lot of women in complementarianism, in happy marriages even, who do not agree with this as a doctrine.

        An example is when Tim Challies tried to find even one female of his acquaintance who thought female submission was part of creation, rather than part of the fall, he couldn’t. I think he could have, but clearly it was difficult.

        But these women, for the sake of belonging, perhaps as you say, do not make a public stand for the importance of female agency. They just quietly go about ensuring their own agency, but don’t create a public ethos in favour of female agency. And this is very unhelpful for women who meet with difficulties in life.

        I simply protest that to compare powerful agency for men, and penetration of the body for women, in spite of its alliterative attraction, is a lop-sided approach.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    .”the decisive action is the man’s.”


    In the Bible, for all non-violent sexual relations, for most relations, in the line of David, the decisive action is the woman’s. Bathsheba is the single exception. Think of Leah, Hannah, Tamar, Ruth, Song of Solomon, – the decision and the action belongs to the woman. The male is in a state which comes often to him, and while necessary to coitus, does not necessarily lead to coitus. The woman must decide that it will happen. If female agency is not well developed, or is disregarded, she may become cranky. But that is not ideal.

    I just think that in a public space, views and opinions should not be restricted to how men view these things.

    • alastairjroberts

      Just as a matter of fact, I strongly disagree with you, Suzanne. The typical biblical reference to non-violent sexual relations takes the form of the husband ‘knowing his wife’. The key action is the husband’s. ‘So Boaz took Ruth and she become his wife; and when he went in to her…’ ‘And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife…’ ‘Then [Judah] went in to her, and she conceived by him…’ etc.

      None of this is to deny that female agency figures in the equation, but the biblical pattern in describing the sexual act itself is to speak in terms of the male action, rather than in terms of the female’s (‘Hannah knew Elkanah’), or even a joint and symmetrical action (‘they knew each other’), even when the female is the lead protagonist in the narrative.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    penetration’ is a term that comprehends the essential form of the action that pertains over all of its forms, even those that are non-consensual.

    This is a problem. Women regard non- consensual and consensual coitus as tow different activities. Men ought to also. We are human – these two things are essentially different.

    Regarding my peer group, some very happily married women are sole providers of their families in later years. It would not be a negative experience if we had not been deceived as to our responsibility to provide for parents, children and perhaps also spouse a little earlier.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    What i am trying to point out is that you present a very specific phallocentric view of life. It is only one view, the view from where you stand and tells a lot about where you are coming from.

    I speak from the position that women love and embrace men, but do not think of loving coitus primarily as penetration.

    I also speak from the point of view that women are providers. This is a wonderful role to play. It is not negative. What is negative is that this role of provider for women is not fostered or honoured by some Christians.

    • alastairjroberts

      Perhaps we should leave this here, Suzanne. As in previous rounds of our discussions of these issues, I find it very hard to communicate with you. You seem to view everything from the very jaundiced perspective of your own painful experience – to which point you always bring the conversation around – jumping to conclusions, tarring all opposition with the same brush, or being hyper-sensitive to secondary details, which balloon into huge tangential discussions, while you seldom adequately engage with the key issues under debate. When you do engage with the key issues, you are so adamantly opposed to backing down, even in the teeth of insistent evidence (this debate with Matt Colvin being a great example) that one starts to wonder why one bothered in the first place.

      Knowing how this thing goes, I can be pretty sure that any further discussion will take the form of my presenting a close response to your points, your picking out some incidental detail and placing a rather uncharitable construction on it, my spending time explaining why your uncharitable construction is untenable or unfair, your rapidly picking out something else that supposedly confirms your prejudices… And so on, ad infinitum. At no point will you go to much effort to understand and respond to my position on its own terms, or manifest any evidence that you have much of an idea about anything that I believe.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        Matt Colvin happily declared that the Junia article by Wallace was sloppy. His words not mine. His evidence did not in any way support the notion that the person who was episemos was not a part of the group. Of course, he was a part of the group. So, yes, I examined the evidence within the terms of the discussion.

    • Suzanne McCarthy

      I guess you din’t mean that. Sorry. But you read the fact that the man “knew” his wife as the decisive act. I read the original pleading, the seduction or persistent pursuit by the female of coitus, as the decisive action. Leah bargains with Rachel and buys a night with Jacob from Rachel, I think that is how it goes. If Leah had not pursued Jacob, the act would not have taken place.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    You think penetration is a key feature. Women have other key features in mind. You represent very well what some men think about sex.

  • Alan Molineaux

    Some great thoughts Suzanne. The problem that you have in debating with Alistair is that he (and Complementarians) have a view of an ontology of male and femaleness that is a given. They see it ‘as so’ in scripture and also in human experience; hence

    ‘male identity tends to have an especial focus on agency and female identity tends to have an especial focus on the body.’

    The fact that much of this is cultural driven is not acknowledge. This is then brought to the text to affirm a view of women.

    Where you and I (as a father of four amazing daughters) would challenge these views Complementarians hold them as the standard to be attained.

    • Akash CHarles

      funny- culturally driven!!- you do realize our culture is influenced by our natural behaviors and responses right??- it is not like a group of people got together and decided this is what culture will be like!

    • alastairjroberts

      The fact that, even after interacting with each other over many months, neither you nor Suzanne can accomplish a task as elementary as spelling my name correctly (even though it is constantly repeated before your eyes), is probably a good sign that I am wasting my time trying to communicate with both of you. You just aren’t paying attention.

      Besides, if you would just read what I had written, rather than mobilizing all of your tiresome stereotypes about complementarians, you would see that I happily acknowledge the cultural factor. I also made the point that while gender identities almost invariably focus in these different areas, every individual is more than their gender alone. The fact that every gender norm is a cultural construction does not mean that every gender norm is reducible to a cultural construction, nor that there aren’t clear and predictable tendencies in the form that these things take.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    14 In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15 But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” 16 When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. 17 And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar.[h]

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    ???? ????????? ????? ??? ???????? ?? ???? ???????? ? ??????????? ??????? ??? ?????
    ?????? ?????????.
    “I want to be ready for action, and ???????? among the brothers, rather than to transgress the commandments and be repugnant to them.”

    Matt agreed with me that this person was one of the brothers, and it means ‘among my own brothers’. This person wants to be “outstanding among his brothers”, rather than ‘well known to his brothers.”

    Its a great example in support of Junia as an apostle.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.