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Smells like purity ball, tastes like chicken

This post was written by Ellice

If you're in San Antonio over the week and you're interested in feeling weird, maybe you should attend Chick-fil-A's annual Daddy Daughter Date Night With your daddy, or your daughter. I don't know. Apparently they fill up, but it's OK  because you and your date can make free reservations. It seems you might eat a chicken sandwich, be serenaded by someone in a cow outfit, and you will probably be videotaped (see here for last year at the Danville, VA location).

Of course it's good for fathers to spend time with their daughters. I would probably be more open-minded about this event were it not for...everything about it. The entire color scheme, the sprawling red ribbons, and the hearts evoke way more romance than family fun. I'm sorry (I'm not sorry), they do. Before I even found out about Chick-fil-A's contributions to anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family, and their evangelical corporate mission statement ("To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."), the way it was all framed–it was just off. When I found out that every daughter takes home a pink carnation, I threw my hands up. My attempts at open-mindedness eventually looked to me, naive. Like a pink carnation. Really.

Daddy Daughter Date Night is not technically a purity ball but the parallels are difficult to ignore. Feminists and other critically-minded folks often turn green at purity ball cultures, for instance at The Frisky, where there's a post worth reading on this event. People talk about purity balls as though they are freak phenomena, thriving only at the margins of fundamentalist cultures. You might not know anyone personally who attends them but I think purity balls, daddy daughter dates, etc. are the more spectacular face of an insidious, more subtle sexism we engage with every day.

With respect to Chick-fil-A's event, there's the obvious 'ew' factor, understandable to anyone living in a culture with an incest taboo. But the date night is disturbing on another level, in that it replays an idea endemic to purity balls and evangelical gender politics: that a young woman's sexuality should be managed first and foremost by her father. This brand of paternalism, which places female sexual capacity and power in the hands of anyone but herself, definitely warrants more 'ew's.