Speaking out: #GirlDad movement teaches important lessons

Speaking out: #GirlDad movement teaches important lessons

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Kobe Bryant’s death sparked an outpouring of messages on social media about his legacy. In mourning Bryant’s death, the world posted photos and videos of basketball games and notable interviews. Unquestionably, Bryant will forever be known for his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

There is another notable aspect of Bryant’s legacy -- being a dad. Bryant was a father to four daughters -- Natalia, Bianka, Capri and Gianna. Gianna perished with him in a helicopter crash last month.

In the wake of Bryant’s death, Elle Duncan, an ESPN anchor, shared an interaction she had with Bryant while Duncan was eight months pregnant with her daughter. When Duncan told Bryant she was pregnant with a girl, Bryant high-fived her and said “girls are the best.” At that time, Bryant had three daughters and talked about how he and his wife wanted to try to have another child. Duncan asked what Bryant would do if he had another girl, and he told her that he would have five more girls. “I’m a girl dad,” he said.

Duncan’s story was shared by many across social media, and the #GirlDad hashtag trended on Twitter. From celebrities to your average North Dakotan, fathers shared photos and heartwarming words about their father-daughter bonds.

Aside from being a touching tribute to Kobe and Gianna, the #GirlDad hashtag trend acknowledged the stereotype that men prefer to have sons. Although that is not necessarily inherently wrong, it is important to take a step back and recognize gender inequity in our culture and steps fathers can take to invalidate the hierarchy.

There are valid reasons why a man would prefer to have a son, just like there are valid reasons why a woman would prefer to have a daughter. In fact, my own dad hoped his first child would be a boy. But, rumor has it that when I was born, he held me and said, “I want 1,000 more Katies.”

However, the #GirlDad hashtag addresses the assumption that a son would better carry on Bryant’s legacy. For example, in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Bryant talked about a fan approaching him and Gianna. The fan said Bryant needed to have a son in order to continue Bryant’s legacy. Gianna responded by saying that Bryant did not need a boy for that. “I got this,” Gianna said. Bryant responded by saying “Yes you do. You got this.”

Being a #GirlDad means understanding that the needs of daughters might be different than the needs of sons, but not looking disfavorably on that. Being a #GirlDad means raising a daughter who can follow in your footsteps and encouraging her just as much as you would a son. Being a #GirlDad means recognizing the worth of a daughter is equal to the worth of a son. And being a #GirlDad means contributing to the strides being made toward gender equality.

The movement of #GirlDad demonstrates model examples of how fathers should value their daughters, and in turn, women. It encourages fathers to place no limits on what their daughters are capable of. Although the death of Kobe Bryant and the eight others was extremely unfortunate, it left us with relevant conversations and lessons about what was most important to him -- being a girl dad.

Katie Winbauer, a Bismarck native, is a law school student at the University of North Dakota. She serves as the president of the North Dakota Student Media Association and is an advocate for student press rights. Winbauer has been a local speaker for the March for Our Lives movement and also works closely with Invisible Innocence.

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