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Why Peter Andre's 'Joke' About His Daughter Princess 'Becoming A Nun' Needs To Be Called Out

12/04/2017 08:15 BST | Updated 12/04/2017 11:34 BST
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Peter Andre has said that he plans for his daughter Princess to "become a nun" when she is older, adding that he has already shown her churches and a habit.

The father-of-three has since dismissed the comment about his 9-year-old's future celibacy as 'a joke', but I seem to have missed the punchline.

I haven't just had a sense of humour failure, I've just heard the sexist I'm-sending-my-daughter-to-a-nunnery joke more times than I care to remember. In fact, it's the oldest, most tired dad joke in the book.

Written by the forefathers of patriarchal society, such throwaway comments are far from harmless. Instead they shape our values and spread the message that women and girls' bodies are the property of the men around them.

First we belong to our fathers and then our boyfriends - with women eventually handed over in a ceremonial and outdated fashion on our wedding days.

I grew up, like many, in a suffocatingly patriarchal community, where sexist language and attitudes reigned supreme.

Dads and older brothers made threats - some joking, mostly real - about their daughters' or sisters' future boyfriends and what they'd do to them if they ever treat said female badly. That or they refused to acknowledge that she had any relationships at all.

At best overly protective, at worst suppressive, these attitudes stop girls from learning they alone have ownership of their own body and what they choose to do with it, and with whom.

Andre's comments brought back memories of a conversation my parents had in the car when I was about 17.

My brother, who is four years my junior, had just got his first girlfriend and my dad was teasing him about her in the backseat.

"We better get you some condoms," my dad joked, nudging him in the ribs. I was shocked, my brother laughed.

My mum, who was driving, didn't take her eyes off the road, coolly replying: "While you're at it can you get some for Brogan."

My dad suddenly got uptight, the smile wiped from his face and he told my mum directly that her joke "wasn't funny". The car fell silent. She shrugged and kept driving, her smirk visible only to me, sat in the passenger seat.

Now, not only was I old enough to have sex by this point, but my family knew and loved of my kind, respectful boyfriend. Still, it didn't stop my dad from making a clear distinction between my brother and I when it comes to dating and sex - despite, you know, the four-year age gap and age of consent.

I didn't realise its impact immediately, but my mum's small act of defiance really made an impact on me. By calling my dad's attitudes out, I became acutely aware of the double standards when it comes to relationships, sex and my rights over my own body. My dad isn't alone in his opinion of his daughters' future relationships, that much is true, but that doesn't mean we should just ignore it.

It's easy to brush off such jokes - as it is with Andre's - but calling out these small acts of everyday sexism is as important as fighting the big stuff. Still wondering whether these comments are sexist? Ask yourself why the so-called jokes aren't made about sons.

Some sexism may be more overt, such as catcalling or the pay gap, but the sexist language we use everyday is endemic and allows ideas of gender inequality to bed in. Next, ideas of ownership, control and violence become actions.

But it is easy to change and make a stand. I can't tell you the amount of times I've laughed at sexist jokes and brushed off gendered insults over the years - now I can't help but say something.

If the language I call out in the pub is one thing, the things children overhear their parents saying is another entirely.

When it comes to bringing up the next generation, we have a duty to be responsible and right the gendered wrongs of past generations.

As a starting point: young girls need to learn to value themselves, while young boys need to learn how to respect women (and themselves).

It might have been meant as a joke, but it really isn't that funny.