There's a kind of time-out moment in Game of Thrones when Cersei Lannister, who is generally a villain, asks an enemy of hers how her daughter—who now lives in his kingdom—is faring. He snappily answers, "They don't hurt little girls in Dorne."
Cersei softens, her reply opening a brief window into what's made her such a sadistic, miserable human: "Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls."
"Dear Daddy," an ad for Care Norway by agency Schjaerven, drives that poignant point home with a sledgehammer.
At least once in your life, you've probably called someone a whore. Maybe you were a kid when you did it. You tested out ugly words, the way we all do, and maybe, once you got older and more educated, you recognized the impact words like that could have, and you stopped.
We've all done that. The problem is, by the time we realize that isn't quite a nice thing to say, the damage is done. We have contributed to a spiral of torture that will both mar a little girl, and forever haunt her judgment as a woman.
According to WHO, one in three women in the world will experience physical or sexual violence in their lives, most often from a male partner. That's a ridiculously huge figure. And "Dear Daddy," Care Norway's latest PSA, asserts that it's crappy jokes about women and girls—and the lax attitude we have toward people who make them—that feed that statistical beast.
The video is a heartfelt letter from an unborn child, expressing appreciation for the father she hasn't yet met. "Dear Daddy," she begins. "I just wanted to thank you for looking after me so well, even though I'm not yet born. I know you already try harder than Superman; you won't even let mummy eat sushi!"
This warm start is reinforced by a man getting into his car and casting an intimate look at his partner, who rubs her big ripe belly in the passenger seat. But things quickly take a turn for dark, destabilizing territory. "I need to ask you a favor," the girl's voiceover continues. "Warning: It's about boys."
The ad scrolls across the faces of the boys, younger and older, that our unborn heroine will meet in her life. There is nothing menacing about their features, but something about them begins to feel that way as things progress.
"I will be born a girl, which means that by the time I'm 14, the boys in my class will have called me a whore, a bitch, a cunt, and many other things," the girl says.
From a young age, appraisal moves with girls like a shadow; adolescence is littered with the hazards of both male and female commentary. We've both survived these jokes and made them, and as the narrator points out, in our early years we most often brush them off as "just for fun, of course. Something that boys do. So you won't worry, and I understand that."
That last phrase carries lots of baggage that the following minutes work painstakingly hard—sometimes too hard—to unpack: The sense girls have that when bad things happen, it's probably their fault; and the debilitating soup of emotions we feel when someone slights us, but our fathers, who love us, laugh at similar comments and sometimes even make them.
Mean words and dumb jokes aren't the dangers that dads prepare for when bringing a girl into the world; they can't possibly comprehend the minefield that awaits well before puberty begins to ripple under our skin. This yields all kinds of interesting strategies for protecting ourselves without seeming like we have to, including this classic: A guy comes aggressively onto you, and you have to find a playful way to make it seem like you're in on the game, but also like it's his idea to give up. Blame and alarm are things we cannot project, for reasons both social and self-protecting.
If we stopped here, that would be plenty. But things only worsen for our heroine, because this isn't about the general dangers of girl-bashing; it's about very specific consequences. By 16, boys are taking liberties when she's drunk. "If you saw me, Daddy, you would be so ashamed … because I'm wasted," she says.
By 21, she is raped … by a boy she grew up with, because their fathers went swimming together. And when she finally finds Mr. Perfect, who gradually becomes less so, she discovers that, despite being educated, and having been raised to be a strong and independent woman, she cultivates the silence and submission that enables his eventual abuse.
"I'm not the victim type," she insists, even while acknowledging a confusing medley of emotions: the sense of love and hate, the endless uncertainty about whether she truly did something wrong. It's a masterclass in how girls internalize the shame of their own harm, which isn't something that happens randomly; it is something we're taught to do from the moment we start mixing socially.
The ad concludes with a powerful ask, which reminds you that this whole story was a long preamble to a favor she was warming up to—more evidence of an almost compulsive need not only to apologize, but to justify herself in advance of requesting anything, even something that might save her life.
"One thing always leads to another, so please stop it before it gets the chance to begin," she says. "Don't let my brothers call girls whores, because they're not, and one day some little boy might think it's true. Don't accept insulting jokes from weird guys by the pool, or even friends, because behind every joke there is always some truth.
"I know you will protect me from lions, tigers, guns, cars or even sushi without even thinking about the danger to your own life. But dear Daddy, I will be born a girl. Please do everything you can so that won't stay the greatest danger of all."
That's a plea even Cersei can get behind. And in this particular case, we won't mind standing with her.