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Dad defends daughters' 'controversial' dresses in viral TikTok video

When proud dad Matt Austin shared a photo of his daughters' school dance looks, he wasn't prepared for a viral reaction.
 Florida news anchor Matt Austin says a photo of his daughters' homecoming dresses turned controversial.
 Florida news anchor Matt Austin says a photo of his daughters' homecoming dresses turned controversial. Courtesy of Matt Austin
/ Source: TODAY

A Florida dad said he went "Papa Bear" on social media followers for leaving degrading comments on a photo of his daughters dressed for homecoming.

Earlier this month, Matt Austin, a News 6 anchor in Orlando, posted a photo of himself with daughters Addison, 17, and Olivia, 14.

It was the first time the girls would attend their high school homecoming event together, and Austin shared his pride on Facebook.

"My daughters look a little too good on homecoming night," he captioned the Oct. 8 post. "Believe it or not, they’re even more beautiful on the inside."

Many of Austin's followers complimented the family photo; others knocked the girls' fashion choices.

"I do not understand how a parent could be comfortable with their daughter’s crotches on display should they bend over or sit," read one comment. "Sorry my daughters would never leave the house looking for sale," read another.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, dad," added a follower.

Austin told TODAY Parents he was thrown by the critical comments. "It was a total shock — to me, the outfits weren't controversial," he said, adding that the girls wore athletic shorts under their dresses.

"I wondered, 'What makes a bad dress? and 'Why are people policing me?'" he said. "And why is it OK to talk about someone's children like this?"

The father of three said he was "fuming," and the next day, he decided to film a TikTok response. First, however, he needed to tell his wife and daughters about the controversy — and get their permission to speak out.

"The idea passed the 'mom test,'" Austin told TODAY Parents. "My daughters aren't on Facebook, so I showed them comments. My youngest thought (my response) would be 'a little embarrassing' but they both said to go for it."

Dedicating his video to the "Karens" triggered by teenage dresses, Austin said, "So one thing that has always pissed me off as a father of girls is when people say things like, 'Well, these girls need to dress so they don't distract the boys,'" he said in the video. "Or even worse: They're dressing a way in which they're asking for it.'"

"Let's get something crystal clear now," he continued. "It's not my daughters' job to make sure your son is focused in school. Also not her job to dress hideous enough to where your son doesn't assault her. It's your job to not raise a pervert with no self-control."

Austin clarified that he would not have chosen the same dresses for his daughters, joking, "If it were up to me, it would be 24-7 Snuggies."

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"But if I start dictating what my daughters wear, I'm going to teach them three things," he said in the video. "They'll start to hate me for arbitrary rules, they'll start to lie to me or — maybe even worse — that it's OK for a man to tell them what to wear because they look too good."

"But you know what would really disappoint me?" he mused. "If my daughters grew up to be the kind of adult who goes on social media and demeans a teen's appearance on her father's Facebook page. Now that's what I call trashy."

Austin's video received wide support among viewers. "Way to go Dad!!" wrote one. "As a mother of a 16 year old boy, I couldn’t agree with you more!" said another.

According to Austin, the whole incident revealed a toxic narrative.

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"We’ve heard this lie our entire lives," he told TODAY Parents. "It's the idea that women are assaulted for dressing a certain way or because they went jogging at night. Why don't we put the onus on creeps? That doesn’t seem like a controversial stance."

While Austin is now second-guessing his future postings, he's somewhat satisfied that the photo sparked a conversation.

"People ask what I hope comes from this but the audience I truly care about is my daughters," he said. "I have always told my girls that I have their back and I think I've proven that."