Not my dad and me. BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN.
I’ve often heard that having a daughter can be one of the most formative experiences in a man’s life. Generally, I’ve been told, it’s an experience that allows men to understand women’s issues on a completely different, more fully empathetic level. Every time they hear about something like violence against women, street harassment or double standards, they picture their daughter and finally understand the full injustice involved. I think it’s possible that this was something my own father experienced.
Don’t get me wrong, I think my Dad has always been a particularly empathetic, kind and all around wonderful human being and I’m positive that was true long before I came into the world (in fact, I have been blessed with two incredible parents). But I think that those qualities may have been amplified by having a daughter. I don’t remember a single day having gone by when my father didn’t tell me he loved me. I don’t remember a single game, recital, or otherwise important event in my life that he didn’t manage to somehow make it to. My Dad always took me seriously, always listened to me when I talked even when I was 4 years old and felt the need to talk passionately about Disney princesses for hours. Some of my greatest memories are of our rituals, whether it was watching The Simpsons together every week or him bribing me with a brownie to go to every piano lesson he drove me to. While other Dads couldn’t move past unfeeling and cold masculinity standards to make their love of their children known, such a model of parenting never even occurred to my Dad.
When I told my parents that I was a feminist, that I wanted to start a feminist blog, I think they were surprised. They were completely supportive of all of my ideals and ambitions, but I don’t think they’d ever actually used the word “feminist” in our house. But over the past few years, I think both of my parents would proudly describe themselves as feminists. My Dad brags about my feminist work to his friends, and has even started to integrate those ideas into his own work. And that’s one of the biggest ways my parents have integrated feminist ideals of equality into our relationship. I think parents often get hung up on teaching their children as much as they can, on imparting their own wisdom and shaping their children into fully functioning adults. But what both of my parents always understood was that they could learn from me, too. I’ve never been afraid of using my voice because I always felt that I was taken seriously and my voice is valuable.
But beyond being a great parent, my father taught me something important about feminism. I am so interested in and insistent upon including men in the feminist movement because I was raised with the example of what a real man can and should be. I know that men don’t have to fit stereotypes of masculinity, and that in fact they’ll be happier if they don’t. I know that men can be full partners to their wives in life and in raising a family. I know that men can be kind and sensitive. I know these things because my father is all of these things. Having a father like mine shaped my life in so many ways, and I’m passionate about fighting for a world, for a future, in which all men feel free to be the type of father and the type of man my father is. I know it’s possible. I have evidence.
So, in honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I just want to give a big thank you to my Dad — and to all the feminist Dads out there — for being awesome and for shaping your daughters’ lives for the better. I only hope we can move towards a future where your standard of fathering is the norm.