One of my goals with this blog, besides opening up a conversation with you, was to explore how feminist ideals impact fatherhood.
It seems like a straightforward enough idea, but honestly, when I googled “feminist father” Google turned up only a handful of useful resources and a bogue study from the nineties about how feminism turns women against their fathers and turns them into lesbians (and I read the whole thing in the name of research. You’re welcome).
In fact, feminism and fatherhood are not antithetical, as the blog Feminist Fatherhood points out. Started in 2011, it was created to fill the void where discussion of dads who dig feminism should be, as well as offer guidance for guys who want to raise their kids to value equality. As the Feminist Father himself explains it:
A Feminist Father is a dad that seeks to transcend the sociopolitical gender landscape in the noble pursuit of raising a fully realized human being.
Not a bad goal for one’s offspring.
Feminist writer Jessica Valenti had a similar take on it, reflecting on her relationship with her dad and husband:
Feminist fathers know that parenting doesn’t have to come with a harsh dose of paternalism and reject the father-knows-best ideology that is so harmful to young girls (like purity balls). Girls with fathers who model equality at home are more likely to be ambitious about their future. And feminist fathers with sons are teaching the next generation that being a man does not have to be synonymous with deriding all things female.
How does this look in practice? While reading Jessica Valenti’s piece, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a feminist dad friend of mine, who told me recently about discovering porn on his young teen son’s computer. He brought it up with his son, who said his friends talked about porn and sex and he was curious.
My friend was, at first, a bit shocked; he tries to let his son know frequently that he is open and available to talk about sex, puberty, etc. But he kept his calm, and opened a conversation about how porn, as entertainment, is different from sex in everyday life. He explained that it wasn’t appropriate at his age, and then the talk turned into a conversation about anatomy, relationships, consent and sexual orientation:
I told him to remember it sets up unrealistic expectations. Women don’t behave like that, and men shouldn’t behave like that.
It was a difficult conversation, but also rewarding, my feminist dad friend said, and one he hopes will lead to healthy and fulfilling relationships for his son in the future.
Disliking patriarchy does not, it turns out, mean disliking dads, to poorly paraphrase Jessica Valenti. Feminist fathers are, in fact, instrumental to taking apart old, oppressive norms.
And that gives me hope for kids and dads everywhere,