I am thankful every day that, in addition to my amazing mother, I was raised by a feminist father who never once told me to be quiet or that my opinion wasn’t worth being heard; never asked me to accept the status quo or suggested I didn’t have the ability to create change; never invalidated my feelings or blamed them on hormones; never half-jokingly commented that I should pass on a second helping of dinner because I’d need to catch a husband someday; never suggested I dream more realistically, implying certain things may be out of reach for a woman.
Through words or actions, he has never made me feel lesser. There are very few men in my life about whom that is true.
I am incredibly privileged to have grown up in a household where my father showed me continually how intelligent, capable, funny, and loving he believes I am.
Whether in person, on social media, through reading, or on television, I hear daily of women whose fathers and brothers belittle their experiences as women. The stories range from fathers who tell their daughters to cover up to those who persistently ask when wedding bells will finally ring and fathers who vocally say they will never vote for a woman to be president because women are less fit to lead.
It makes me sad that while my father texts me about the latest documentary he watched examining how the court systems fail survivors of sexual assault, others hear the man who has been in their life the longest question what a survivor was wearing or how much she had had to drink.
No one is surprised to hear my mother is a feminist, but learning my dad proudly wears that label as well sometimes garners a surprised, “Oh.”
That reaction showcases so many things wrong with our society. A woman being a feminist is anticipated; a man identifying as a feminist is still bold. Men may say they support equality, but actually taking on the label of feminist, agreeing to take steps to promote gender equality, is seen as radical.
I will always be indebted to my mother for raising me with feminist ideals and showing me how to be a strong woman. I can never repay my father for teaching me to expect feminist men and enabling me to push back when I find men lacking.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone was raised by feminists? If girls didn’t grow up surrounded by microaggressions and boys were never told “don’t be such a girl?” If “because they like you” was never used to spin harassment as flattery?
My dad married a powerful woman and had three daughters, no sons, so perhaps I was destined to become a fiery feminist. But having my father in my corner always helped me. My feminist father — a middle-aged, straight, white male who has lived his whole life in a conservative county in the Midwest — gives me confidence and inspiration that sexism can be beat.
Feminism and misogyny both are learned behaviors; I am so incredibly grateful I never had to unlearn and relearn to get it right.