Nine ways my daughters and I are becoming better feminists together
Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Many of us have seen the now semi-famous “feminist dad” t-shirt.
It’s admittedly a great start to the kinds of conversations dads should have with their kids. It goes miles beyond the “shoot the first one and word will spread” crap that some parents seem to flock to when they conjure up images of dads and daughters.
Well, I have been a dad for almost seven years now, and while this “her body, her rules” sentiment is great, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being a feminist dad. Or at least, I think that’s the case.
Here are a few ways my daughters and I are working together to make me a better feminist dad:
Admit that I make lots of mistakes too
I am so far from being perfect that it is scary. I’d hate for my daughters to think that I had all the answers to the questions they have. Or that what I say about sexism, or racism, or anything, is a definitive answer. It’s not. When they know this, they realize that your learning journey doesn’t end when they are 18 and it also helps them understand that they help me learn too.
It’s possible I’m making many mistakes in this post actually. And that’s okay. I’ll learn, they’ll learn, and we’ll keep getting better.
Talk about what being a boy means as well
Our daughters regularly come home and tell us that they told someone girls can get married to girls and that girls can play baseball and girls can like the colour blue. These lessons have been easy to teach our kids because they impact the things they like in their life. It’s simple to tell a girl who likes baseball that she’s allowed to like baseball. But, that isn’t nearly enough. Kids need to also be supporting the boy who likes princesses or likes to wear a dress. That’s as normal as a girl liking baseball but that’s not spoken about often enough.
Keep challenging what it means to be a man and a dad
Every now and again I ask my daughters “are there any things you think a dad isn’t able to do?” I ask the question with big plans to do all the things they tell me I can’t do. More often than not though, they come back with “no.” But I want to keep asking this question because as they grow up they’ll face new things in their life. They’ll go through puberty, they may start feeling attracted to other people. They may think these are things to ask their mom about. And if they feel more comfortable doing that, that’s fine. But I don’t want it to be because they one day answer my question with “help me understand what’s going on in my life.”
Don’t sugarcoat what our kids hear on the news
When we drive to work on the morning, we tend to listen to talk radio. Talk radio also has regular news updates. Now, our daughters are 4 and 6 and our oldest daughter has started to catch more headlines than she used to. We don’t get into in-depth discussions on a war in Syria or a sexual assault case, but we don’t ignore them either. We try to address any questions they have in an age appropriate way so they understand that people experience life differently.
When you see a story that makes you smile, show them that story too
Because of what I do for a living, I see a lot of cool stories online. I see profiles of boys who wear dresses or dance. I see videos of eight-year-old girls skateboarding and share it with all the adults I know. Share that feeling with your kid too. Show them the kinds of things you like in this world. Show them these stories so often that they find them commonplace and ask if they can go read instead of watching more.
Encourage their beliefs, even if they differ from yours
My oldest daughter believes in God in a way I don’t currently believe in god. This doesn’t make either of us wrong, it just makes us different. So I talk to her about what I do believe in in the place of god and she talks about how God, to her, is a woman. We talk about what that means and we talk about love and taking action when we need to and we both leave these talks happy. When your daughter wants to do good, encourage it.
And, get yourself ready for when they want to start challenging some of the things they see as problematic in their lives. Wanting to change things isn’t whiny, it is necessary. When your daughter starts talking to you about the inequalities they see, get ready to jump head first into those topics with her.
Don’t let their education stop with their school books
There is simply too much historical bias in the stuff our kids learn in schools to stop there when it comes to giving them an education. Teach them about Indigenous cultures using resources developed by Indigenous cultures (or here). Read books written by people of colour about their experiences. Read about different cultures and different religions so both you and your children understand your views and experiences are but one of many different ones out there.
Buy every damn piece of strong woman merchandise you can afford to buy
If you can see it, you can be it. It’s an oversimplified statement, along the lines of your body, your rules, but it sure does help to show your daughter how in awe of these women you are. I just don’t buy stuff with men on it anymore. I buy Hermione shirts and Rey action figures and The Nutmeg Princess books and then we wear them or play with them or read them together.
Make yourself uncomfortable regularly
I’m a firm believer that the most important thing a dad can do for his daughter is to challenge the current landscape that suggests his daughter is less important than he is. Fight rape culture, challenge friends when they talk about women as objects, be an active bystander at all times. Put your own likability on the back burner when it is more important to let someone know they are being a bad person. Talk about consent with your kids and your friends, from the viewpoint of demanding it and asking for it. Make the conversations you’re most nervous to have with your children the ones you have most often.