Five Questions For Profeminist Fathers

Jeremy Adam Smith reflects on his experience as a new father and how his vision of profeminism fatherhood changed with the arrival of his son.

In 2008, Australian feminist blogger Blue Milk posted “10 questions on feminist motherhood,” which inspired me to adapt her questions for fathers on my blog Daddy Dialectic. Here are five of my answers, excerpted from the new anthology “Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood.” It’s important to note that my relationships and thinking have evolved in the four years since I published the original ten questions, but I’ve refrained from updating the piece—think of this as a postcard from a feminist guy struggling with the difficult first years of parenthood.

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1. What has surprised you most about fatherhood?

In college, I was active with many feminist and profeminist organizations. After college, I was in a stable, monogamous relationship, and in my work with various progressive nonprofits, I usually had solid, respectful relationships with female coworkers. I watched guy coworkers get into trouble for sexist remarks or actions (inadvertent and otherwise), but that never happened to me, and my policy was to duck and cover if it turned into a major issue.

Every once in a while, a female coworker would even go out of her way to tell me how refreshingly nonsexist I was—“When Jeremy talks to me, he never looks at my breasts,” said one person, whose breasts I did, in fact, secretly glance at once or twice. These pats on the head were always reassuring and contributed to a decade-long mood of complacency about gender issues.

Then I became a dad. And I was shocked by the degree to which my now-habitual commitment to feminist values was put to the test. In fact, habits went out the window; everything took conscious effort, as if I’d had an intellectual and emotional stroke and needed to learn how to walk and talk all over again.

Most shocking of all, I think the power in our relationship started to inexorably tilt in my direction, as perhaps it always did, as we became parents. Even when I took time off of paid work to serve as my son’s primary caregiver, the tilt continued. It didn’t seem, and still doesn’t seem, to matter what I want or decide—I just kept growing more powerful in the relationship.

What do I mean by power? In this context, we might say it’s the ability to do and say what we want and need to do or say. From this perspective, we’ve both lost power: Parenthood constrains our choices in countless ways, which I don’t think I need to explain to other parents.

But there is no question, absolutely none, that my wife has lost more power than I have. This won’t surprise moms who are reading this, but it certainly surprised me.

The biggest reason for this, I would say, is that I have simply not been as absorbed by the physical and emotional demands of caregiving, even when I was primary caregiver; and at this writing, I am the one who is making most of the money and feels most driven to advance in my so-called career.

Mind you, I have been vastly more involved with care than many other fathers, and I have explicitly designed my work situation to be flexible. And yet it is still the case—this is the important thing, the most important thing that needs to be said—that parenthood has diminished my wife’s power. Or, to put it a different way, constrained her ability to make choices.

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2. How have your profeminist values changed over time? What is the impact of fatherhood on your profeminism?

Think about the implications: If a guy like me—who has every good intention and a history of profeminist activism, and who even served a stint as a stay-at-home dad—is failing at the task for forging an egalitarian family, then what does that tell us about the prospects of wider social change?

Some people reading this probably think they have this one all figured out. They’ll say I was naïve for ever even imagining that equality in one family was possible—what we need, they’ll argue, is nothing less than the overthrow of white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Only after the revolution can our piddling interpersonal relationships be lastingly altered.

Before becoming a father, I was one of those people. And so I never thought utopia in one family was possible; I was really just trying to muddle through, as I still am. Here’s the thing: Most of the people I’m talking about aren’t parents—and the ones who are, are not what I would call dedicated parents. In fact, too often left-wing activists and leaders neglect their family responsibilities, especially the guys. Am I judging them? Sure, a bit—the fathers, anyway—but mainly as a warning to myself and others. They’re workaholics in the service of social change, as I once was, and I suspect that they will regret the things they missed just as much as their corporate counterparts.

As a result, the problems parents face are all very abstract to them. They don’t see, they can’t, how vital and immediate it is for heterosexual couples to establishing a domestic division of labor that makes both parties happy. They have no idea—I had no idea, before becoming a parent—how difficult and urgent it is for fathers and mothers to figure this one out.

It’s all very well to talk about universal health care and parental leave and so on—but who will take the baby to the doctor? What do you say when a breastfeeding mother just wants to stay home and take care of her baby? Do you condemn her, as some have done, for being insufficiently feminist? Or do you say society and the economy made her do it, thereby denying the importance of her perception of what she needs and what the baby needs?

And what about the fathers? Are their feelings and needs irrelevant? What happens when a father yearns to stay home with his child, but can’t, because his wife wants to be the one to do that and he has to earn the money? Or what if he does stay home, and spends his days feeling like a fish out of water? No social movement can help him; feminism can tell him that he’s doing the right thing—God knows, nothing else in our culture will—but that won’t matter much to the average stay-at-home dad. He mainly needs a supportive community as well as role models.

Here’s something I think progressive feminist folks need to understand in a deep way: Parents aren’t soldiers. We don’t take marching orders. And none of us is a general. You can’t tell your partner what she should want out of life, even, perhaps especially, when her decisions make you more powerful in the relationship. You can’t control the way the world thinks of you, and you don’t get to say what social and economic conditions you’ll face as a parent. This breeds feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and anger.

At the end of the day, your main task is to survive and support your family and raise happy children; how you respond to the things you can’t control reveals a great deal about your character, some of it good and some of it bad. You might discover (have you noticed my retreat to the safety of the second person?) a capacity for sacrifice and care that you never knew was there.

On the flip side, the dark one, you might also find yourself erupting with petty rage and misdirected resentment, eruptions that frighten you, your child, and your partner. In those scary moments, when our worst emotions take over and drive our ideals and aspirations over a cliff, it is easiest of all for both fathers and mothers to fall back on traditional patterns of dominance and submission.

What does that have to do with feminism? Everything, and nothing.

Pledging allegiance to feminist ideals doesn’t make you a good person or a good parent or a good partner, but it might remind you of the power you have—we always have power, if only over ourselves—and the need to restrain that power or share it with other people. It can also remind fathers of something that I think is crucial: There are alternatives; you do have choices, and your choices matter. You don’t have to be the man your father was; you don’t have to be the idiots we see on TV; you can be a new kind of man, and you can help your sons become that kind of man.

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About Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith is the author of The Daddy Shift, co-editor of the new anthology Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood and founder of the blog Daddy Dialectic. He lives in San Francisco and works as Web Editor for the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. Follow him on Twitter at @jeremyadamsmith.

Comments

  1. Hunter C. says:

    I was curious to see you reference your monogamous relationship in recounting your history with feminism. Did you/do you see monogamy as a feminist practice?

    • Hi Hunter. No, I don’t see monogamy as intrinsic to a feminist relationship. I just meant to indicate that my private life was placid and lacked the complications and contradictions that might come with being involved with multiple women.

  2. Hi-

    Great article. One thing that I am wondering if it will help people on getting to parity on this issue is to think of these things from the child’s perspective. As children, I think we need two adult parents who are both functioning as adults in the political economy and who are capable of relating to us and taking care of us. We also need those parents to interact with each other and to show us an adult relationship. We also need them to give us the benefit of knowing both of them (in the case of a biological child, for example, half the genes come from each parent so that link can really make a difference in the child knowing what he’s made of). The risks of childhood are so great (both financial and psychological) that we need both parents focused on us and our needs as well as swimming well in the broader world.

    Too many of us did not get this in our own families of origin and I think we are scared sometimes to look at that deficit and the emotions that come up when we try to do this for our children. But if we don’t look at the resentment, anger, frustration at our own parents not getting the job done, then we will avoid anything that triggers those feelings, including, unfortunately getting the job done for our own children.

  3. I personally find it as difficult to relate feminism to fathering as I do Christianity to breathing. I find them both equally dogmatic. Particularly on the issue of parenting. I have two adult children and family bonds that are reduced to biological relativity. I have a 7 year old son suffering from the same conditions. I can trace much of the hostilities directly to feminist politics and it’s influence on law and family. I don’t identify as a profeminist father. As a father I am accountable an answerable to my children only, the dogma can get it’s own leash and take a walk. Feminism has benefited females socially, it has however done great harm to males and particularly boys. I have witnessed it with both my sons, however I would not sell out my sons for the benefit of their sister. As much as I would not sell out my daughter for the benefit of her brothers.

  4. You know, I think i’d need a lot more time and space than I have at this moment to parse some of the notions you’ve put forth here. I am not a feminist. At all. But:

    “I saw participating in infant care as being the most important thing I could do to make my fathering” healthy and responsible but most importantly, loving and significant. This doesn’t make me a feminist, it makes me a good dad.

    In fact, many of the ideals you espoused sound like what healthy, loving individuals should be doing. The problem is that, much like most dogma, we often take something which should be healthy and balanced and focus on it so much it teeters toward the other end of the spectrum and becomes unhealthy; like an obsession.

    Do wives lose power when they become pregnant or after child birth? I guess that depends on which lens you view the matter through. Personally, I think they become the most powerful. They are after all, bringing into this world it’s future and if that is no longer seen as powerful, then consider me “anti-feminist.” Now, if you’re saying they lose power in the workforce, then, duh! Women still get paid less than men do and the scales are still tipped in men’s favor for high level jobs. But the same is the case for minorities. If I focused on what isn’t fair so much, my own children would miss out on me. My energy and focus is on them and outside of the home, I do what I can do to give them the best life I can regardless of what society throws at me… I ask no quarter because I know none will be given (unless mandated by some govt policy and that really isn’t my first choice).

    I have an idea, instead of focusing on being feminists, why don’t we focus on being human beings who respect the rights of others to pursue lives of purpose and happiness no matter what plumbing the good Lord has given them. I won’t raise my sons to go out of their way to respect women (other than teaching them to be chivalrous which I’m sure will have some feminists up in arms). I am however, raising my sons to go out of their way to respect ALL PEOPLE, regardless of ethnicity or gender.

    • Hi, I will start this off saying I am not a parent (yet), but a student at a university. In all of the classes I’ve taken on feminism, the point has not been women power, women over men, women taking control. It’s about equality for everyone- regardless of sex, gender, race, sexuality, anything, which is basically what you’re teaching your sons anyway. Perhaps that’s not what feminism was in the beginning, perhaps that’s not what lot of people view it as now (Can we please stop comparing feminists with a political party responsible for the deaths of 2.7 million people?). But being a feminist is less about striking down chivalry and over respecting women to the point of tripping over yourself. It’s about treating women as human beings. I’m definitely a feminist and I would never yell at anyone for politely holding the door open for me- I’d do the same for them if I got to the door first. I appreciate help when I can’t carry something heavy- and I’d offer to help someone else carry what they have if their arms are full regardless. Chivalry is not dead, and everyone can engage in it- and should. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I always imagined feminism would be obsolete if we all treated each other respectfully and equally. So if you’re teaching your sons to be respectful and upstanding human beings who treat other human beings well- regardless of any differences they may have, then you’re absolutely doing a fantastic job, I think, and are totally in line with feminist discourse. Anyway, that’s my two cents.

      • Chivalry is, by definition, unequal treatment and therefore anti-feminist. Extending the same basic, common courtesy that men get to women (and no more than that) would be equality. Helping a woman in need would be common courtesy, but only if you would help a man in the same situation. Doing more for a woman based on gender is chivalry and unequal treatment.

    • “I have an idea, instead of focusing on being feminists, why don’t we focus on being human beings who respect the rights of others to pursue lives of purpose and happiness no matter what plumbing the good Lord has given them.”

      “I am however, raising my sons to go out of their way to respect ALL PEOPLE, regardless of ethnicity or gender.”

      I don’t see why this comment was thumbs downed. Who could possibly disagree with respecting everyone’s rights?

  5. “I have simply not been as absorbed by the physical and emotional demands of caregiving, even when I was primary caregiver; and at this writing, I am the one who is making most of the money and feels most driven to advance in my so-called career.
    Mind you, I have been vastly more involved with care than many other fathers, and I have explicitly designed my work situation to be flexible. And yet it is still the case—this is the important thing, the most important thing that needs to be said—that parenthood has diminished my wife’s power. Or, to put it a different way, constrained her ability to make choices.”

    Was wondering if your perspective on this has changed, or if your economic situation has changed and has thus modified your thinking? I noticed that as the child grew, the economic shift that I had originally saw, started to diminish again. I also noticed that as the child grew, the mother’s power returned in the relationship.

    • That’s a good question. I’m not sure how to answer, partially because I think I’d need to check in with my wife before I could answer with complete honesty. But sufficed to say that interpersonal power never stops shifting.

  6. This is a very good article. It is much better than what The Good Men Project usually dishes out. Thanks for writing it.

  7. At the start, I saw participating in infant care as being the most important thing I could do to make my fathering profeminist, and maybe that was correct—it had the merit of being a pretty straightforward mission. I did my best.

    And that’s a fundamentally different framework than the one an antifeminist or nonfeminist father brings to fatherhood—for the best of them, fatherhood involves an uncomplicated commitment to breadwinning above all else, which, whatever its shortcomings, is definitely an important role to fulfill; for the worst of them, fatherhood becomes another opportunity to dominate women and expand their egos.

    Both my foster fathers were involved in caring for their babies. My last foster father decided to work from home so he could take care of his infant son. Neither of the men placed their jobs before their children, and neither view breadwinning, dominating women, or expanding their egos as the most important thing about being fathers. And neither of the men are feminists.

    It is pretty misandrous and down right cruel to paint non-feminist fathers as selfish, hateful, and uncaring. Many fathers would love to take stay home and take care of their babies, but for various reasons they cannot. That does not mean they love their children less than feminist fathers or they do not do their best. You really should apologize for that statement because it was an uncalled for bigoted attack on men who do not share your political views.

    • No, Jacob–that’s not what it says. And it doesn’t say anything about your foster fathers, who sound like great guys–you were lucky to have them. Instead it says that the worst men will exploit fatherhood and misuse it to dominate women and children. There are men like that, there’s no point in denying it — and I would argue that feminism has been an absolutely critical force in curbing the damage that they can do. We might disagree on that point. But we agree on another point: as the rest of the piece makes clear, being a feminist does not make you a good person or a good parent. It’s simply a lens we can use to see the power relationships between men and women.

      • Jeremy: “No, Jacob–that’s not what it says. And it doesn’t say anything about your foster fathers, who sound like great guys–you were lucky to have them. Instead it says that the worst men will exploit fatherhood and misuse it to dominate women and children. There are men like that, there’s no point in denying it ”

        Let’s have a look at the paragraph again. This is what you wrote in the article:

        “And that’s a fundamentally different framework than the one an antifeminist or nonfeminist father brings to fatherhood—for the best of them, fatherhood involves an uncomplicated commitment to breadwinning above all else, which, whatever its shortcomings, is definitely an important role to fulfill; for the worst of them, fatherhood becomes another opportunity to dominate women and expand their egos.”

        You implied this for nonfeminist fathers in addition to anti-feminist fathers. Jacob T objects to this useage because his fathers were nonfeminist yet they raisd him well and worked hard at it, giving him love equivilant to that of a mother. Yet, to you, non-feminist fathers only see their kids as commitment to breadwinning or another oppertunity to dominate women.

        If I become a father someday and I’m non-feminist, then I guess from your paragraph I’m just in it to fulfil the breadwinner role or dominate women. I find this unfounded generalization offensive as well.

      • Thank you for replying, Jeremy. I do not believe I misunderstood your comment. Of course there are bad fathers. Some of them are feminists. Yet that was not the point you made. You stated, “And that’s a fundamentally different framework than the one an antifeminist or nonfeminist father brings to fatherhood [...]” You did not say anything about “the worst men”, just men who are not feminists or disagree with feminists. Most fathers are not feminists, yet most fathers do the best they can. They are not perfect and they do not have all the answers, but that does not make them bad parents.

        • Guys, honestly….thanks for participating in the discussion, but I just think you have an ax to grind and you’ll seize on anything that help you to do that. I’ll let your comments stand and let readers decide what I really meant.

          • Jeremy: “Guys, honestly….thanks for participating in the discussion, but I just think you have an ax to grind and you’ll seize on anything that help you to do that. I’ll let your comments stand and let readers decide what I really meant.”

            Jeremy, I repeat again, this is what you wrote in the paragraph:

            “And that’s a fundamentally different framework than the one an antifeminist or nonfeminist father brings to fatherhood—for the best of them, fatherhood involves an uncomplicated commitment to breadwinning above all else, which, whatever its shortcomings, is definitely an important role to fulfill; for the worst of them, fatherhood becomes another opportunity to dominate women and expand their egos.”

            Again, you implied these generalisations towards anti-feminist fathers and nonfeminist fathers. Jacob T’s fathers were non-feminist yet they raised him and loved him well.
            Though I respect feminism, I am not really a feminist myself but might be a father one day, should I choose. I find the generalisations offensive as well.
            Jacob T and I also have problems with certain aspects of feminism. This would probably make us “Anti-feminists” in your eyes. In the paragraph, we are either going to be domineering fathers or fathers just in it to fulfil the breadwinner role because of this.
            The evidence is right there in your writing. I’m not making this up or putting words in your mouth, in case you believe otherwise.
            The fact that you think I or Jacob T have an ax to grind is not doing wonders for your ability to take responsiblity for such a mistake.
            Another thing, if you delete this comment, that also calls into question your ability to take responsibility for the mistake.

          • You would do well to retract your insulting statement about non-feminist fathers, which comprises the vast majority of fathers. Your statement about them is supercillious and grossly inaccurate.

  8. I am a bit surprised by the apparently visceral objection to Jeremy’s use of the word “pro-feminist.”

    Is there some anxiety over the word “feminism” which sometimes does get used in a woman one-up way rather than as promoting egalitarianism?

    I would also say though that if you can’t tolerate the word “fem” you may by definition have difficulty being a good dad to a daughter, and probably can’t be a good dad to a son either?

    Or if this just an objection to the gendering of traits (competitiveness as masculine, for example, and nurturing as feminine), I would suggest that this is something that causes everyone, maybe even the commenters objecting here, a lot of frustration, probably especially so in the area of fatherhood.

    But I would also say that the access men have to their children today has been in large part a product of feminism (both in the sense of giving boys and men the emotional availability they need to relate to children and also in women carrying part of the paid workload so men can afford to spend more unpaid time with their children), and I am grateful for his acknowledging the hard work so many women and some men did to get it realized. Not that it’s done yet.

    • No, there’s nothing wrong with being pro-feminist.

      However, equating non-feminist and anti-feminist fathers as people who are, at best, in it to fulfil the breadwinner role or at worst looking to dominate women, is the issue. As if being pro-feminist is the only way to be a good father.

      Pro-feminist, anti-feminist, non-feminist are nothing but labels. What makes a good father is what that father brings to the table in their relationship with their kids.

      • “What makes a good father is what that father brings to the table in their relationship with their kids.”

        Yes, this is important, but just as important is how they relate to the mother and to women in general, and that requires at least a working knowledge of sex/gender equality issues.

        • Emily: “Yes, this is important, but just as important is how they relate to the mother and to women in general, and that requires at least a working knowledge of sex/gender equality issues.”

          From BOTH perspectives. Sex/Gender equality issues, unfortunatly, are too easily slanted in the woman’s favor leaving men’s and father’s feelings to rot by the wayside.

          • No, don’t change the subject. You were talking about the definition of being a good father. The definition of being a good father is NOT whining about your mistreatment. By the time you are a father you should have dealt with these issues and be functioning as an adult.

            Yes, traditionally many men have overentitlement problems (which is a form of inequality) and have poor relational skills (often from these skills, including emotional self-awareness and self-validation, being neglected in boys and overemphasized in girls). This is a different subject, though, from what you brought up, which is what makes a good father.

            Learning to stay on the subject and not turn every conversation into self-pity is an important part of learning to be an adult – and a good father.

            Please do not have children until you get this fixed, with counseling or other support to fix whatever was wrong in your childhood – if you felt your father didn’t relate to you or your mother discriminated against you or whatever. And do not project these issues onto all women just because they happened in your family.

            • Emily: “Learning to stay on the subject and not turn every conversation into self-pity is an important part of learning to be an adult – and a good father.

              Please do not have children until you get this fixed, with counseling or other support to fix whatever was wrong in your childhood – if you felt your father didn’t relate to you or your mother discriminated against you or whatever. And do not project these issues onto all women just because they happened in your family.”

              Emily, with all due respect, I suggest you retract this personal insult and apolagise. This is the worst below the belt hitting I’ve ever heard.

              You don’t know me, you don’t know my life, and I offended by your attempts to even try to psychoanylise.

              And you’re telling ME to be an adult and not a child? That’s rich.

              It’s not the first time, though. I’ve had plenty of other women and girls who displayed the same level of snark you do. They were in high school and elementary school. Of course, they did things to me may worse than your writings on a forum are ever going to do to me. Still, you’re no different than them.

              Wow, once again The Good Men Project shows its true colors, allowing someone to psychoanylse another person and sound all holier than thou.

              I’m through commenting in this place.

            • No, wait, hang on. No, I’m not going away.

              I’m sick and tired of it and I’m going to express this no matter what. Nobody is going to stop me from doing it no matter what tactics they employ.

              Which include yours, Emily. Go ahead, make assumptions about my life. Second guess my psychosis. Throw your worst at me because it’s not going to affect me in the end.

              Like I’ve said, there have been worser things people have done to me. You don’t hold a candle to them. So you’re not going to dictate how I should think or express myself.

        • Wrong. It’s how they related to people in general, not elevating women above men or men above men, or daughters above sons or sons above daughters. That is what is missing from feminism – equal care and concern for all members of the family and society, not just the female ones.

          • “That is what is missing from feminism – equal care and concern for all members of the family and society, not just the female ones.”

            Yes, some women may use feminism to reinforce narcissism, but the basic concept of sex/gender equality, which is created by feminism deconstructing patriarchy, is all about “care and concern” not being discriminatory on the basis of sex, particularly among children.

            By the time men and women are adults, they are expected to be able to function with some autonomy and interdependence, rather than needing to be taken care of like a baby. If you have issues from your childhood, please don’t expect society to fix them but get help – counseling or whatever.

            • “Yes, some women may use feminism to reinforce narcissism”

              True. The attitude expressed in the below statement is an example of that.

              “Yes, this is important, but just as important is how they relate to the mother and to women in general, and that requires at least a working knowledge of sex/gender equality issues.”

            • Huh? Requiring someone to be relational rather than narcissistic is narcissistic? Makes no sense.

              I think maybe you don’t know what relational skills are, what narcissism is, and don’t have a working knowledge of sex/gender equality issues? So, you need to dismiss it.

              It’s actually a type of inverse narcissism (sometimes called co-dependence) that some women have when they seek out narcissistic, non-relational men. Some women identify as “feminist” when they are like this. They often have an inner kind of rigidity and false entitlement that mirrors the outer rigidity and false entitlement of narcissistic men.

              But neither is healthy; and you can’t get out of either without a working knowledge of sex/gender equality issues.

            • “I think maybe you don’t know what relational skills are. . .”

              Not true. In fact, based on your comments I know them better. I realize that they don’t only require effort on the part of males, as your comment suggested (“just as important is how they relate to the mother and to women in general,”)

              “what narcissism is”

              Narcissists are self-centered. They believe that others should do for them, give to them, rather than focusing on having a mutual giving relationship (ocuses on getting rather than giving. Your comments reflect that view. Only what men should do for women, never what women should do for men. Reflecting an entitlement mentality, an over-inflated valuation of self. Narcissim.

              Equality is a siimple concept that feminists don’t get. Their focus is always on getting not giving. Equality demands an equal amount of each. You don’t see that balance in their ideologies, policies, or positions.

    • “But I would also say that the access men have to their children today has been in large part a product of feminism”

      There is no truth to that statement. My father was a balanced involved father who always worked full time. Always; however, we always had a good, close, warm relationship – and I respected how hard he worked to care for us in all necessary ways. His fatherhood had nothing to do with anything related to feminism.

      • Glad you feel like you had a good father. I suspect he wasn’t as good as you think, though.

        For example, I think you’ve established in your comments here that you are pretty ignorant of what feminism is in the minds of many other people, including many of its proponents (one common definition is the deconstruction of patriarchy to get to sex/gender equality).

        Instead you seem to have your own definition of a global social movement that has been going on in earnest for 50 years and for 100-200 years before that as well, and you don’t even use any authorities from that movement in your definition. This is very arrogant and narcissistic, which is often a trait people exhibit when they have “bad dads” (and “bad moms” as well).

        • “Glad you feel like you had a good father. I suspect he wasn’t as good as you think, though.”

          You suspect wrong. Even though you’ve never met him, somehow you know more about my father and my 20 years of upbringing than I do? Speaking of arrogant and narcissistic. . .

          Not only do I know that I have wonderful parents but they are loved and respected by thousands of people in multiple states throughout the country, many of whom also consider them parents and credit them for growing up into caring and responsible adults, without feminism, masculism, MRA, white supremacy, or any other movement that places one sex above another or one race above another. We have found that working together, for EVERYONE’s common interests is best, rather than pitting the races or genders against each other in some kind of battle. Try love not war.

          • Nah, of course I don’t know your father.

            I just think in these posts you’ve revealed your thinking and knowledge of these issues is petty, shallow and way off base in what “feminism” is about, at least for many people.

            You also make false equalities, which is a type of corruption that is as bad as white supremacy, etc..

            And people like that don’t come from good families; it’s pretty much a given.

            • “You also make false equalities. . .” I have done no such thing.

              There is nothing in my comments or thinking that advocates for one race over another, like white supremecists or one sex over the other, like feminists.

  9. What a wonderful post! In our marriage (we have one child), I have chosen to stay home (and homeschool). Yes, I am a full-time published author and solopreneur. My husband and I are also collaborators on an artistic project, under contract with a publisher.

    I mention this because we don’t see our relationship as a “power dynamic”, nor our work collaborations. I don’t mean to sound Pollyannish, but we approach our relationship as friends…and look for what is good for the whole.

    Sometimes, it’s “good for the whole” for my husband and son to do the dishes while I finish a writing assignment. Sometimes, it’s “good for the whole” if I do them, freeing them up to pursue other things.

    Perhaps we need to stop thinking in terms of hierarchies and “power” altogether (which is, ironically, a male way of seeing the world). Why not a circle? We move around the circle, doing what’s best for the whole. In a family, just as in life, no one gets what the want, when they want it, 100%. That’s called “growing up”, “maturity” and “delayed gratification”…not “giving” or “assuming” power.

    I honestly think that parenting, partnership, the workplace and the world will change when our mind changes–from a pyramid to scale, to a circle to navigate. (P.S. We’ll be celebrating our 14th anniversary Sunday! My husband was the first person to diaper our son, and really, to diaper him the first few months as I recall. *chuckle*)

    • Janet, thank you for your thoughtful response. I love your commitment to equality and what’s “good for the whole” in your household. I don’t think it’s “Pollyannish” at all to be best friends with your husband, and I agree that thinking in terms of hierarchies and power may be part of the problem rather than the solution. Makes sense to me. Thank you for sharing.

    • I’m of two minds when it comes to talking about power.

      One of those minds believes that you can never escape the dynamics of power, no matter how desperately you want to. Every decision we make has a consequence; everything we do can help or hurt someone. That’s power. And as guys, I insist that we have to own, have to take responsibility, for the fact that so many women feel threatened by sexual or domestic violence, are left homeless by abandonment or divorce, and so on. We have to own up to the fact that for a very, very long time, women couldn’t vote or own property, and made only a tiny fraction of the money that men made–historical facts that have shaped our present inequalities. To change these facts, to progress, women had to build their own power, and they did it through the vehicle of the feminist movement, and in my judgment, we as a society have experienced a net gain from their efforts. This mind believes that it is nothing but naive, foolish, and privileged to believe that one can live outside of power.

      But another part of me, another mind, wants to be naive and foolish. That mind simply wonders– as you do, Janet–if we can all just get along. To try to live without power, to try to live, as you say, in a circle. That is in fact how I try to live my life, as much as possible, especially my life with my wife. There are times when I shut off the analytical part of my brain and simply try, to the best of my ability, to love and support the people around me.

      However, I don’t for a second believe that achieving equilibrium takes power out of the equation. Instead, we’ve just found a way to share it more equitably. I don’t think recognizing power imbalances in interpersonal relationships or between men and women is at all incompatible with the idea of building marriages and a society that is more collaborative or focused on the good of the whole. In fact, I think flattening these imbalances is what makes genuine friendship between men and women possible. Internationally, one of the best indicators we have of equality between the sexes is how many men and women say they have Platonic cross-sex friendships. In especially hierarchical and patriarchal societies, friendships between men and women are simply very rare.

      You might find this article interesting, “The Power Paradox”: http://shareable.net/blog/the-power-paradox. This is from a book I coedited with psychologist Dacher Keltner called The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness.

      • I tend to agree with Jeremy that looking at power is important.

        In fact, it may be those who most need to look at power relationships who deny their existence, and those include not only people in positions of power but also those who are powerless. Some of the domination that many people seem to need or at least to act out, often unconsciously (women often do this as parents, men in the public economy) is often an attempt to cover up or deny a feeling of powerlessness, which may or may not be accurate.

      • Forget about “power.” Focus on love, care, commitment, sacrifice (putting your mate and the rest of the family first), cooperation, and communication. Do that and all else will get worked out.

        • You’re proving my point. That those who most need to look at power deny its existence.

          Being self-abnegating is just as abusive in relationship as being dominating. And self-abnegators tend to have a lot of self-pity and victim complexes.

          Interdependence is more the adult way of doing things. To get to interdependence you need more awareness of self-in-relation, which requires looking at power issues (overempowerment, underempowerment).

          • Those who focus on gaining and keeping power never experience the power of love, joy, kindness and peace in their relationships.

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