As feminism has grown within our society, there have been a couple of subsets that have slowly been developing in response. One that is encouraging—but still problematic—is dads.
On one hand, I am super happy that dads are joining the movement, participating in the conversation, and thinking about such inequality. However, the phrase “I am a feminist because I am a dad” and the resulting connotations create a sticky problem for me.
Partially because I have issues wrapping my head around the concept, and partially because I feel like there has been an asterisk added to the end of our names as daughters that I do not approve of.
Let me explain.
First, I don’t understand why it takes having a child before some men realize the importance of being a feminist. What was it about your angel-faced child with her brown eyes—a perfect mirror of her mother’s—that finally flipped that switch inside you? Why her and not her mother? Why not your own mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother? Or past female friends, girlfriends, fiancées, or wives?
For men who have been surrounded by women their whole lives, why were none of those women enough to sway you towards feminism? Why does it take your baby girl? Is it because that baby is genetically half of you?
If that is it, then it makes me feel like your feminism is not because of your empathy for the struggle. It is out of self-preservation. This child is half of you and, therefore, logically any threat to them is actually a threat to you. Hence, the argument for self-preservation.
Secondly, by using this idea and, admittedly, my rebuttal of it, we have added an asterisk to women, to our names. One that implies that our existence is only worthwhile or notable when we are viewed in relation to a man. We should be able to stand on our own as humans with valuable experiences but, instead, language has emerged from this subset of feminism like:
“As a father, I can’t believe that this happened.”
“She’s someone’s daughter. How horrible!”
“What if this happened to your daughter?!”
Honestly, this language gives me goosebumps and reminds me of a protest sign I saw a long time ago. The sign had “She is…” at the top and then a list of several different options to make women more relatable to men like wife, daughter, sister, and mother. However, all of those options were crossed out and underneath it was written “She is someone. Her connection to others doesn’t determine her value”.
I repeat, “She is someone. Her connection to other doesn’t determine her value.”
This protest sign illustrated the problematic nature of this sort of rhetoric and how, by making women a caveat, it is not actually supportive feminism—even though you are trying to be supportive.
In no way does this mean that I want fathers to stop being feminists or stop being allies; however, I instead wish that people would think about the connotations of their words and the possibility that instead of the positive intended effect, there has been a negative unintended effect.
We need men in this conversation. We need dads showing their support. But we also need to be mindful of the language we use, and aware of how the support dads are offering is coming across to us, as your daughters.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
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Photo credit: Getty Images