Why all Dads must be feminists

As a dad of daughters I’ve learned a few things over my 10 years of parenting:

I’d like to say I’ve always known just how unequal things have been and I’ve been pushing for social change since I was a young boy, but that is just simply not the case. Having daughters has made me realise and given me a first-hand view of the different ways boys and girls are treated everywhere from school, to the supermarket, to family gatherings.

It’s important to acknowledge this and therefore understand why these stereotypes persist.

I’ve heard adults tell their sons they ‘throw like a girl’ in front of my kids. I’ve heard someone make a dumb blonde joke about a four year old. It took me seeing these interactions to understand how poorly men can treat others. Often, but most certainly not exclusively, without knowing they are doing it.

I am not unique in this men-come-late-to-the-party approach to social change either. We have the ability and privilege to be able to ignore the experiences of others or to write them off as exaggeration because they have never happened to us.

Men have a hard time believing lived experiences of others or admitting that what they have in life could be partially owing to the privilege they carry from birth. I am no different.

Changing behaviours means we have to first confront that much of our lives has been spent in ignorance. We need to identify, confront, and work on removing the biases we pick up over the course of our childhood. That means being able to say things like ‘I was wrong,’ or ‘thank you for helping me understand this’.

It means not always being the one doing the teaching and way more often being quiet and the ones who listen. It does not matter how hard these things may be for us to say, we need to learn how to say them anyway.

Raising compassionate, caring, feminist children is important.

I started the Everyday Girl Dad website and t-shirt line as a way to combat some of the harmful fatherhood stereotypes that are so often shown and laughed about.

The dad with a shotgun protecting his daughter, the dad threatening his daughter’s dates, the dad doing everything he can to show off his strength in front of his daughter, the dad who tells his daughter to go talk to her mother about menstruation. These are gross representations of fatherhood that absolutely must change.

What I write and share is meant to be a discussion point for other men. I want to show how I am learning as I go along and that, as men, we have responsibility to do the same.

I want to create spaces where men can ask questions and want to work with them to find answers. My goal is to bring feminist ideas to the spaces that are reluctant to listen to them. My role isn’t to yell about how big a feminist I am in friendly spaces filled with the folks I have learned my feminism from, it’s to find the spaces where men aren’t listening and to confront their reluctance or anger.

The irony of writing about how men need to be better at discussing gender and looking for greater involvement from fathers in doing this, is that there often comes a lot of praise. In my experience, too much of this praise gets heaped on men for doing what should be considered baseline work.

This is what my idea of what an ‘everyday girl dad’ is meant to represent. That speaking up against sexism or racism or transphobia should be your baseline as a parent, not something extraordinary.

It is the responsibility of men to challenge other men on these things. This is not the work already marginalised communities have to do for us.

People get angry when you ask them to take a look at their behaviour. People get angry when you tell them their views are harmful to others and that their views can lead to harm for children and marginalised communities. But this is what happens with racist or transphobic or homophobic language.

These discussions are not just about raising our boys outside of some of the harmful stereotypes we teach them around masculinity and the world around them, it is about asking men to do the work and change the way they think too.

Raising compassionate, caring, feminist children is important. Our kids are already using that empathy and compassion to create safe spaces for others. They do not even know they are doing this and that makes it even more wonderful. But in doing simple things like using they as a singular pronoun, and telling their classmates that boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls, they are showing their peers that they understand and embrace the differences in all our identities.

Imagine if all dads of all kids got on board.

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