Open Father’s Day thread

Father and Daughter out for a walk.  originally uploaded by brenthouston

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads we love out there.

How did your father help or hinder your feminist consciousness developing as you were growing up? Do they accept your feminist convictions now?

Categories: gender & feminism, relationships

11 replies

  1. Dad’s contribution to my feminism was very strange. He really wanted to have a boy, and Mum kept having girls. There’s seven kids, and there’s five girls and two boys. Dad tends to favour the boys a bit, not with amount of toys or whatever, more including them in his building work or taking them sailing. He was born in 1940, so he’s kinda old fashioned like that. But I was always determined to be in there too, playing with the model train sets, the lego, going on the boat with Dad or visiting old train museums or visiting old sailboat reconstructions. Thing was, I didn’t see it as “boys stuff”, I just saw it as stuff Dad liked. Cause he never made issue with me enjoying those things too, I kinda thought it was common for girls to be into those things. I was quite surprised at school to learn otherwise.

  2. I have a complex relationship with my father. Mother was violent, growing up, and she inflicted most of that violence on my father. I grew up watching it, and on occasions as I entered adolescence, I came to be on the receiving end.
    I grew up around family friends and relatives making jokes about men who “let their wives” beat them. My father never said anything about them, and I was always given the unspoken directive to never talk about it; because, y’know, that’s how abuse situations work, a lot of the time.
    The brief period in which my father got out of the situation at home (which I remember begging him to do from when I was about 7; which he didn’t do until I was 14), was the worst time for me; because he made me stay with my mother. He told me a girl’s place was with her mother. I think he might’ve even used those exact words. I was so pissed at him, despite the fact that at 14 I was wrapped up in “I’m all for equal rights but…” games. It’s still one of the really clear memories from a long period where I don’t have clear memories.
    He finds my feminist convictions threatening, and tends to wrap it up in the fact that he’s 66 and set in his ways, and we fight about it whenever he says something that sets my teeth on edge, which is whenever I see him. Of course, we also often fight about how his marriage to my mother doesn’t given him an anti-racist card when he’s making asshat comments about “Asians” being the cause of racism, and his discomfort with my sexuality, and the fact that whilst he’s proud that I have a degree whilst he and my mother didn’t finish high school, he’s pretty threatedned by that, too. And then there’s all that history stuff. So it’s hard to really pull out his feelings about my feminist convictions as particularly indicative of anything but me having a complicated relationship with my father.
    And really, he is 66 and set in his ways. My father is really not political; he likes old music, old movies and he watches the NRL and the soccer when he remembers. He doesn’t like rocking the boat. He’s still never admitted to anyone, including me, that his wife used to hit him. He wants a simple life that’s not complicated by politics, and he gets defensive about the idea that being able to (mostly) have that simple life is a privilege. My white middle-class male partner often gets further in those sorts of discussions, because he doesn’t have all the emotional baggage that I do. Sometimes I wonder if I should just shut up; or if I should be nicer, but my convictions mean I can’t do the former, and my emotional baggage means I can’t do the latter. Sometimes I get pretty down that I have so much trouble convincing my own father of this stuff. But other times I manage to remember that there’s usually a whole other argument going on that doesn’t involve anything being said out loud.
    …and um, that was pretty long. Sorry, y’all.

  3. Complex one…
    My Dad was also one of those Dads who didn’t really treat my brother and me terribly differently. If we were interested in something that Dad was proficient at, then he would spend time with us in that activity (sailing, horse-riding, building stuff, poetry etc). He was/is also rather anti beauty culture, more because he found it restrictive to stuff he wanted to do with me (high heels!) and boring (having to wait around to leave the house for an extra 20 minutes so I could ‘grout my face’ as he put it) as opposed to fear of demonstration of sexuality in his teenaged daughter.
    After he and my Mum separated in extremely acrimonious circumstances, he directed anger at Mum into anger at women as a wider group for a few years. Everything that annoyed or inconvenienced him, or wouldn’t work in the way it was supposed to, ‘must’ve been invented by a woman.’ He was technically the wronged party in my parents’ divorce, but statements like these made it really hard for me to actively want to spend time around him. Urrgh, the guilt.
    Anyway, Mum was pretty heavily involved with the political feminist movement in New Zealand back in the 70’s, so I guess he doesn’t find it surprising or threatening these days that a lot of my life choices are informed by feminist ideology, even if I don’t always directly attribute those choices to feminism. My early childhood was also shaped by feminist parenting, as contributed to by Mum AND Dad. I’ve been lucky that I DO in fact find it abnormal and uncomfortable to be around men who demonstrate dislike and mistrust of women – so I think for the most part I’ve made good choices in my relationships with men, as I’ve had pretty good examples and didn’t like it (nor was encouraged to like it) when Dad was being a shitty example. My boyfriend history is chequered, for sure, but I think as far as any parent is concerned you have to feel like your daughter is doing ok if you’ve never seen her beaten up or abused by a partner, or had to support her through an unwanted pregnancy, or had to financially bail her out of relationship woes etc etc. And if feminism can play a part in that – go teh feminists!
    Dad and I have had our ups and downs, but I feel like we’re both comfortable with where the other is at these days. And I’m glad that if now, if my partner of three years was to do that ‘ask permission’ bullshit in terms of us getting married, my Dad’s reponse would be to laugh and say; “Well son, she can speak for herself.”

  4. My Dad was, and still is, the personification of white privilege. Much as I love him to bits. All through my life I’ve seen him make pronouncements on Live which really come from a life which has been incredibly sheltered from things which affect others. He’s not a neoliberal, more of a social democrat, but he’s one of these people who never see the need for feminism or antiracism or disability activism. I mean, hey, everything’s sorted!
    So he was a great influence on my feminist consciousness by demonstrating to me the huge gaps in white-privileged-Dude-nation thinking.

  5. My dad wanted to be a feminist dad, I think. He had a few huge blind spots though, including the deep attachment to female exceptionalism – he wanted strong, clever, competent daughters, unlike a “typical girl’. He also wanted us to eschew femininity-coded compliance to others’ demands at the same time as he very strongly demanded compliance to his own way of doing things.
    My mum also wanted my sister and me to be strong, clever and competent, and I think she bridled at Dad’s idea that “typical girls” weren’t all that but didn’t quite know how to label that and challenge it. I didn’t either until recently, and now he’s so old and memory-challenged that it wouldn’t even be fair to have the conversation.
    But he took us all bushwalking and camping and surfing and skiing and taught us to play catch and how to run and climb freely without self-consciousness. My brother had a baby boy doll when I had baby girl dolls. We both had trucks and construction toys (the toys thing I’m sure was a joint parenting decision, it was just that it was always Dad who did the Speeches about such things). It was Dad that stood up for me with Mum that time when I refused to wear the super-frilly party dress to a special occasion – I was willing to wear a simpler pretty dress, just not that one.
    It was my dad that bought and first read the copy of The Female Eunuch that sat in our bookcase for a couple of years before I was inspired to read it myself. It was also Dad, especially when his brother was visiting and led the way, who made jocular reference to my large breasts as the principal reason why boys would want to date me that obviously I would find tremendously amusing because I wasn’t one of those oversensitive women with no sense of humour.
    It was also Dad who was terrifying when he was angry, and who made life so unpleasant for my brother that he couldn’t wait to leave home at 16 to take up a trade rather than continue his education. It was Dad who belittled Mum constantly as a typical inconsistent woman who made him lose his temper for being emotional or refusing to be a doormat while telling me that I could be a superwoman so long as I followed my passions and refused to be a doormat – hello cognitive dissonance. (I apologised to her about 15 years ago for being so much his partisan while growing up – I used to accept his line of blaming her for making him lose his temper).
    I suspect my Dad was not the only father in the 60s and 70s with cognitive dissonance when it came to raising daughters against the background of second wave feminism. It was fine for me to be feminist-ish, but not fine for my Mum, and not fine for me to push it too hard in the home, either – it was a tool to use against other men out in the world, not anything that applied at home when it came down to the nitty gritty.

  6. There is a moment not long ago in which sticks with me when I think of my step dad and the value of my beliefs. I was calling him because I’d had a realisation, where I’d assumed that he didn’t approve of me or my lifestyle, but actually had no basis for this assumption. I was calling to apologise. He and Mum are aware of my poly lifestyle, and his words to me were simply, that he’d always wanted what made me happy. He also said that there are many ways for people to live and love these days and that was more important than tearing it down (not the exact words, but close enough). Just in a couple of short sentences I felt closer to him than ever before, feeling entitled to the love I received from him, and not like I was stealing it away under the premise of pretending to be doing all the right things. It pleases me to no end to be able to mention other special people in my life, to be able to go to dinner with him and Mum with my fiance and his boyfriend.
    There isn’t a long history of my step dad supporting my feminist beliefs, but the short history that is there is important and valuable to me. I like spending time with my step dad, my brain and teeth and heart don’t hurt to spend time with him, like I do when spending time with my other extended family relatives. They’re actually lovely and loving and not disfunctional or terrible people at all… but they exist entirely within their privilege and don’t see that anything else exists. It makes spending time with them hard.
    Okay… rambly now. Time to stop.

  7. My father took me to political meetings with him from when I was 12, and really tried quite hard to encourage me to be a critical thinker and question authority in a thoughtful way.
    Then he got really really pissed off when I did all that and came to different conclusions than he did.
    Ah well. I like the results, but we no longer talk politics. I was too tired of being referred to as “them” in conversations because he kept talking about “them”, not realising “them” included me.

  8. My dad taught me by example. My parents were married in 1950 and my mother had a successful career, thus had a prominent public profile and (gasp) earned more than him – not common in those days and not something many men were expected to accept. However, instead of letting his ego ruin his marriage, dad accepted being ‘Mr. Her’ and became her greatest supporter.
    Later my parents worked together and achieved much more as a team than they could have individually. They were a real team and provided me with a model of a ‘partnership’-type marriage that has certainly influenced my own expectations and the kind of partner I am.
    As I said above, my dad taught me by example. He taught me to expect the best from men – that ‘real men’ were kind and gentle and honest and responsible. He taught me that I was entitled to be treated with respect and, in it’s absence, that I could/ should walk away.
    On the other hand, he’s a product of his era and yeah, his privileges. He taught me that being pretty was my greatest trump card. He taught me that good women weren’t ‘pushy’ and that being nice would be it’s own reward. He taught me that it was polite to just nod and agree. Needless to say, I’ve spent most of my life trying to unlearn this crap.
    Dad is 90 now and his health is failing. It feels like he’s disappearing down the long tunnel of dementia – and I miss him, or how he once was.

  9. My dad was one of those that prided himself on teaching me to be intelligent, an independent thinker, an investigative thinker – and then became angry and dissapointed when those three ‘i’s lead me to different conclusions and beliefs than his. He always treated me like an equal when it came to teaching me to mow a lawn, fix up a bike, sail a boat, fire a gun, catch and cook a fish – I have treasured memories of the long hours he and I spent rebuilding my first car, a 1980 Datsun Sunny, from the wheels up when I was seventeen. But I was still expected to wear the lace mantilla and the neck-to-ankle dress and sit in the back with the other women when we went to High Latin Mass, and puberty was the time when we really locked horns – a girl child is equal to a boy child, but female sexuality is not equal to male sexuality, not to my father, and the fact that I wanted to choose my own partners, have sex outside of marraige, use contraception, lobby for the legalisation of abortion, and even (gasp!) explore my attraction to other women, was unacceptable to him. He taught me valuable lessons about how to work for a meaningful relationship, but I was not allowed to have a meaningful relationship with someone who wasn’t male. I was allowed to work for a career, but I was not allowed to make him feel uncomfortable by pointing out the inherent sexism in my chosen industry which made having a career difficult. He was proud of my ability to debate politics, but I was not allowed to question his political ideals.
    But I think I absolutely have my father to thank for my feminism, because without all those lessons in the three “i”s of thinking, without those hours of debate over the dinner table on religion, politics, philosophy (debates I always had to let him win), without his inherent hypocrisy, without his wierd blend of encouragement and censorship, I don’t think I would ever have bothered educating myself on feminism. And I might have turned out like my brothers, coasting along on the myth that “this is just how it is”, and never opened my eyes.

  10. (I will make my comment, then read the others, so as not to be influenced.)
    My dad died right two weeks after my 10th birthday. He had been an absentee dad due to his becoming disabled very quickly after he’d volunteered and entered
    the US army early in WWII, when I was a baby. He was “around” long enough to give me the things every girl child needs: he thought I was the greatest gift he’d ever
    received. I knew I was adored, while my mother was very critical.
    I was able to go to college on the US GI Bill, as a child of a deceased or disabled
    WWII veteran. I was 16 and it was an odd experience to line up with the veterans from the Korean War era (mid-1950s) to sign for my check every month. (It got
    sent home; I never saw it.) There was one woman on line, a former nurse in the army, and me, a teenage. She kept the guys from teasing me too much.
    Decades later, my mother told me that my dad has told her to promise him that she’d send me to college. She had very little money. He’d been a postman when
    he could work. He got gov’t disability upped to 100%, from 75% after a long fight, (he’d been disabled for
    about 8 years, after getting spinal meningitis in boot camp that left him with a bad heart and back). And then he died, while in the hospital for a “checkup”.
    Most of the VA (Veterans Administration Hospitals) were far from our Brooklyn,
    NY apartment, but one time he was in one nearby. I was 4 and sneaked in to visit, under an uncle’s long overcoat. Of course the staff saw two skinny bare legs under the man’s coat, behind him and ignored it. My dad was on a long ward, with many men who couldn’t get out of bed. He proudly introduced me to the men in bed’s near him. They were very happy to see a little girl and I loved the attention.
    My father was very intelligent (as was my mom, but women were not much valued by society for their intelligence). It was a wonderful surprise to learn
    he’d asked her to promise to send me to college. I’m glad she found a way.
    I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family from E. Europe, although my dad’s mom was 1/2 WASP and his dad was a French Jew. Learning for girls was not considered too important at that time. (My Jewish Bubbie, grandma in Yiddish,
    had been taught to read and write by her learned, very religious father, in Warsaw
    before the turn into the 20th century. She was a practising feminist, but never used the word. She was a major influence in my life. My dad’s mom was also, but
    lived in Atlantic City and I only saw her in the summer time.)
    My feminism showed itself early. When my father died, I went to the synagogue
    next door to the small apartment house where we lived. I attempted to say the
    prayers the oldest child does for the father. I see I’m still fighting the fight. It’s the oldest son who says the prayers. I was not allowed to do it in the synagogue, so I knew enough of Jewish “rules” that one could pray at home, in front of a window and that’s what I did. I said the oldest child’s (OK, son) prayer’s for the
    dead father for 30 days. Then I started evolving into an atheist as well as feminist.
    I credit my dad for treating me as an intelligent being, who was adored.

  11. What a wonderful story Sanda. As a non jewish person I heard someone on TV singing Kaddish for the first time and it was so beautiful.

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