IMG_1871.jpgI pride myself on the relationship I have with my daughter. Sure we have more than our fair share of knock down drag out fights, but they are usually resolved the same day and there are never personal attacks involved. We argue over things that happened or didn’t happen, not about who each of us are as people, which I believe is critical to a good relationship between any two parties. Rebecca knows (hopefully) that she can literally tell me anything and it will be without embarrassment for her or judgement by me. But there seems to be a lingering issue over the last 10 months between us that just won’t go away. And it was brought to my attention again the other night when I nudged my wife to tell me if there is anything going on with Rebecca that I should know about. As close as Rebecca and I are, I always like reassurances from my wife that I’m not missing anything. Well I’m glad I asked. Beth informed me that our daughter feels I am at odds with her about her self proclaimed “feminist” status and it bothered her a lot more than I realized.
At the beginning of the school year. Rebecca mentioned a few times to Beth and me that she considers herself to be a feminist. Rudely, I chuckled a bit insisting to myself and to her that she was nothing close to being a feminist. My first question to her was why she views herself as such and she attempted to articulate her beliefs. While I agreed with everything she was saying, I told her she is not a feminist and came just a little short of demanding that she stop calling herself that. The label really bothered me and I wanted her to stop connecting herself to a word that I didn’t believe truly reflected her ideologies, demeanor or interaction with others. The argument has persisted throughout the year, varying in intensity at different times, depending on my state of mental fatigue. Interestingly, the feminist issues that Rebecca told me were important to her were not the source of disagreement. She wants equal pay for men and women. So do I. She believes in reproductive rights for women. So do I. She is against domestic and sexual violence toward women. So am I. In fact, on just about every issue that Rebecca ever brought up as to why she considers herself to be a feminist, I was in agreement. And as we discussed each issue that she considered to be at the core of her feminist beliefs, she eventually looked at me and told me that I was a feminist too. Part of me laughed and the other part was taken back by her glib banter.
Despite my socially liberal views, I was always turned off by the word feminist. I associated the word as a cause being synonymous with hostility toward men or misguided anger. Part of it might trace back to my days in college when I was surrounded by many feminist activists who always just seemed antagonistic by nature. Again, the causes they were fighting for were more than justified, but I usually found their personalities to be off-putting, Chivalrous gestures often seemed to be construed as sexist acts for things that were simply common courtesy. Once asked by a woman why I felt the need to hold the door for her, I was stumped to offer an intelligent response. It wasn’t because I thought of her as being too weak to open the door herself or that I could increase my chances of getting her phone number for a date. (By the way, to the woman that I had that exchange with, I still think you are an a…) Like many people, it’s just what I would do for anyone. I guess for me, I’m a person who finds who delivers a message and the way that it is delivered to be just as important as the message itself. And too often I found the feminist message being communicated by people that I simply didn’t care to be around.
But for a guy who was primarily raised by his working mother and was taught that everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect, irrespective of race, religion, age or gender, it would be hard to imagine that I would be anything other than supportive of the issues related to feminism. Even at a time when sexual orientation was a taboo topic, I grew up knowing that heterosexuals and homosexuals should never be treated differently. Maybe that doesn’t quite describe feminism, but you get the point. And as we fast forward to the parenting years for my two teenagers, it would be difficult to say I’m not supportive of feminist issues when it is my wife who is the sole income producer for our household since 2014. I was able to leave my job and venture off into a new career because I was confident that my partner would be able to take care of our financial needs for a period of time as I built my new business. I have tried to slice it and dice it every which way I could to see why Rebecca was wrong when she labeled me as a feminist as well. While I retorted, “yeah right”, she indeed was correct. It kills me to say it because the word just doesn’t sit well with me. However, at the end of the day, does it really matter if I like the word or not? It is the issues that matter, not the label they are put under. Maybe that will change one day, and a time will come where I will out myself as the feminist that I really am. But for now, I think I will just say that I am “pro gender equality.” That just sounds so much better to me.