Saturday, June 2, 2012

My Dad is a Feminist

I can only imagine what would be my dad's somewhat confused reaction if he were to read this title.  It makes me chuckle a little to think of the reaction of my mom or anyone else who knows my parents.  I know what many people who know my dad are likely to think of when they read or hear the word "feminist," so I'm sure they would all think this must be some kind of crazy joke.

It isn't.

I recently read this blog post by Dianna Anderson over at Rachel Held Evan's blog, and I can't stop thinking about it.  (Yes, I may have a serious girl-crush on Dianna Anderson's brain, but that is not the point here.)  I just love how Ms. Anderson is able to articulate how her faith and views of feminism go hand-in-hand.  I also love how she was able to strip away some of the noise and present her views in such a simple, well-thought manner.  The following excerpt really stood out to me:

What I tell people, though, is that feminism is a big umbrella – there are pro-life feminists, there are feminists who are anti-porn, there are feminists who disagree with each other on any number of policy issues, but there’s one common thread: feminists believe that women are human beings and deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as men do.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that part of the reason it is so easy for me to identify with this sentiment is that, at least by this definition, my dad is actually a feminist.

My dad may be a lot more conservative than I am, but the belief that "women are human beings and deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as men do," is absolutely one of his core values.  Growing up with my mom and sisters, I never once felt that my dad was disappointed that he didn't have a son (although on some level never evident to me he may have been).  I never once heard him say that either of my sisters or me could not do, say, try, or be anything because we were girls.  He always supported us. He always encouraged us.  He always made sure we knew we were loved and he was proud of us.

One reason this realization about my dad's feminist status seemed so odd to me at first is that when I was a teenager, I was not allowed to go on a date unless the guy asking me out called my dad and asked permission.  I always thought this came across as though he was very controlling and didn't trust me to make my own choices.  Some might even say that it was an assertion of some kind of patriarchal dominance.

Now, however, I realize that it was actually one of the best things he could have done to show me how much he valued me as his daughter.  I realize that to him, if a guy didn't even have enough respect to call my dad and ask him if he could take me out for pizza, the chances that said guy would truly respect me were pretty slim.  As of today, I've been married for eleven years to a guy who had no problem calling my dad, even though when I first told him about it he laughed and thought I was kidding.  But he is a guy who has never been anything but respectful to me in the fifteen years I've known him.

I now realize that all the things my dad did that might have seemed on the surface to be a man putting his proverbial foot down when it came to his female offspring, were actually things that showed how much he valued me and loved me.  These things are evidence of how much he respected me and how far he was willing to go to ensure that other men in my life showed me respect and dignity as well, all before I was quite up to the task of demanding it for myself.

My dad taught me to fish and mow the lawn and drive a nail and refinish furniture and make pizza dough.  He expected me to go to college and to work hard and to pull my weight.  Certainly my mother gets a lot of credit for the person I've become.  But my dad, with the way he has always treated me with respect and, in doing so, taught me that my gender really had nothing to do with my abilities -- he gets the credit for turning me into a feminist.  Whether he intended to or not.

PS.  Happy Father's Day, Dad.  I love you.  I didn't say it the other day, but you're one of my favorite people too.