Developing a Feminism Identity: a Father's Role

Topics: Feminism, Gender, Feminist theory Pages: 12 (4555 words) Published: February 9, 2006
In 1986, Gloria Steinem wrote a satire about what the world would be like if men menstruated. She argued that in such a world men would brag about being a "three-pad man," tampons and sanitary napkins would be given out for free by the government, and women would carry the stigma of lacking this great gift of menstruation. She states, "In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless - and logic has nothing to do with it." Upon my first reading of that article I shared in the anger, the irony, and the raging pleasure of it. At the end of the article, Gloria argued that, "In fact, if men could menstruate, the power justifications could probably go on forever. If we let them (1986)." In that sentence, I heard the unmistakable call she was issuing to women. She was calling them to uncover their eyes to the misogynistic cultural artifacts that many women are brought up in society to accept. However, years later, when I set out to write this essay on how I became a feminist and the role men played in that identity, I began to look at Gloria's article in a different light. Beyond the anger and sarcasm was a call for equality…a call that I believe was directed at men. Today, Gloria Steinem, through the Ms. Foundation for Women, continues to seek men's involvement in her crusade for gendered equality. In April 2003 the Ms. Foundation will transition their Take Your Daughters to Work Day program to Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Men's involvement, education, and healing are essential to the goals of feminism. In fact, feminist men have influenced the person and political activist I have grown to be. I was five years old the first time my dad took me to work with him. His office was a library of amphibians, both in books and jars. My dad was a professor of biology at an all-woman's college. At that early age I began to appreciate the education of women. "I realized how important feminism is because you were born," my dad would say, a syringe in one hand, a salamander in the other. The women who filled the lecture halls amazed me with their knowledge, confidence, and beauty. Just as my dad's feminism started with me, my feminism began to bud in his classroom, listening to his lectures when I was five. As a feminist, my two greatest enemies are misogyny and ignorance, which I believe lead to inequality and oppression. As a feminist, these are the monsters I battle. Because feminists have often been demonized as man-hating, femininity-denying, tradition-rejecting, family-disoriented women, it is hard to conceptualize the idea of a feminist man, or even men's involvement in feminism. These stereotypes enforce confusion, antagonism between the sexes, and miss the point of feminism all together: equality. The popular antagonistic portrayal of men and women through feminism, in essence, makes equality seem like a radical idea. First and foremost, feminism is about equality; it has stretched itself to envelope not only gender, but also class, race, sexuality, and even animal rights.

Fighting Feminisms

I have been trying to find feminism for most of my life. Although my introduction to feminism was through my father—who sought to instill in me his interpretation of the feminist ideals of the 1970s—as I grew up and educated myself in the feminist lessons of my own era, I began to realize the dichotomy in which my father's feminism existed. While my father championed feminism for my sake, he did not do so for his own sake. While he could recognize the many disadvantages of women, he could not see his own privilege; a privilege that often caused those very disadvantages. Because of this, feminism in my life has often been marked by confusion and fraught with tension. The seeming oxymoron of a feminist man has continuously haunted me because the most notable champion of feminism in my life has been my father. In...
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