My Dad Is A Better Feminist Than You Are
If the feminist movement is to achieve its highest and best ideals men need to act like feminists and women need to stop calling themselves feminists. I’m sorry to say it but the brand has been compromised.
Yes, that is kind of infuriating. But I’m not saying it to appease the MRA misogynists any more than I’m saying it to antagonize the true believers fighting the good fight. We can’t expend any resources on incels beyond our own protection. Just as I have benefited from the women who came before me, I am saying it to fight for the generations of women younger than I am and the girls who will come after them.
I have a brand new niece who’s always smiling. I want her to grow up in a world where her self-determination is untrammeled. These girls can be unshackled by the sexism I spent my whole life believing was a scientific byproduct of merely existing as female.
Perhaps it’s time to merge the brand with the Secular Humanists. Or just use the term humanists. Face it. The target audience is knee-jerk defensive. The target audience isn’t the men who spend their time seething on 4Chan but the men who don’t create socially damning consequences for their sexist friends, the ones who perpetuate impunity for acts of sexual aggression against women by rationalizing it as “not that bad” or “at least he didn’t rape you.” They will not listen to any capital F feminists “shrieking about toxic masculinity”.
When Bayer bought Monsanto they ditched the tarnished brand. Monsanto has long been vilified by farmers and scientists for their carcinogenic fertilizers. Vegans are now self-identifying as plant-based. No business-savvy executives cling to an outdated label out of principle if the product is no longer selling.
So do you want to be right or do we want to be heard? They have become mutually exclusive. In this case, I think we have to choose. And I’m taking my marketing cues from my dad. I never labeled him as a feminist but he truly is. And because he’s a lower-case feminist, because he doesn’t wear t-shirts that say This Is What A Feminist Looks Like, you don’t even realize it. You just think you’re talking to a dude who loves his family and likes hiking and WWII documentaries.
As my mom always says, it’s not what you say but how you say it. My dad promotes feminism without preaching it because he lives feminism with a default belief in equality.
For those of you who didn’t grow up watching Terminator, if your dad didn’t eagerly count down the days until he took you and your sister to see T2 on the big screen, you might not have been imprinted with the early image of an ordinary person rising to extraordinary circumstances by digging deep within. Because she had to. Not because she was a woman.
In her quest to literally save humanity from the future, (not herself from heartbreak), Sarah Connor maintained her sanity while institutionalized and trained hard for the inevitable. As strong as she was though, she took a risk early on and trusted her estranged son.
I was too young to be assessing her character development from the damsel in distress she was for most of the first movie into the highly trained paramilitary tactician she had to become. I was just a kid watching a kick-ass action movie.
The anticipation for the sequel electrified my childhood home on Sunshine Acres Drive. I don’t ever remember my dad being so excited about any other movie before or since. Not with this kid-at-Christmas illumination. And I see his excitement then as a metaphor for the illuminated possibility of the future.
One of his great amusements in life is a particular type of schadenfreude — smart women taking arrogant men down a peg or two. I learned the phrase “take him down a peg or two” from my dad. I’ve watched him be entertained by these victories my entire life. Whether it’s on TV or in real life his eyes light up with a good-natured smirk. Sometimes he lets out his signature laugh. And I’ve watched him swell with pride when I’ve been the woman who’s put a man in his place.
A favorite scene of his is a female Marine in Aliens easily muscling one unassisted pull-up after another.
“Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?” a fellow Marine asks her, attempting to be droll.
“No. Have you?” The other Marines congratulate her impeccable riposte.
“There’s always one guy like that in your platoon,” my dad laughed.
My dad championed action heroes like Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton without ever uttering a qualifier or comparing or contrasting them with Rambo or Rocky. They were just awesome.
He wasn’t a James Cameron feminist. Though Cameron is an important part of our trophic levels of progress, he still thinks he can dictate how women should be. My dad is a Sarah Connor feminist. He believes anyone can be whoever they want to be.
My dad is a drummer who loves Sheila E almost as much as John Bohnam. He even suggested Sheila as a potential name for me but it didn’t wind up making the cut.
He despised Karen Carpenter’s relatively less talented brother whose abuse drove her to her fatal anorexia, all the while taking the credit, and money, for her songs. My dad looked like he could spit in this man’s face whenever he talked about what a tragic waste of talent her life was.
For his birthday a few years back, our family saw Stevie Nicks herself. Fleetwood Mac was everything live that I’d loved since TVs were behemoth wooden boxes permanently denting shag-carpeted floors. My dad had long praised her and, to a lesser extent, Christie McVie. They were solidly ranked in his rock and roll hall of fame.
What young sisters wouldn’t love Ann and Nancy Wilson? My sister and I were also a blonde and brunette duo. We couldn’t sing or play guitar but that didn’t stop us from yowling Heart’s 80s ballads, which were overpolished schmaltz compared to their unleaded 70s rock but we loved it all.
My dad also held Chrissy Hind and Debbie Harry in the same esteem as Robert Plant or Axl Rose. And he never said “for a woman” or “in spite of” or even “because of” when he talked about their powerful voices and unique sound. The equality was implicit. And the fact that it was unspoken is what made the impact so ingrained as to go unnoticed. He led by admiration, not lecture.
Spencer Butte is a 2,000-foot butte in the south hills of my hometown, a lush ascent through dense old-growth Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and oak savannah.
In November of 2016 my Catholic father hiked to the top, the mossy summit above the rocky outcrops to pray for a Hillary Clinton victory “so that my prayer was as close to God as I could get.” Not because she was a woman. But because she was, by all measures, the better-qualified candidate.
July 2019. When Chief Justice Martha Walters became the first woman to hold this position on the Oregon Supreme Court the news reported it exactly that way: “As the first woman …”
“I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to put in all of that work to finish college and law school, to have worked so hard and then be asked ‘How does it feel to be the first woman?’ instead of ‘What type of law are you passionate about?’” — the question the Register-Guard asked her after the compulsory first-woman question and the predictable questions about her private life and her family.
My dad is truly a post-feminist. He believes that we will have achieved equality when we stop announcing the first woman astronaut or the first Black president. Or even the second or third.
When we simply report on someone’s qualifications and accomplishments irrespective of their race, gender or sexuality, when women are able to be whoever they want and not be what they don’t want, then we will have reached the freedom his generation idealized and fought for.
The problem with American feminism
It may be time for us to move beyond feminism, towards something better.