Saturday, June 20, 2009

Feminism Meets Father's Day

Tracy Clark-Flory at Broadsheet wrote an article called Feminism Meets Father's Day.

The first half of it talks about a woman whose father didn't respect her a person, or at least respected her less than (in her eyes) her brothers simply because she was born a girl.

In the second half, Tracy talks about her own experience with her father, which is much more positive. She writes, You helped me feel that I was a perfectly OK person -- but, mind you, not a perfect little princess...He didn't try to turn me into a tomboy or a substitute son, he simply celebrated me as a kid.

Thankfully, I identify with Tracy and not at all with the first woman. Yes, I was "Daddy's girl" (and so was my sister) but we weren't "Daddy's princesses." And thank God for that. Sure we were spoiled in some ways (as most middle class children are) but we were also taught to do things for ourselves when at all possible, to be responsible for ourselves, the value of hard work, and especially the value of an education.

Never growing up, not even once, did I feel like my Dad resented the fact that he didn't have a son. I really like what Tracy said about her dad not trying to turn her into a tomboy or substitute son, but simply celebrating her as a kid. My Dad played sports with me and watched me play sports not because he was trying to pretend he had a son but because it was fun and that's what I liked to do. He embraced the things I was good at (soccer and running) and backed off on the things I was terrible at (golf). [I think we went to the driving range one time. And one time only.]

And it was ok to not like sports too as my sister was involved in more "feminine" but equally (if not more) athletic activities like dancing, cheer-leading and ice-skating. And while my Dad didn't exactly participate in dancing or cheer-leading (except when he was being goofy, much to my sister's disdain) he definitely encouraged her too.

It wasn't "you should do this activity because that's what girls do." And it wasn't "you should do this activity because it will make me feel like I have a boy". It was "you should be a kid and whatever activities you want to do, as long as they are productive and not getting you into trouble, are cool with us." (Yes my mom gets props too). As a side note, I think both my parents should get props for being encouraging at our sports/games without being one of those loud obnoxious parents who yells at everyone from the sidelines or installing a "you must win or else attitude" (I had enough of that instinctively anyways.)

Like Tracy, I think father's are very important and definitely relevant to feminism. I'm glad I wasn't treated like a "precious little princess" but also wasn't treated like a "substitute son." (although, funny story, I do remember moving furniture with my dad and my grandma freaking out. "DON'T MAKE HER LIFT THAT! SHE'S NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO HAVE KIDS!!" Well, we shall see...). Anyways, the point is that we were treated, well, like kids. Like, as Tracy said, "perfectly OK people." Not better than or less than what we would've been treated like if we were boys. Cheers to that. And Happy Father's Day.

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