I was asked recently about my use of the terms “feminist ally” and “feminist dad” in reference to myself. I wasn’t expecting the question and so even though this is something I think of often, I wasn’t sure how to respond to how I would label myself.
“Men who want to be feminists do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society & make it feminist.” — Tumblr user soultired
Now, I think it’s important to say I am a feminist.
I also am a dad. These two can be related or separated, it doesn’t really matter to me. What is important is that dads work toward creating an environment with our children where we don’t just gain feminist perspectives because we have daughters and we shouldn’t be a feminist just because we have sons. Dads should be feminists because we often operate in spaces that are not feminist and which can greatly benefit from feminist voices. There are many opportunities for us to help bring about change:
- We operate in spaces that do not offer changing stations for men, continuing the false narrative that moms are the ones who should look after children.
- We operate in spaces that play to the “dad as goofus who can’t change a diaper” narrative that men can’t be nurturing.
- We operate in spaces that tell us we shouldn’t let our son wear a dress.
- We operate in spaces that suggest dads need to take ownership over their daughters’ bodies.
- We operate in spaces that suggest it is okay for men to make sexist jokes as long as they are doing it in the company of other men. We call this locker room talk and it is bullshit.
- We operate in spaces where we wake up to the sexism faced by woman only when it is framed as “imagine she was your mom, daughter, sister, partner.”
- We operate in spaces where we come to the defense of a sexual assault suspect because what if they are wrongfully accused instead of supporting the victim. We willingly ignore all the times survivors don’t report or confidently suggest they must have done something to deserve what they went through.
- We operate in places where members of the LGBTQ+ are used as “jokes.” We are told to “lighten up” when we call this out as bullshit.
- We operate in places where men are told not to cry.
These are our spaces to tear down
Men, be unapologetically feminist in these spaces. Call out sexist jokes. Call out people who ask the question “what was she wearing?” Call out people who use the word “retarded.”
Men who debate the usefulness of the term feminism or the beliefs behind feminist thought need to change. They consider feminism to be man-hating, yet feminist frameworks talk about better parental leave for everyone. Feminism demands more inclusion of those who don’t meet or social norms of what a man or woman should be. People legitimately look at the problems facing our culture and blame feminism. Yet, we have never had a feminist government form power. We have no idea how accepting or forward-thinking policies would be if we made our spaces more feminist.
Feminism simply asks that we all help make the spaces we live in a better place for those who are oppressed. I’ll give space to people who aren’t already behind that idea as long as they are willing to listen.