Feminism for Fathers

As a father of a girl I am grateful for the work of feminists past. From the suffragettes to the upcoming scholars in the current generation who have helped to assure women of their basic rights and end most of the overt sexism in the workplace. But recent experiences have shown me that misogyny and sexism are all too alive and well today. From the sexual harassment of blogger Kathy Sierra to the Slashdot threads on Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker that quickly digressed to commentary on her physical appearance and speculation on whether each poster would "do her." From colleagues who praise their wives for being content to "just be a housewife" (I admire those who choose to be a stay-at-home parent but I find the always present use of the term "just" in my colleagues comments to be telling) to statistics such as these.

As a man and a science buff I stayed away from the women's studies department in college. It's a choice that I now think was unwise. In a sexist world it seems best to raise a daughter who is unafraid to call out sexist behavior, who knows that to be called beautiful is not the highest of praise, who can distinguish between her own desires and those imposed by her community--in short a feminist. I'll be the first to admit that I have little more than an elementary understanding of feminist history and critiques. I am unsure of what role I can and should have in promoting feminist values in my children (do I praise my daughter's looks more than my son's? does it matter? will I raise neurotic children by even worrying about such things?). So I am going to issue a call for help. Will someone more expert in these matters than I please write a book called Feminism for Fathers?

Thank you.


  1. Jeff said...
    The following two comments are from my old blog (as was this post). They were helpful so I am adding them here.
    Jeff said...
    So actually, this isn’t germpharm at all, but mrs. germpharm. And have I got some fun stuff for you!

    As a woman and a humanities buff, I visited the women’s studies department (and center and social events) frequently in college and even more frequently in grad school, where I began teaching introduction to women’s studies (which I have continued since then) and worked as the graduate assistant in the office of women’s affairs. As a religious professional woman raised in the 20th and 21st century who is expecting her first child, I have thought long and hard about what feminism means to me, how it manifests itself in my everyday life in both practical and ineffable ways, and what it will mean for my (not so distant) future child(ren).

    This discussion is ongoing, of course, but I’ve encountered some readings along the way that I think might be relevant to your questions (though, sadly, as you have no doubt observed, there is no Feminism for Fathers anthology out there or even anything close. And don’t let anyone try to convince you that _The Bastard on the Couch_ is at all what you want to read, because it most patently is not). Of course, as with all feminist texts or texts in general, each of these selections has much to offer and just as much to critique, so keep your shaker full of grains of salt handy!

    (Let me know if you want me to just send copies of some of these, if you don’t have time to track them down.) And now, some slight offerings that you might peruse, as a means of getting started. Happy reading and happy raising!

    “Men and Women’s Studies: Premises, Perils, and Promise” by Michael Kimmel in _Talking Gender: Public Images, Personal Journeys and Political Critiques_

    “Ideology, Experience, Identity: The Complex Worlds of Children in Fair Families” by Barbara Risman in _Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition_

    “A Marriage Agreement” by Alix Kates Shulman in _Redbook_ August 1971 (totally over the top but thought provoking)

    “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” by Lois Gould in _MS Magazine_ December 1978 (ab fab!)

    “Spiking the Punch: In Defense of Female Aggression” by Natalie Angier in _Woman: An Intimate Geography_

    “Fear of Feminism: Why Young Women Get the Willies” by Lisa Maria Hogeland in _MS_ November/December 1994
    Jeff said...
    Just to add a different perspective to the mix, you may want to have a look at the book “What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us” by Danielle Crittenden. I can see why some might find it controversial, but I have to admit that I felt intense relief after reading this book. I could not understand why I was feeling guilty for wanting to have children instead of continuing to climb the career ladder. Now I realize that my instinctual feelings are part of being a woman, and I’m hoping that my own daughter grows up feeling that she has the right to equality, but also the right to follow her female instincts without guilt.

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