Dads can be supportive in many ways, and whether they know it or not, sometimes that support is feminist – from helping their children break gender stereotypes to encouraging growth by not letting gender be a limitation.
This Father’s Day, we decided to highlight some stories from women of all ages whose fathers deserve some feminist applause.
While these dads may or may not identify with the word “feminist”, their actions have undeniably helped support the women in their lives by encouraging them to become smart, strong, and independent – and these actions are more important than the word.
Now for the stories:
“There are 2 sides to me. The one that wears dresses for weddings and the other that mostly wears pants and boots. When I was young, Dad took me to weddings, but he also took me took me hunting and fishing. Taught me how to shoot a gun and put worms on a fishing hook. I did catch fish but never shot anything. (I did not want to kill anything.) On our farm, I rode in the combine and bagged oats and wheat. What a hot itchy sweaty job that was. Even prior to being 16, I drove a pretty big truck with a bed through the fields. My dad threw the hay bales on the back as I drove. I thought everyone did this stuff. For me it was normal!! Guess that is why I still like jeans and boots best. Oh and dad got me a BB gun for Christmas.”
“I always grew up knowing that I could do anything, be anything. So when in 4th grade we were asked, ‘Would you want to be an actor, scientist, or president when you grow up?’ I chose the president of the United States. The boy who sat next to me said, ‘You can’t be president you are a girl.’ I was stunned and of course said something to my dad when I got home. We talked about how there had never been a female president but there was no reason why there couldn’t be. Guess I never realized there were limitations to being a girl because I was never taught that by my parents. It was a significant event in my childhood.”
“My dad was great at teaching us to be self-sufficient. We were never taught that we should depend on a man for anything. In my father’s eyes, the secret to success was for his daughters to get an education and be independent. That was the common mantra throughout the years. As a young teenager in the early 80s, there was no judgement when I started to listen to alternative music and experiment with punk fashion, back when it was considered subversive and counterculture. He didn’t mind that people thought I was strange and he even participated by shaving my head (when needed). That acceptance made me feel that experimentation and rabble rousing was something to be proud of, and it definitely played a large part in shaping the person I became and led me to try things I otherwise might not have. I suppose his own unconventional life (a poor immigrant, coming from a different culture with more realistic values) contributed to his more serious, unpretentious outlook on life. Whatever his reasons, I am thankful that I was free to exercise personal expression as it helped contribute to the creative person I have become today.”
“My father helped build my spirit of adventure and deep appreciation for the earth. He taught me to climb fire towers and look out over a forest for a better view. I copied his long sighs and far off gazing. To this day more than 50 years later, I breath deep when gazing at landscapes and am filled with a joyful calm.”
“My dad always had me help him change flat tires, headlight bulbs, and stuff like that. He said I’d always be able to take care of myself if my car broke down. I mean, this started at age 8 or something. And it seemed to me just like something everyone should know how to do, but I later realized…it wasn’t always so!”
“Dad was certainly very involved in your care~a feminist choice in itself, not just leaving it to me/Mom, especially when you were little.) Dad came to all the LaMaze pre-natal classes with me and was my birth coach. Certainly this was not unheard of in 1984-85, but was certainly significant. Dad stayed home and took care of you for the first weeks of your life, including diapering. He did all the shopping, cooking & straightening up…probably laundry too!
Dad often took you the university, to his office, in a backpack, and out on his bike. When we were in the city, he often took you to the park playgrounds and children’s zoo, wheeling your stroller along with all the nannies. He taught you how to ride a bike, to rake leaves, to (really) paint a wall, and you had your own gardening tools. These were never distinguished as boys or girls activities. I don’t ever remember it being an issue for you to not get messy or play in the dirt.”
-S (from a mother to her daughter)
“My Dad encouraged me to try everything and anything I was interested in as a kid. Little league baseball, dance class, community theater, anything. If I was excited about it, he supported it. The best lessons he ingrained in me was to follow my heart, do what I really loved, and not to settle for something that doesn’t provide happiness in my life. I’ve taken this advice. For this, I am forever grateful to have had his love and encouragement over the years, and hope he knows what an amazing role model he has been for me, both as a man, a father, and human being.”
“My father’s views were not reflective of either the Egyptian culture nor the American culture of the time. His highest value was education- through self study, academia, and travel. He encouraged me to be financially independent, think for myself, use my imagination, and stay focused on what was most important to me. Higher education was a given, as automatic as high school. I would say he believed that being a female was a challenge, similar to being an immigrant, but not a reason to give up your dreams or restrict your choices.”
“My father travelled quite a bit when I was growing up so when he was home he made a great effort in spending quality time with me and my siblings. Saturday mornings we would have self-defense and gymnastic practices with him in the living room. It was quite an event that required him moving all the couches and furniture to the side. I never knew how empowering it was for my father to teach me self-defense at such a young age until I was older. I’ve always had the confidence to stand up for myself even when I’m afraid.”
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