Countless commercials pit the male actor against the female actor. In nearly all cases, the female makes the wise decision and chooses the correct product or service, while the man is left in comedic disrepair, with no car, or no job, or no food. Check out this ad and also this ad, both found in a 30-second search of YouTube. Notice in the second ad that the girl’s father is totally useless for spending time with his daughter, and needs to leave her alone and go wash the dog. If you are a woman, simply imagine how you would feel if most media portrayed you this way.
Sexism is bad, and feminists have made bold moves to combat it. I believe in equal rights. But if we start marginalizing men, aren’t we doing exactly what we don’t want done to us? We’ve marginalized men in almost every role possible, especially the all-important role of parenting. Few would argue that good parenting is one of, if not the, most important roles. Somehow we’ve started to lean toward thinking that the role of Father is simply outdated. Many women choose to raise their children without another partner. “I don’t need a man.” What if the child is a boy? Does that mean he, too, is worthless? What message do you send to your child by cutting out one of his or her parents?
I am keenly aware of untraditional situations where it may not be possible to have two parents. I’m not looking down on those people at all. But I am tired of man-hating misandrists who claim to be feminists. I’m tired of hearing wives say “men are so stupid” in front of their children. When we demean entire groups of people for their sex or age or race or religious beliefs, we demean ourselves.
Despite the fact that our culture has made it cool to put down men, some men still rise to the challenge. These are the guys wearing “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirts; they are the ones who think of women as equals. Because that is what we are. Not superior. Equal. These men are dedicated to their families, nuclear or not. They are not afraid to try new things, but don’t throw away old things just because they are old.
My dad is truly a wonderful person. He’s been more than a label of “father” to me. At age eight, I was in his woodshop in a gingham sundress, goggles, and earphones, helping him cut wood. He taught me to garden, encouraged me to learn about my car and change my own oil, guided me in personal finance, cheered as I chose whatever career that would make me happy (chemistry). He never told me I could not do something my brother could do. But he didn’t just teach a girl all those stereotypically male things. He was so much more of an example. He hugged all three of his kids and wasn’t afraid to say he loved us. He helped with the chores. After big family gatherings, he still dons my grandmother’s apron and washes all of the dishes. He talks about feelings and hopes and dreams. Most of all, he has unfalteringly loved not only his three children, but my mother as well (another amazing person). He is the shining example of a husband and father that helped me see that men are not just tokens, they are as important in a family as anyone else.
Last year, at almost exactly this time, I spent a week in Hawaii with Dad. We drank delicious wine, ate gorgeous food, went to the beach. We never ran out of conversation topics. We laughed and had quiet moments too. That trip is one of the most treasured weeks of my life so far.
I fully realize that I am so incredibly fortunate that this guy happens to be my dad. But he’s also my friend, my career counselor, my role model, and…a man. A real man, unafraid to break from traditional roles and ways of thinking and become something so much more.
Thanks, Dad, for everything.