Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What does a feminist father look like?

[Image from Evolution of Dad.]

Last year, Australian feminist mommy blogger Blue Milk posted "10 questions on feminist motherhood," which zipped around the blogosphere and became a kind of meme that a range of mom bloggers have tackled.

I wondered: Could profeminist fathers tackle these questions as well? If yes, would it be productive, for them and for everyone else? And I thought: Why not give it a try and see what happens?

Note that I say "profeminist," not "feminist." I think the feminist hat is hard for guys to wear, both because it doesn't usually seem to fit quite right and because other people--male and female, antifeminist and feminist--will tease them for wearing it. I speak from experience.

Despite such obstacles, many men support feminism and try to live in a way that's consistent with feminist values--something that becomes astonishingly difficult once they become fathers.

So here are Blue Milk's questions, adapted for profeminist fathers, which I post in hopes of stimulating some thinking and some conversation:
1. How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become profeminist? Was it before or after you became a father?
2. What has surprised you most about fatherhood?
3. How have your profeminist values changed over time? What is the impact of fatherhood on your profeminism?
4. What makes your fathering profeminist? How does your approach differ from an anti-feminist father’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?
5. When have you felt compromised as a profeminist father? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a profeminist father?
6. When has identifying as a profeminist father been difficult? Why?
7. Parenthood involves sacrifice, and mothers must typically make more sacrifices than fathers. How do you reconcile that with being profeminist?
8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your profeminist fatherhood? What is the impact of your commitment to feminism on your partner and your relationship?
9. If you and your partner practice attachment parenting--such as bed sharing or positive discipline--what challenges, if any, does this pose for your commitment to feminism, and how have you tried to resolve them?
10. Do you feel feminism has failed fathers and, if so, how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given fathers?


Later this week, I'll take a shot at answering these questions myself. If you do the same, be sure to leave a comment and let me know--at some point, I may try to compile the answers.

[Originally posted to my Mothering magazine blog.]

4 comments:

blue milk said...

Jeremy - really looking forward to reading your response and thanks for putting the 10 questions out there - great idea!!

Creative Dad said...

I've never thought this much about feminism, but I tried to answer the questions anyway. My apologies if I miss the point on some of these:

1. How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become profeminist? Was it before or after you became a father?

One sentence: Strong woman AND men make for a better society.

I believe I've always been a feminist. On my street, growing up in a military town, I had Filipinos next door, a mixed family across the street (Black father, German caucasian mother), Hispanics further down, retired elderly, along with my own mixed family with a German father and Okinawan mother. Acceptance of diversity was matter-of-fact. So despite my upbringing in the 'traditional' 60's and 70's in mostly Hispanic West Texas, I never felt people were defined by their race or gender.

2. What has surprised you most about fatherhood?

How natural it seems - no regrets, no looking back to "being single". I don't miss those days at all.

3. How have your profeminist values changed over time? What is the impact of fatherhood on your profeminism?

I can't say that fatherhood changed my feminist values. What has changed is awareness of male attitudes and behaviors. As a young man, I would've stated that I supported feminism but realize, looking back, that my attitues and behaviors sometimes did not.

4. What makes your fathering profeminist? How does your approach differ from an anti-feminist father’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?

The simplest answer I have to these questions is that I am a post-feminist (in my own mind). We've never pushed to be gender-neutral with our kids - that's counterproductive in my view. A Sisyphusian task - you'd have to shut out the entire world to accomplish that. And even then, your son or daughter will fall into what we view as traditional gender behavior (unless you're forcing them to be otherwise). So we concentrate on teaching our kids that all persons deserve an equal treatment and opportunity. Feminism is one aspect of the larger issues of equality in our culture.

5. When have you felt compromised as a profeminist father? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a profeminist father?

Only when we joke around within my family about how different our son and daughter are. Girls and boys are different - you can treat them the same but you can't help but joke about how much drama the girls create or how much agression the boys show. There are exceptions but you can't go against the forces of nature.

6. When has identifying as a profeminist father been difficult? Why?

It is only difficult when in the presence of traditionalists - like our fundamentalist relatives. Since they're family, you don't wish to offend. On the plus side, everyone agrees that how we raise all our children is generally good and we'll agree to disagree on women's roles.

7. Parenthood involves sacrifice, and mothers must typically make more sacrifices than fathers. How do you reconcile that with being profeminist?

If there were some feelings of inequality between my wife and I regarding sacrifices then some reconciliation would be needed. That's not the case with us. For society at large, I can recognize the demands of fatherhood and motherhood are different but we should all focus on raising healthy and vibrant children together.

8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your profeminist fatherhood? What is the impact of your commitment to feminism on your partner and your relationship?

I've been a SAHD for a number of years with my wife being the main breadwinner. There have never been issues around feminism.

9. If you and your partner practice attachment parenting--such as bed sharing or positive discipline--what challenges, if any, does this pose for your commitment to feminism, and how have you tried to resolve them?

I assume the question implies that "attachment parenting" is practiced more by mothers than fathers or that AP is focused on one parent rather than two? We have used AP techniques but only as an outgrowth of our own personalities. Worrying about upholding feminist values over how you raise your children is the wrong priority, the way I look at it.

10. Do you feel feminism has failed fathers and, if so, how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given fathers?

Feminism has allowed fathers to gain a bigger role in our children's lives.

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

Creative Dad: Thanks so much for tackling these questions. I'm interested in seeing if other dads will take up the challenge.

Anonymous said...

Hey there. Your writing on feminist fatherhood came up on my Google alerts. I'd love to reprint some of this material on XYonline, a profeminist website at www.xyonline.net. What do you think?
michael flood
mflood@vichealth.vic.gov.au