99% of the time, my old man and I get on like a house on fire. We’re the only two outdoorsy types in the family, and spend lots of time out on the water boating and diving. He understands me pretty well (no small feat), supports my often-mad endeavors, and gives really insightful life advice when I’m in crisis mode or down in the dumps.
The problem? While he’s great with me, he’s incredibly sexist and judgemental about any woman who doesn’t share his family tree. Basically, he’s a ‘Feminist Dad’ (a title coined by the always brilliant News with Nipples). Dad proudly states he’d never hire a married woman in my age bracket (they all run off and have babies, donchaknow, and why should HE have to pay for their loin fruit) but he’d be mad as a bag of snakes if I ever got turned down for a job because of that reasoning. He thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to play rugby (it’s unfeminine and crass) but helping me train for soccer was always top priority. The DPB should be abolished, according to him, because it’s not the government’s responsibility to take care of solo mums (well, except for his sister, whose husband ran out on her and the littlies)…
The list goes on. And to put it politely, these exchanges vex me terribly (or, to put it impolitely, fuck me off no end).
I sometimes try to explain why I find these exchanges hurtful and frustrating. How his attitudes (along with those of thousands of others like him) work to narrow my options, make it harder for me to earn respect, and expose me to potential hardships and physical harm. Lately, I’ve been doing this only on days when my masochistic streak reaches critical width, because I know exactly what the result will be. I’d have greater success stating my key points to the cat or the garden hose. He doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to
But what Dad also doesn’t understand is what his lack of comprehension has done to our relationship as I’ve grown up and matured. It’s like a stain that won’t come out, and that I have to struggle to unsee. It’s a big, stubborn elephant standing between us that I have to peer around. I can see, if I care to, imprinted on him the face of everyone who’s barred me from doing something because of my sex. Everyone who’s made a ‘jokey’ sexist remark about my appearance. The job interviewers who asked me about my ‘future family plans’. Everyone who’s told me I’m not a ‘real woman’ because of the way I choose to life my life.
I choose not to think too often about it, because I love my Dad to bits and it’s too oogy. But I sometimes really regret that I can’t make him see the world through my eyes.
So if you think you might be a Feminist Dad … please try and see the bigger picture. Don’t make your grown-up little girl have to look at you past the elephant. Please try to understand that all of us deserve the same respect and treatment that you want for her. And hopefully, if enough Dads do the same, she’ll get it beyond your front door.