Confessions of a Male Feminist

This was my introduction to feminism:

That’s Marcy D’arcy (played by Amanda Bearse) from the American T.V show Married... With Children.

Now, I’ve never been one to blame the media for things, whether it be school shootings or the inexplicable popularity of Crocs (seriously, it looks like you’re wearing cut up wiffle balls on your feet. Just stop.) But I’ve come to realize that in many ways, media has shaped my view of many things, including feminism.

In case you can’t tell from the picture, Marcy is a typical straw feminist. She’s anti-male, a hypocrite, and generally just unpleasant. I seem to remember many characters like her on 90’s sitcoms.

I didn’t have many other examples of feminists in my life. I had no sisters. My mother doesn’t identify as a feminist (though she holds many feminist beliefs). And of the few female friends I had, none really talked about feminism.

The first feminist I met was my wife. I was shocked to hear her say that sexism was still a problem in America. Surely, I said, these problems had been solved in the sixties? Gloria Steinem? Women’s suffrage? Any of this ringing a bell?

I held the all too typical view that sexism in America was a problem of the past, and anyone still complaining about it was living in that past.

Then, I entered the Bizarro World of American Evangelical Christianity. I heard all kinds of sexist claptrap about how women couldn’t be leaders, that they should submit to their husbands...yet it didn’t occur to me that sexism sexism was a problem. In fact, since I believed that the Bible was the Word of God, I started to think that maybe I was the one with the problem, since I didn’t consider myself to be the head of my household, and I didn’t see a problem with women being pastors.

When I started this blog a year ago, I also started a Twitter account. I talked with other feminists. Some of them were Christian, some weren’t. I listened to their stories instead of listening to sermons. And I started reconsidering my views on feminism (funny how stories have a way of doing that).  I realized that the root of many of those views were still based on Marcy D’arcy.

Have you ever bought a new car, and then started seeing other cars of the same model everywhere? It’s not that everyone suddenly purchased that car. There’s a part of your brain responsible for filtering out unimportant information. Now that you own one of those cars, it stops filtering other cars of the same type.   This is how my brain reacted when I read the stories of people affected by sexism. And it kept going when I became a father to two girls (with a third on the way).

I started thinking that maybe I was a feminist too. But I didn’t label myself with the word, because, let’s be honest, it has a great deal of baggage. I didn’t want people assuming things about me because of that. I didn’t want to be judged.

You know what? Fuck it, I’m a feminist.

So what does that mean? Well, readers of this blog should know by now where that discussion is going to start.

fem·i·nist [fem-uh-nist]  

adjective Sometimes, fem·i·nis·tic.
1. advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.
2. an advocate of such rights.

That’s what it means to me so far. I’m still working it out, to be honest. It’s a bit new to me. I know the names of a few famous feminists but I don’t know much about them, and I haven’t read anything by them (with two children, graphic novels are pretty much all I have time for. Have feminists written any of those?)

Feminism, for me, means that when I talk to my daughters, I will say “firefighter” instead of “fireman”, and “police officer” instead of “policeman”, though I won’t be offended if someone else uses those words.

(I’m still undecided about “manhole cover”. Maintenance hatch? Sewer access tunnel? “Person-hole cover” sounds dumb.)

It means that when I read my daughter Fantastic Four comics from the sixties, I will edit the dialogue on the fly when Sue Storm falls in love with the villainous Sub-Mariner instead of kicking his sorry ass back to Atlantis.

It means I will play My Little Pony with them, and will buy them Transformers too if they want them.

It means I’m distrustful of almost anything with the ‘Princess’ label on it.

It means I will never limit them by saying “You’re a girl, so you can’t do that.”

Of course, there will be others who say that.

I will tell them that those people are not to be listened to.

And I will tell them that those people are the ones living in the past.

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