Friday, May 19, 2006

Feminism for a Father

3/18/06

Dear Dad,

It was good being at home with you, even for painting. I will try to come again soon. We can do more chores! I told mom that chores are her love language. When I ask her how you two are feeling, she always says things like, “Pretty good, I did the laundry,” or “Your Dad is good, he cleaned the toilet.” Honestly, I must admit, I am quite the same as Mom. Steve says that there in nothing more sexually attractive to me than the sight of him washing the dishes.
I was reading a book this morning called “Communion, The Female Search for Love,” by bell hooks. She is a feminist. I guess you know that I am a feminist too. I don’t put any qualifications on that. I’m not almost a feminist or a Christian feminist, just a feminist. But of course there is not just one definition for feminist, but a different one for every person. Anyhow, bell hooks talks about losing the love of her father and how devastating that was for her. She says that women spend a lot of energy worrying about being worthy of love. She talks about the universal system of patriarchy and how it oppresses women.

Now, I understand how it is true that women are universally faced with that oppression. However, I came to that understanding slowly and probably as an adult. Here is why. You never made me feel unworthy of love. You gave me the great gift of unqualified, unconditional love. Therefore, I was freed to develop in ways that many women were not. In a way it set me on a slower track to feminism, but one that is, I think, more healthy (at least less painful.)

My thinking about feminism is full of emotion and anger at times. Patriarchy plays very evil tricks on women across the world. It uses all kinds of tactics to steal from women their god-given drives and talents, to keep them out of competing roles and in roles where they are available for abuse. This is evidenced blatantly in the Eastern world and is institutionalized in Islam and its culture. It is present strongly in the conservative church here in the West (women as secondary), as it is in the Hollywood culture (women as sex objects), the fashion world (women as mannequins), and in the sports world (women as cheerleaders).

I wanted to write this, not because I think that you have hurt me as a father, but because you have helped prepare me to be a positive feminist who can see clearly because I have had a father who loved unstintingly. (Not that I don’t think you could stand to move a little more in the direction of feminism. Become a radical!)

I love you,

Betsy

Tags: Family Feminism Justice

2 comments:

Anne G G said...

Have you ever told Pap that you're a feminist? What did he say, or what would he say? Love, your feminist daughter.

brd said...

This is a reprint of an actual letter. The response was rather quiet, more from my mother than from my father. It is interesting to watch a slow dawning in the mind of someone in their eighties. Though it may not be a dawn that is fully embraced, it is one that does at least provide enough light that a loving parent can recognize that their child has experienced pain as a result of various oppressions.

Were my parents to fully own up to the subtle and not-so-subtle oppressions toward women in their own communities and lives, they would experience great pain themselves. I don't know if I really wish that for them at this stage of life.