True story: My husband called himself a feminist long before I did. In fact, I've known him since he was 13, and I've never known that not to be an important part of his identity. According to him, he does not remember a time when that wasn't. (I know, I know: some ladies get all the luck, and by "all the luck" I mean "all my husband" and by "some ladies" I mean "me.")
If you knew him and where he comes from, this all makes perfect sense. He has described both sides of his family as "matriarchies." He was raised by a remarkable mother who oozes strength and perseverance out of every pore, who extolled the importance of gender equality and feminism from his earliest years. Me? Despite a similarly badass mother and personal espousing feminist ideals, I was less willing to take on the title. By the time we started dating, however, we both had full-diesel feminism coursing through our Liberal veins going straight to our compassionate, bleeding hearts.
Do you know what it's like to date (and then marry) a raging feminist? Effing awesome. It's like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and bell hooks doing a tango in your soul to the musical stylings of Missy Elliot. Do you know what it's like to raise children with one? Effing awesomer, like a Mooncup emblazoned with a picture of all the Golden Girls being delivered to your door by noted feminist hotties Jon Hamm and Amber Rose as they hold a basket full of kittens.
"That sounds great!" you say, "Do you think my husband (or boyfriend) could become a feminist?" What a great question! The answer is yes, of course he could. But let me ask you a question: Is there a chance that he's already a feminist? Here are some telltale signs that you may have won the spousal and co-parent jackpot.
He Plays The Same Games With Daughters And Sons (Or Would If You Had Both)
Feminist dads don't think of their daughters as delicate little flowers who risk overexerting themselves in routine play, and they certainly don't care if their sons want to dress up in princess dresses and have a tea party. In fact, they're probably happy to put on a crown and fairy wings to join them. They understand that kids learn through play, and if we limit how they play we are also limiting how and what they learn.
He Won't (Or Is Hesitant To) Call His Daughter "Princess"
I'll fully admit this may just be my feminist husband, but hear me out, because I think he has a point: It's not that there's anything wrong with princesses, but princess culture is everywhere for little girls. For example: I had to buy a birthday gift the other day and aside from stuffed animals, I could not find a single gender-neutral item (and I wasn't going to buy a stuffed animal, because we all know basically every parents' motto is, "If one more stuffed animal comes in this house, so help me God..."). Among the items "for girls," I would say a good 80% was princess themed (the rest was pretty evenly divided among cupcakes, celebrities, and pink and purple animals wearing make-up and eyes way too big for their heads). So a princess moniker in and of itself is not necessarily more problematic than "pumpkin" or "sweetie" or "mami" (though, it could be argued that princess encourages a certain type of very gendered, submissive, and superficial behavior and values where the others don't; this is among my husband's objections). But in the current culture, where princesses are promoted to little girls to the exclusion of basically anything else, it becomes worrying. Feminist dads are more likely to assure their daughters they are more than princesses.
He Isn't Afraid To Show Affection To His Sons
Because boys need hugs and kisses, too! Feminist dads know that positive physical touch is important, and that it's not going to make their sons weak, or "pu**ies"* or gay. And if hugs from dads did make boys gay, a feminist dad would be fine with that because there's nothing wrong with being gay!
*a feminist dad would, in fact, argue that using "pu**y" as a pejorative term was misogynistic, and he'd be right.
He Doesn't Make Weird Comments About Sending His Daughters To Convents Or Shooting Their Future Boyfriends
Do people not get how incredibly creepy this is? (This guy does, and he wrote a good essay on the subject.) You're basically saying you own your daughter's vagina. OK, I'll be charitable, because I understand wanting to protect your child from hurt (though it's so interesting that the dads who threaten hypothetical boyfriends with shotguns never seem to do the same to their sons' hypothetical girlfriends...). I mean, as we all learned in Mean Girls...
But feminist dads get that protecting their daughter from hurt doesn't mean controlling her body and sexuality for the rest of her life. They know that part of being a well-rounded, happy adult will almost certainly mean a fulfilling sex life. Protecting their children, not just their daughters, therefore, comes in the form of frequent, emphatic talks about birth control, STI prevention, and consent.
He Is Invested In Equitable Division Of Labor With His Partner
This, of course, includes child-rearing (feminist fathers do not babysit their own children, and they'll call you on it if you say they do) and household management. They not only strive for an equitable relationship with their partner, but they actively want their kids to see daddy doing laundry, or cooking, or vacuuming. Because they don't want their children to grow up thinking there's "men's work" and "women's work."
He Does Not Use Homophobic Slurs Or Gendered Insults
He recognizes it as dehumanizing, degrading, damaging, and below his dignity.
He Is Concerned About Gender Portrayals In The Media
Just as children learn through play, they learn through the media they consume as well, and feminist dads worry about what message is being sent. Are his sons constantly encouraged to be violent, domineering, and thoughtless? Are his daughters even seeing female characters on the screen, let alone any with agency (hell, we'll settle for lines or a personality trait that isn't "being a girl")? Movies, books, and TV shows are carefully vetted. If some sexist bullcrap slips past the goalie (and it will #feministparentproblems), a feminist dad calls it out and contextualizes it so that his kids don't just accept the status quo as a naturally occurring order, but rather a system constructed and maintained to keep certain people down.
So: Is your dude a feminist? Here's hoping!
Image: Chris Price/Flickr; Giphy (6); Tumblr