As I mentioned in a recent post, one of the hot button issues I increasingly seem to think (and get riled up) about is gender equality and feminist issues. I’m sure it’s a combination of many things: being a woman (obviously), turning 40, having a seven year old daughter, constant access to relevant headlines and outspoken feminists in my Twitter feeds, just to name a few. I read countless articles and sometimes buy books that seem to touch more upon this theme than ever before. I’m like a moth to a flame, it seems, when it comes to wanting a fair shake for everyone, no matter what’s between their legs.
It got me to wondering, though, what about the rest of my family? What do they think about these things? Do they even think about these things at all?
Does my daughter have a sense yet of some of the unequal treatment and unfair stereotyping that still seems to happen? On the one hand, she seems to have a good handle on “girls can do anything boys can do!”, but then a comment she made while watching an episode of Project Runway suggests otherwise. There’s a boy fashion designer?! Yes, seems the pendulum might have swung too far and there is still much work to be done here. But on the whole, I don’t think it’s hit her in the face quite yet.
Then I wondered about my husband. He is very progressive when it comes to women and women’s rights. He works in a field that is not (yet) equally divided between men and women, but at his particular company it is far better than the norm. He works with and for several women, and has done so for his entire career. He is supportive of whatever decisions I make for myself professionally and personally. He is careful to praise our daughter for her efforts and abilities rather than cute looks or charm. Our house is very egalitarian when it comes to household chores and roles. He plays and hangs out with our daughter all the time—dolls, school, hair salon, movie theater, backyard sports, games, racetrack cars…you name it. It’s all fair and square in this house.
But still, I wasn’t quite sure that he was aware of the headlines that come out regularly with respect to things that girls and women still encounter “out there” on a regular basis. I think a lot of that has to do with his time constraints more than anything. Yet I was slightly curious about why I think of these things so much and it seems that he does not. I don’t exactly externalize or talk about much of what I read in this regard. Maybe he doesn’t think there is any problem. Certainly he thinks that I can (and would) do whatever the hell I want and so can our daughter (eventually), and so maybe the fact that there are barriers (big ones and little ones that add up) hasn’t quite registered.
But a part of me—though it’s hard to say which one (the mother? the female?)—wants him to be as well versed (or at least knowledgeable) as I am about things like Emma Watson’s recent UN speech or the state of girls’ clothing at some retailers.
So, I cornered him. You bet I did. We had four hours to kill in the car on our way to Vermont this weekend and so I asked him point blank about whether he reads or is aware of the examples I just gave (plus a few others). It led to a good discussion between the two of us, and, I’m happy to report, his agreeing to take part in a periodic series I will soon be starting on this blog. In a nutshell, I’ve asked him if he would be brave enough to read a timely and relevant article/essay (that I will choose) and give me 500 words or so about his thoughts. Surprisingly, he said yes. Love that guy.
Why do I think this is important? For me personally, I want to not be the only one actively thinking about such things while raising our daughter. I think he does think about these issues on some level, but maybe not in quite the same way. I think it’s important for her to have two supportive and knowledgeable parents in this regard, and turns out he thinks so too. And from a wider perspective, I feel like if more men took the time to understand even some of the obstacles that women and girls still face, we could move ahead faster with progress. Is that naive or not the right approach to take? Maybe. We will see. But stay tuned because soon enough, we will hear at least one more man’s voice on some of these topics. I hope that others will join in the discussion.
And speaking of gender equality and sexism, I’m happy to announce that later this week I will have a piece over at Mamalode that recalls an incident over the summer where I heard a subtle kind of sexism that I think we need to do away with, and that I am no longer willing to be quiet about. Stay tuned on that front!
What about your household? Whether you have a daughter or not, do you, as a family, talk about gender equality and feminist issues? What do you discuss?
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz