First, I want to let you know that you are the most important woman in my life. Always will be.
Maybe society dictates that I should say your mother is the most important woman in my life, but she and I look at you and Malcolm as the most important woman and man in our lives. You two are our children and what a privilege it has been and will continue to be your parents.
Secondly, I want you to know that your father is a feminist, a rather unabashed one at that.
Now, before you think that others may scream that this is an unmanly stance to adopt, I want to make sure you understand what I mean by “feminist.” I mean that I believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities in our world.
In fact, to tell you the truth, I come by it rather naturally.
I was raised by two women (your grandmother and great-grandmother) after a divorce who were presented with obstacles because of their gender and the roles that they were “supposed” to play in society. They took me to all of my ball games and practices. They sent me to school. They taught me how to treat people.
I watched how my aunt and uncle raised two strong daughters. You call them your “aunts” and they are both tough, independent, and resilient.
I am married to the strongest woman I know, your mother. I have learned more from her about how to treat other people than anyone. And she is the daughter of another strong woman.
They all have debunked gender myths and taught me that being a feminist is right and just and something that a strong man can and should be, especially if he is the father of a young lady in this world who is coming into her own and has the intelligence and the ability to see the world for what it is and fight for what she sees as important.
I want you to know that there are a lot of people who do not think this way. When you go off to college and into adulthood, you will run into men (young and old) who do not value women in the same way that others do.
The case of Brock Turner comes to mind often. He is the ex-Stanford swimmer who constantly serves as a reminder that entitlement can trump decency (pun intended).
Even the judge in the case who only sentenced this rapist to a six month maximum sentence perpetuates the reality that people in power do not always have the best interests in mind for all people involved.
I can only hope that I as a father have set at least some sort of precedent on how you as a woman should expect to be treated by a man. And I hope that you talk to your mother about this. She knows, and because you are the most important woman in her life, she will tell you the truth and give you honest answers to questions you have every right to ask.
I promise you that I will try and do the same – honest answers to tough questions because we taught you to ask tough questions.
And please remember that there is a reason that I teach certain works of literature the way that I do. That’s because I want the young ladies in my class to realize that women have always been agents of change; they have been the constant, the backbone, the foundation for so many stories in a male-dominated society. In fact, I argue that some of our greatest male writers were feminists in their own right.
- Think of Shakespeare’s Rosalind, Viola, Portia, and Imogen.
- Think of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.
- Think of Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne.
- Think of Homer’s Penelope.
- Think of Tolkien’s Eowyn.
The list goes on.
Now think of the #MeToo Movement. The Marches for Women. And look how many women are running for public office .
There are so many things that I want you to have, not least are a sense of self and self-worth. You do not have to accept being objectified or looked down upon because you are a woman.
And there are many other men who feel the way I do and gladly call themselves a feminist.