Father's Day 2013: 5 Lessons on Feminism I've Learned From My Dad
Happy Father's Day! It's been a helluva of a 22 year run, and I have a feeling it's going to get a lot more fun and a lot less angsty now that I'm a "real adult." Here's to no more fights about the length of my shorts!
In all seriousness though, infinite thanks to you and Mom for being my greatest inspiration and encouragement. Even though you and I don't always agree on politics, our debates and disagreements have directly shown me how people coming from different ideological, geographic, and generational perspectives can still form an intensely supportive and loving unit.
You probably didn't know it at the time, but you were also one of my earliest examples of a feminist ally. The lessons you passed along don't appear in any feminist theory readers, but they were instrumental in sending me on my way towards spreading the Gospel of Gender Empowerment.
Special thanks for helping me making my way through high school statistics.
Besos y love,
1. Princess Leia > Any Disney Princess
This was the implicit choice you offered to me the VHS rental store. Would I rather pretend to be that girl who cuts her body in half for a complete stranger or the leader of an intergalactic rebellion? Emulate the relationships that rely on unconscious kissing or the self-reliance that carried Leia and crew out of multiple skirmishes with Storm Troopers?
True, Leia and her dad had their own ish, but as far as role models for dorky 7-year-olds go, this brave, driven, and outspoken powerhouse princess was definitely the best bet for any burgeoning feminist. Because when it comes down to it, would you rather place your livlihood on a glass slipper or the Force?
It's no wonder I'm proud to carry my Lego Princess Leia around my keys. She didn't stand any fools; thanks for teaching me I shouldn't either.
2. Never Pack More Than You Can Carry
While we all learned this lesson on a particularly stressful family trip to San Diego, this directive is less about leaving excess books/dresses/shoes at home and more about sustainable, independent living.
It's certainly nice to have an extra set of hands to help pack, push, and carry, but there is a huge sense of self-satisfaction that when that next big move appears on the horizon, you can haul your junk without the hunks. By living (more) minimally, your advice has really helped to refocus what items are really worth to bring on upcoming adventures. (Hint: toothpaste, For Whom the Bell Tolls, cell phone charger, and glasses.)
On a less tangible level, I've relied on this advice when I've had to stare down feminist burnout. Try as I might to pretend I can be in five places at once (thanks, Hermoine, for setting that bar so high), I have to take a step back and see what's already packed away and what I can leave out.
3. Respect Trumps Ambition
As you taught me during the most difficult time of childrearing (aka eighth grade), anyone can think of themselves to be God's-gift-to-humankind and make themselves really snotty. It's easy and, sure, sometimes fun. But as we learned together, it's also a fantastic way to alienate yourself at school, on campus, and within the workplace.
Beyond "leaning in," fostering connections between mentors, peers, and allies requires discipline, loyalty, respect, and understanding. Instead of bragging about yourself, ask about other people's projects. Ask how you can help, not when you can clock out. Looking people in the eye while you're sincerely thanking them takes only a few seconds, but it makes an invaluable difference. Also, take the time to share a laugh. Always more enjoyable than airing out a complaint.
4. If It's Faulty, Fix It
This one is almost like a Bobadilla family commandment. There are two types of people in this world: those who use the last bit of toilet paper and then secure a new roll and those who don't. Guess which type of person you should be?
The difference between a complainer and a changemaker is that one person sees something wrong and just leaves it there, and the other makes sure that it's set right. Sometimes the changemaker fails the first couple of times, but as long as they are honest about their mistakes, ask for help, and sincerely follow up with a thank-you, chances are their work will be appreciated.
The tricky thing about feminist activism is that there really is no guaranteed guide to success. Most of the time, you learn what works after discovering what doesn't. But you can usually trust that speaking out and following up against injustice is a good call.
An important corollary to this lesson is, "If it's not broken, don't fix it." As in, don't try to turn things up just make yourself look good. Or you'll look like me when I tried to "weed" our front yard and pulled out all the ferns.
5. Go Big And Then Come Home
One of the best pre-college books I received was the excellent and endearing copy of Dream Big Olivia you gave me. As poorly as I tried to hide it, I was equal parts terrified and thrilled to start college. But the message included in your gesture has been a guiding force for the past four years and beyond.
You've encouraged me to see the world with an eye to improve it, but then to return home, almost like a super intense game of tag that comes back to home base. What I didn't realize at the time was that home could move with me.
As a lot of changemakers know, sometimes this work is frustrating and brutal. But that's exactly why our "homes," whether they are where we grew up, a suite full of ah-may-zing roommates, or even a quick text to an old friend, are so important. Home keeps us grounded and continuously reminded why we do the work we do. It's not for us because if it were, we'd probably stop and give up a lot earlier. It's for all of y'all who we love fiercely and ferociously. For those of us who have been so blessed, we must bring it back home.
Dream big everyone, but don't forget to come home.
Happy Father's Day to my feminist-ally Dad. I promise not to dye my hair purple. (Yet.)