Feminism means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but to me it means being mindful of the fact that women are as powerful and badass as men — and acknowledging that even in 2016, people have a hard time remembering this.
Feminism does not mean that women are better than men, or that women shouldn’t wear makeup or decide to stay home with their kids. It means that everyone — no matter what genitals they are born with — gets to have a choice in how they want to live their lives. It means supporting women (and men) to break out of the gender roles prescribed to them, if they choose to do that.
I’m a feminist, and I am happy to say that my husband is one too. We have always supported each other in whatever roles we’ve wanted to take in our marriage and as parents. Some of it has been very traditional: He’s the primary breadwinner, he does most of the transporting of the kids, and he’s the king of roughhousing with our boys. I am a full-time caretaker for our kids, and I do more of the cooking and cleaning.
But some of the roles we play are nontraditional: He’s the one to take our children to most of their doctor’s appointments. He spent hours bouncing and shushing our babies, and still soothes our kids at night. I’ve always been the one in charge of managing our family’s finances and making most spending decisions.
Being a feminist dad doesn’t mean he walks around praising me or rattling off feminist theory or critique — it means that he shows up in our lives, contributes equally to the parenting of our kids, and doesn’t expect me to do certain things just because I’m a woman.
Here’s what else it means to be a feminist dad:
1. Feminist dads don’t consider spending time with their kids ‘babysitting.’
Whenever my husband takes the kids out, someone is apt to say something along the lines of: “What a good dad you are!” Of course no one has ever praised me for taking my kids to the grocery store (and boy, should I win a medal for that). But, duh. Dads are parents, so doing stuff with their kids is par for the course.
2. Feminist dads know that parenting is a 24/7 gig.
Everyone knows parenting doesn’t end when the lights go out, especially in the early years. If a setup where the mom does most of the nighttime parenting works for you, so be it. But dads are just as eligible as moms to pitch in at night — and most of us need the help.
3. Feminist dads support their partners in whatever roles they want to have.
Decisions about who should work outside the home, who should make your kids’ lunches, and who should rock your newborn should be based on which one of you wants to do it, period. Yes, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding generally are the responsibility of the one with the uterus and boobs, but beyond that, decisions about who does what shouldn’t be driven by gender norms.
4. Feminist dads have an open mind about gender roles for their kids.
Your son wants to wear a tutu? Your daughter wants a buzzcut and a baseball hat? Go with it. Feminist dads don’t try to box their kids into gender stereotypes.
5. Feminist dads participate equally in household chores.
I freaking hate laundry, and my husband can tolerate it. I love cleaning and straightening up, but I’ll be damned if I pick up the explosion of Legos, marbles, superheroes, and books that appear on our living floor every night. Sharing housework means doing what works for each person in the partnership.
6. Feminist dads take a cooperative approach to decision-making and problem-solving.
We are equal players in every single decision that happens in our lives, the big and small. This seems pretty elementary when you think about it, but it’s not at all how life worked even 30 years ago, and some level of domination (usually by men) still goes on in many relationships today. Big NOPE.
7. Feminist dads aren’t afraid to show softness, tenderness, and love.
Let’s hear it for all the dads who let their newborns sleep all night on their chests. Let’s hear it for the babywearing dads. Let’s hear it for the dads who aren’t afraid to say “I love you” a million times a day or cry openly in front of their kids. We freaking love you for it.
I know I’m not the only one with a feminist husband. Mine isn’t perfect (no one is, really), but I am grateful to be sharing this crazy parenthood journey with someone like him. Best of all, as the parents of two boys, I love that he’ll be the model of fatherhood that they have. I can’t know for sure if either of my boys will become fathers, but if they ever do, I’m pretty sure they’ll be some pretty kick-ass feminist dads themselves.