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My Husband Is Better at Raising a Feminist Daughter Than I Am

Photograph by Twenty20

I’m riding shotgun in the minivan with my husband. Our two kids are in the back, and as cliché as it sounds, we are headed to a soccer game. The Saturday sun is streaming in the windows, and everyone is singing along to the "Hamilton" soundtrack. I’m lost in my own thoughts, when suddenly the car goes quiet. Someone has turned off the music.

“Why’d you do that?” I ask my husband.

“I don’t like that song.” He had shut off a funny song from disc two where Hamilton, Burr and their comrades are singing about the pretty ladies in the town square. “They’re talking about women as objects.”

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Oh, right. I am chastened. I run through the lyrics in my head and see his point. Part of me wants to argue because I’m embarrassed. I’m supposed to be the feminist in this family. I’m the one with a women’s studies degree. And a vagina.

But yet again, my husband is besting me at raising a feminist daughter.

In the heat of a parenting moment, I let the ideals slide. He doesn't. Not for a second.

This isn't the first time. When my daughter turned 3, my mother gifted her a bag full of kiddie makeup. I thought it was harmless—a funny gift from my daughter’s Southern Belle grandmother. My husband, however, was having none of it. He ordered Peggy Orenstein’s "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," made me read it and made the makeup bag magically disappear in the middle of the night.

During back-to-school shopping, my daughter had her heart set on black patent leather shoes. I was three steps from the cash register when my husband peeked into the box and saw that the “flats” we were buying actually had a half-inch kitten heel. “Don’t you think 7 is too young for heels?”

“They’re on sale,” I said weakly. I wasn't totally on board with my daughter having heels in the second grade, but I was willing to rationalize the purchase because my daughter wanted them—and because they were the cheapest. How easily I fling my ideals out the window in the name of sticking to the budget!

In the moments when he calls me on a less-than-feminist decision, I feel shame. When that wears off, I’m left with gratitude that I’m parenting alongside a man who cares that his daughter isn't forced to grow up too fast. I'm grateful he has her back and that he's willing to speak up for her over and over again.

Like me, my husband has big dreams for his daughter. One day, he wants her to know how to change the oil in a car, use a drill and manage her stock portfolio. For now, he wants her, as well as our son, to master throwing a football, swinging a golf club and riding a dirt bike—not because he wishes he had two sons, but because he believes she deserves the chance to grow up with as few barriers to her success as possible. The last thing he wants her to think is that she's only valued for her beauty or sexuality. The second to last thing he wants is for her to think she's fragile.

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I want those same things. It's just that in the heat of a parenting moment, I let the ideals slide. He doesn't. Not for a second. And while it causes me to feel some shame about my own commitment to feminism, it's worth it to know that he will never shirk his.

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