The older I get, the more I try and see the world through feminist eyes. It isn't that difficult for me. I'm a man raised by a the best single mom ever. As such, I'm a guy who grew up understanding that there is absolutely nothing that a man can do that a woman can't. Now, having raised a daughter- my Violet- for 8 years, I'm pretty sure I am as firmly entrenched in my beliefs as I ever have been.
Girls, women, they don't need me to back them up. They've done plenty well on their own. But I can't help myself. I look at my little girl and I automatically want to do battle with anyone or anything that might stand between her and every single chance she deserves in this life. I want to call sexist bastards out to their face. I wanna look in the eye of any man (or woman) who has even the slightest twinkle of inequality dangling off of their smirk and I want to do wild Ninja stuff with my hands, swirling them all about, flipping nunchucks so close to their eyelashes that they pee their Target pants right there in front of me. I want the oppressors, loud and meek alike, to drop to their quivering knees, crying out their pathetic admission.
"I hate women! I hate strong women! They SCARE me! Oh God, please don't let them scare me anymore!!! Pleeeeeease!!"
That's what I want to hear them cry. Then I'd feel better. Because there is immense gratification in knowing who the true enemies are. And they're everywhere when it comes to this stuff, trust me. They live on your block. They wave at you when you drive by. They hate women because they fear them. They hate women because...let's admit it: in deep dark ways, they f*cking hate themselves.
It's exhausting just thinking about it. But I've got Violet, you know? And my mom. And my love for them is galaxy wide. So I have these thoughts and I need to let them out.
That said, I get self-conscious about it all too. Like, if I talk to my 8-year-old daughter about certain stuff am I coming off as sexist? Do I ever condescend to her without knowing it? It's my greatest fear, that I may be saying something to Violet, saying things to help her or guide her along, and out of nowhere somebody else is all like,"DAY-UM. That dude is SO being sexist to his little girl." Because that's how it happens, you see. Men, women, it doesn't matter who we are, we get to thinking that we're so damn smart. We end up convincing ourselves that there is no way in Hell that there is a sexist bone in our body and then smash. One day you find out that you've been a little off in that assessment. Something you do, a little thing you say, it's revealed to you as being uncool. As being rooted in some form of inequality.
The road is long. Imperfections are clinging to our very bones.
And this is critical, yo.
You can't be afraid of facing the scars of echoes bouncing round your mind. And by 'you' I mean you. But I also mean me. Our hearts, if we're together in this, in the true fight for equality, for women and for race and for sexual identity and for whatever it is (and you know if you care or not), then we have to be able to understand that it's a lifelong process. I'm not just waking up tomorrow and calling myself a perfect feminist. I can't. Not because of anything specific but because I know it can't be true. Perfection would mean I could go easy on myself, that I could sit back and drink a glass of lemonade in the shade of the progressive tree and tell myself that I have done my work. That I have cleared the path for Violet to walk forward into tomorrow unencumbered by the horrific realities of inequality. Which is total bullsh*t. I can't do that because I don't believe that because I KNOW it isn't true. Or even close to true.
I know in my heart that fighting for a tried and true cause means you must be able to recognize the enemy within yourself. I believe that. You must be able to go to the darkest corners of your soul and scrape them, repeatedly over time, for questions you may have asked yourself along the way. Down any life, we talk jive on the inside. To ourselves if no one else. But who would have thunk that such jive talk might become so valuable to us someday when we try and do what we know is right. What we know is good.
I've never been sexist. But I have talked enough jive to myself- in the wake of bad breakups, when I wanted more from my mom, even at times when I wanted a woman and she did not want me- to know that my inner dialogue has gone rogue more than I care to admit.
Am I ashamed of that?
Hell no. I wouldn't be telling you if I was.
What I am is: I'm empowered by it. As a father to a daughter. As a father to young sons. As a son to my mom and as a guy drinking wine with a woman on a date. Women in the car next to me at the light. Women passing me in the aisles of the grocery store or in the halls of my kids' school. Down the street women. Up the block women. It doesn't matter to me now. Because I know what I know.
I know that I would stand up for my daughter against anyone (Any. One.) who ever tried to hold her back or knock her down. Which means I know that I would do the same for your daughter. Or your mom. And most of all, I know that doesn't make me some kind of feminist superhero or whatever. Hell, the word super is the furthest thing from describing me, I promise. But I have talked the jive in my mind. Once upon a time, when I was trying to find my way, I dabbled in the dark arts. I wondered what was true. Now I feel sick and confused about whether I should even be involved. Not because I don't deserve to be involved. But because I can't even believe that ours is a world where all this sexism and inequality exists like it does.
I tried to pretend it didn't once. I tried to look the other way, I guess. I was lazy. I was scared. I wasn't sure I could help even if I wanted to.
Then I woke up, y'all. Then I looked at the little baby girl in my arms, watched her smile at the new world closing in on her all around, and I started understanding what's what. Feminism is not some Instagram brand that you can hashtag yourself with and chill. Feminism is a war raging inside of you, man/woman/or child.
And the way I see it, you're gonna need to understand that before you can do any kind of good at all.