This Dad’s (Naive) Take At Understanding Feminism

January 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm , by 

13 months.

When I think of a feminist, I think of stereotypes like Jessie Spano from Saved By the Bell or the bookstore owners on Portlandia. I don’t really know what else to go on.

To make matters worse, no one can or is willing to define feminism for me. The answers I got when I asked people on Facebook were either A) “there is no one definition” or B) “you should read [so-and-so] book.”

So not only can no one tell me what it is, but I’m still left with stereotypes that no one seems to necessarily defend. I am a dad who simply wants to understand feminism. Why, though?

Because there is no denying the trading of so many traditional gender roles in the world of current American parenting. Like I’ve said before, changing diapers is no big deal at all for me. I can do that. I can learn to do a lot of things, but not all things are natural to my gender. In my book, changing diapers is neutral.

From what I understand, a feminist would say that when we assign gender roles to either parent, we are promoting sexism. Yet I was never able to breast feed. But I was the one able to get our son to sleep through the night by letting him cry it out. A lot of women would have a hard time with that.

I think it’s ridiculous to ignore gender roles. Why not work to the advantages of our natural abilities which our genders have graced us? Sure, some things are neutral; but others aren’t.

Are men and women truly equal?

Can a woman do anything a man can do?

Can a man do anything a woman can do?

My answer is: in theory. But in reality, I think if we are honest with ourselves, we know the real answers.

I celebrate the truth and find no shame in it. Celebrate women. Celebrate men. Celebrate both.

To me, if we can do that, we are truly not being sexists.

Image: Two hands giving each other, via Shutterstock.


Why There Can Be No Male Equivalent to the Jordin Sparks Song “I Am Woman” or “Independent Women” By Destiny’s Child

I’m so vain, I probably think this song is about me…  

Thursday night on American Idol I watched Jordin Sparks perform her latest single, “I Am Woman.”  In the likeness of so many popular songs celebrating the empowerment of (single and independent) women, the lyrics of the chorus go like this:

I am (I am) woman (woman)
I am (I am) woman (woman)
I’m a woman
I’m a woman
Yes I am
Ain’t nobody else can do it like we can

But what if instead of Jordin Sparks singing the song, it was the dreamy Scotty McCreery, and he changed to lyrics to be masculine?  No one would hear, “I am man, yes I am, ain’t nobody else can do it like we can.”  Instead, the song lyrics would be perceived as “I am conceited, I am narcissistic.  I’m a jerk.  I’m a sleezebag.  Yes I am.  Ain’t nobody more of an a-hole than guys like me.”

Is this a double standard- that women can sing songs about being proud to be independent and successful, but if a guy did the same thing, he would either A) not be taken seriously or B) become despised by women?

No, it’s not a double standard.  Because only in recent decades has it truly become acceptable to desire for men and women to be socially equal.  Women have had to struggle to get where they are in society today, but men haven’t had to play the underdog gender throughout history.  So it’s ironic to the point of extreme arrogance for a man to boast about his successful independence.  I’ll illustrate this further my “masculinizing” the lyrics to “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child.  I’ll emphasize the very worst parts in bold print:

What you think about a guy like me?
Buy my own car and spend my own money
Only ring your celly when I’m feeling lonely
When it’s all over please get up and leave

Please don’t call me baby
Cause I’ll call you
Don’t mean to hurt you feelings, got a lot to do
Cause I am my number one priority
No falling in love, no commitment from me

All my independent men
Throw them hands up at me
And all my sexy men
Throw them hands up at me

All my money making men
Throw them hands up at me
All my baller men
Throw them hands up at me

How you feel about a guy like this?
Try to control me, girl you’ll get dismissed
Do what I want, live how I wanna live
Buy my own golf clubs, and pay my own bills

Where my males?
Where all my men?
How did you feel about this groove I wrote?
Hope you got the message men take control
Don’t depend on no woman to give you what you want
Keep that in mind next time you hear this song

If you’re independent
I congratulate you
If you ain’t in love
I congratulate you
Do them girls like they used to do you
If you pimp her
I congratulate you

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule that guys can’t/won’t/shouldn’t brag about their gender in a song, like Brad Paisley’s “I’m Still a Guy.”  But hopefully most people would realize that song was meant to be an innocent, humorous caricature of men.  Maybe another exception would be so many of Kanye West’s songs- but even then, he’s bragging about himself being awesome, not about men in general.

‘Obviously, it’s important that women are socially and economically equal to men. But do women also want to be A) physically equal and B) emotionally equal? And C) does it help a woman in the business world to “act more like a man” by “being less emotional?” And D) do I sound like a jerk or at least naive for asking any of these questions?’

I asked the above questions word-for-word on Facebook for some input.  Based on the answers I received, here is how I would answer those questions:

A)  No, there is no desire to be physically as strong as a man.

B) No, there is no desire to hold in emotions the way men do, or at least they way they seem to do.

C) It can.  And this is a good example of an actual double standard between the sexes.

D)  No, because the motives are sincere in asking the questions.

The most sober and sobering thoughts I can learn through this social survey is that men and women are different for a reason.  They both have their own strengths in which they can compliment each other with.  Imagine how life would be in this world if men and women were truly equal in every way.  Scary, if you ask me. I would have to give birth, express my emotions, and never be able to truly “think about nothing.”  My mind would never stop and I would constantly be thinking about at least 10 different things at once, all the time.

That’s way too exhausting even for a strong, confident man such as myself.

Emotionally Charged Words: Why Certain Words are Taboo Curse Words and Others Are Not

Some words are just too dang dramatic.

Though as a human it can be difficult, with enough effort, it is possible for me to examine a word of the English language that is shrouded in controversy, taboo, and offensiveness and see past its reputation.  Because at the end of the day, cuss words, vain religious exclamations, and even ethnic/sexist slurs are simply just words.  With a whole lot of emotion attached to them.

And that changes everything.

People can refer to themselves or their friends as an ethnic or sexist slur if they themselves are the specific ethnicity or gender that the slur refers to.  But it’s a different story when it comes from someone outside the circle.  Why?  Because whatever word that comes to mind right now that I may be referring to has a lot of emotion behind it.  Not just years of emotion, or even decades, but often centuries.

Emotions born out of unfair judgment, preconceived ideas, assumed inequality, and disrespect.  Everything that is not Christian.  Everything that is instead demonic and hellish.

But on a much lesser scale are the everyday PG rated words.  Ones that have become so common they’ve lost their edge.  The first time the word “sucks” was used as a degrading adjective (instead of a common verb) on cable TV and not censored was in 1983 on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  That was quite a big deal back then.

Now it’s 27 years later and I personally know a Christian author who is using that word in the title of his book.  A book that will be sold in Lifeway Christian stores.  People aren’t offended by the word anymore.  Not even Baptists.  But if this were 1977, that book would be having a different title.

Some emotionally charged words lose their emotion.  While others don’t.  But to ignore the current status of their offensiveness is a foolish thing to do.

I’m not good at gray areas.  Everything to me has to be formulated in black and white, cut and dry.  Otherwise, I stay out of it.  That’s part of the reason that #4 of my writing code (as revealed in Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground ) is “avoid profanity”.  Which words do I say, which words do I not say?…  I’d rather just not play in that sandbox altogether.

However, in November 2009 back before I had materialized my writing code, I wrote a series called You Just Cussed that explored the history and social acceptance boundaries of profanity.  Something I’m very intrigued by.

To avoid seeming corny, I didn’t censor any of the profanities; which in the process of quoting and explaining them all, there were more than I bothered to count.  I wanted to help strip these words down to better understand why we find them at all offensive.

But I never advertised the series.  It never showed up on a facebook link.  No one was notified through e-mail when it was published.  I was just testing it out.  So only everyday readers who happened to look at the “recent posts” panel would have even seen it.

It just never felt right, somehow.  So after about a week, I removed the series from my site.

The battle in my head: Coming across as cheesy by censoring the profanity vs. coming across as offensive by leaving all the words as they were in an effort to explain.

But now that I’ve got my writing code established, I feel at ease.  I shall officially publish the series.  Mostly censored.

Because I would rather stay true to my writing code than try to be as specific and literal as I have to be.

In the likeness of the way that Growing Pains created a springboard for Just the Ten of Us and how Perfect Strangers yielded Family Matters, I shall now use this post about emotionally charged words to officially introduce my new 6 part series, You Just Cussed.  Back from the archives and all cleaned up.

You Just Cussed: 1/6

You Just Cussed: 2/6

You Just Cussed: 3/6

You Just Cussed: 4/6

You Just Cussed: 5/6

You Just Cussed: 6/6