This past weekend my six year old daughter and I decided that we needed to check out from the world and have a Father-Daughter Fun Day. We made the one hour drive to Denver, stopping for breakfast at one of those chain family restaurants at her request so that she could order the chocolate chip pancakes off the kid’s menu.
As a post punk Gen-X father most of my weekend attire consists of simple shorts and a T-shirt. As I’ve settled into parenthood, my career, and the early stages of middle age I’ve noticed that my band and snarky political message shirts have given way to shirts I’ve received as promotional shwag for programs I’m involved with at work.
As I retire worn and raggedy vintage Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers, and Steel Pole Bath Tub concert tees to the back of the closet, I’ve replaced them with shirts that read “I’ve Been Caught In the Act of Being a Great father”, “Men Standing Against Violence”, or my wife’s favorite “Consent Turns Me On”. Most of them tend to have a pro-feminist, anti-violence slant of some sort.
On this particular morning I was wearing a shirt I had got recently while attending a fabulous training by Tony Porter and his A Call To Men organization. The shirt has some little stick figure people on it (kind of like the male and female icons on public restroom signs) and boldly proclaims “Manhood = Respect For Women”.
After we finished our meal I went to pay the bill and the young woman who was running the cash register commented on my shirt.
“I’ve never seen a guy wear a shirt like that before. What does is mean?”
I took the brief opportunity to talk about my work as an anti-violence educator, engaging men and boys as allies to end gender violence, and then put in a plug for Tony and his excellent video presentation featured on the TED Talks site.
“What was the name of that site?” she asked.
“Ted, like what you might name your teddy bear”, I replied.
“Oh, I just saw that movie, it was hilarious!”, she exclaimed.
In case your not in the pop culture loop Ted is also the name of a new film directed by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. Ted follows the exploits of a young man and his teddy bear who has magically come to life is sort of like the pot-smoking, womanizing, bar-fighting antithesis to the Care Bears.
I shrugged it off.
“Well, let’s just say that Tony’s message is a little more positive and less hurtful to women than that Family Guy garbage.” She laughed and handed me back my credit card and we headed out the door and and across the parking lot to our car.
“Dad? my daughter asked. “We do you think I know more about girl power than that grown-up lady did?”
“I don’t know, why do you think?”, I asked.
“Because you teach about it and you’re my dad and I’m your daughter”, she answered with a little giggle.
Deep in thought she continued…
“How come only girls ever seem to like your shirts?”
“I don’t know buddy, maybe a lot of boys’ dads never taught them anything about feminism.”
“It’s a gown up way of saying girl power”, I replied. “Being a feminist means you care about women and girls and their rights and you try to make things more equal and safe, and really just try to create a world in which its cool for everybody to be themselves.”
“So, that means mom and I are feminists because we are girls, but you’re not because you’re a boy?”, she asked.
“No”, I replied. “Do you think boys can care about all of that stuff too?”
“Well I think everybody should care about that stuff”, she said. “Especially boys”, she added thoughtfully.