Several months ago, my wife Sarah (the Managing Editor here at The Nashville Mom) asked me to write an essay about women’s history and feminism from a dad’s perspective in honor of women’s history month. I was excited to do this, but when I sat down to write, I realized that writing this was much more difficult than I had imagined. Suddenly, as a male who grew up with only brothers – and now raising three girls – I needed to articulate what women’s history and feminism mean to me.
As a father of three young girls, I have definitely gained a new perspective on women’s history. The celebration of our history and our progress of feminism as a nation is important and helpful to educate our children, but I have come to the realization – through the perspective of raising my girls – that the struggle for women’s equality is very much ongoing and therefore much more personal.
The fact that a woman’s right to vote was controversial in 1920, when the 19th amendment was passed, means that there has been a big cultural change since that time. Today, we find it absurd that a woman’s right to vote was an issue within the last century. We should find it just as absurd that there are still gender-based stereotypes dominating industries like technology, engineering, and the military. We should find it just as absurd that there are constant reports of companies in Silicon Valley, for example, creating a hostile working environment for women, and countless reports of sexual assault at universities. So, we still need to continue pushing for cultural progress.
Again, this fight is personal for me now, and I believe my job as a father is to instill in my girls the values of equality, persistence, strength, and leadership, so that when the time comes when they are not treated fairly, they not only stand up for themselves, but become leaders for others and therefore agents of change in our culture. In our home, when any of the girls is struggling with listening or getting things done, we ask one to “be a leader” to lift up the others. I see it as my job to coach them to not set false limits on themselves and to have the confidence to challenge those that try to limit them.
I also want to connect them with the stories of the strong women in their lives – their grandmother who fought for equal pay from an organization (that she loved) that was passing her over for promotions and equitable salary for years due to her gender (she was successful in this fight and received back pay before her retirement)…another grandmother who raised 5 kids and became a runner, a business owner and a landlord in her seventies…their own mom who supported me financially when we first moved to Nashville and who later left her job to stay home with them and began work as an activist for their futures…a close family friend who chose not to have children but spends her life fighting for disabled children and ran for public office last year…another friend who went to medical school and supports her family now. They are lucky to have so many examples of strength in their lives.
But I also hope to be a model for them as a male, a husband and a dad who lives a life of feminism and equal rights – not just for my girls, but for all women. I want them to witness the relationship between me and Sarah and how we both respect, support and encourage each other. I also want my girls to know that they can be anything – I want to give them the tools, the confidence and the motivation to break into even male-dominated fields if that is what they choose to do. That one day – perhaps thanks to their generation of girls – they will no longer be considered “male-dominated fields.”
Ultimately, as their dad, I want to be part of the culture change that brings us from our current state to one where my daughters’ choices in life will be limitless, where they will be rewarded in their work based on merit, and they will find a partner in life that is a true partner.
Brad Wilson is the doting, unbiased father of three strong, loving, and intelligent daughters. When not learning how to be a parent and husband to his amazing wife Sarah, he leads software development teams at a healthcare organization in Nashville, TN.