“I’m going to teach you to be a feminist.”
Those words were part of the newborn peptalk I gave to my precious Lady Fair in the hospital only hours after her birth. They were her first encounter with patriarchy, at the hands (or rather the lips) of her own mother.
If you’re wondering how that possibly constitutes patriarchy, I’ll tell you: because I’ve never said the same thing to her brother. The second those words came out of my lips I realized that fact. I realized that for two years, while we’ve been modeling our values for our son, I’ve never consciously thought about making him a feminist. And then, almost the very moment my daughter was born, I put the onus on her to fight for the rights she should be entitled to as a human being. Because even while I think I’m fighting it, our society is so steeped in patriarchy that we all imbibe it and we all participate in it.
My son, aside from being male, is also white, able-bodied and middle-class. In other words, heaped with privilege from the day of his birth. That privilege is granted to him by the structural kyriarchy in which our society operates. To partake of that privilege is to perpetuate it. Thus, by not teaching my son to question his own privilege as fully as I teach my daughter to demand her equality, I indoctrinate them both into the selfsame system.
If we want to end patriarchy, then we need male feminists just as much as we need female feminists. We need those who currently possess the structurally-imbued privilege to utilize it on behalf of those who don’t, and by so doing, to reject it. The Famous Five, after all, had to ask the male members of the Supreme Court to grant them the personhood they sought. That fact in no way demeans their work, it just reminds us that equality has to be an equally shared goal.
So, Little Man, consider yourself forewarned: “I’m going to teach you to be a feminist.”