How my dad made me the feminist I am

Despite all the news of daughters making dads liberal and/or feminist, I freely admit that my dad was key to my development as a feminist.

It's ironic because he's such an old school Mexican man. He grew up in Mexico and immigrated here when he was a teen. He didn't think it was proper for me to hang out with my friends who were boys when I had a boyfriend. He's actually pretty conservative and I think became more so after I moved out of the house.

But what my dad did for me is teach me about sports. Anonymous asked why liking sports is a feminist trait...It's not, but it was a conduit for feminism for me.

It went like this -- My dad taught me the games of baseball and football. He taught me the rules, mostly of baseball, and how to play. When you're in grade school, a lot of street cred happens on the ball field. Back when we still played dodgeball, either against a team or against a wall, and teams were picked by your fellow classmate, being a girl who could throw and hit was valuable currency. I took pleasure, an understatement, in beating the boys at just about anything. Once I blocked a guy in football and he fell flat on his back. This was just after he huffed about being blocked by a girl. Hmph!

I took the ability to play just as hard and good as the boys into the classroom. The love of competition I learned on the field played out in math class too.

So while it isn't a direct "liking sports = feminist" story, my dad's teaching me of sports, gave me the confidence that I needed to be the feminist I was at 7 and the one I am today.

So Dad...Thanks.

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Comments

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liking sports

I am not a sports spectator by any means, but after working for five years in an organization in Brooklyn that provided schools in low-income communities of color with basketball, soccer, and boxing, I definitely think liking sports is a feminist trait. First, liking sports (and participating in them) is a gendered trait, and girls/women who like and participate in sports serve to debunk gender myths. Secondly, sports provide girls/women with all kinds of benefits and opportunities (like college scholarships) that are not necessarily afforded to those who don't participate. And since girls'/women's sports opportunities are still fewer than boys'/men's, those concerned with women's rights would do well to put sports participation as a priority and see it as a feminist issue.

Sports and Feminism

I coach girls soccer. I started with my own daughters and learned the game as I went along. It's been six years now. And the one thing I have continuously noted has been the confidence playing a competitive sport has introduced in these young girls. I see this phenomenon in a number of ways:

* My youngest started playing when she was four compared to my eldest who started when she was eight - there is a major difference in how they interact on and off the field (Confidence-wise)

* Throughout the years many girls have come and gone and whenever we encounter one of them, those that have not continued playing sports tend to be less confident (this could possibly be congruent with their physical shape and body image as well)

* In addition to the physicality of the sport and its positive effects on the body, there is also less time to fill with extra inane things: my daughters enjoy "hanging out" as much as the next girl but that is not their focus, they are usually very busy and when they're not they tend to still choose to do something active rather than passive

* The girls gain confidence in relying on each other on the field and off the field, they also aren't timid or afraid to assert themselves when necessary and this translates in the classrooms and in social situations

* They've gone up against something and succeeded, or failed and had to try harder and again, this is a valuable lesson that translates anywhere

*And much like this blogger stated, they are proud of the fact that they are good at something boys are normally better at and when it comes time to dribble around a boy in PE class or elsewhere, they know that they can do it and they can and will show you - this garners respect from their peers boys and girls alike

* And for me, being an English/Women's Studies teacher, I love how sports force girls to communicate. You have to be able to discuss the problems to fix the problems and this will be a valuable skill set anywhere

So when asked if I think sports are important to being a feminist, I not only strongly feel the affirmative, I can point to many situations where knowing how to interact on the field has strengthened a woman's stance and her ability to handle herself.

Cause and effect...

The development of a feminist mind is an interesting thing. My mother is an aggressively independent feminist woman, probably because her father wouldn't let her play outside as a child on account of her sex. He also disapproved of her attending college and leaving home unless she got married. I, on the other hand, began my development as a feminist because my stay-at-home dad was extremely loving, had high expectations for me and never placed limits on my activities, whether I was joining a sports team or helping to fix the house. I've always found the motivation behind our similar beliefs very interesting.

Love This...

This reminds me of my relationship with my father. As a black woman, I am told often how lucky I am to have a father in my life, let alone a "daddy". It is the opinion of many black women that growing up in a 2-parent household is more of a privilege now more than ever. I had a father who nutured me and respected the decisions I made growing up. When I could not count on my mother, he supported me in many of the hard situations I had to go through, and still does. He's my best friend, and I can't imagine the kind of woman I would be without him.