A tribute to feminist fathers

by Elly Adeland | June 11, 2019
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Elly Adeland

I walked out of my grade nine computer class upset, confused and disappointed. In a heated discussion regarding gender roles at home, I learned that my teacher believed that “men should not be cleaning, cooking or taking care of the house”. When I spoke up, explaining that my parents shared responsibilities and that my father could do laundry like no other, my teacher responded that ‘real dads’ don’t do laundry. He got a laugh out of my classmates.

That day I became acutely aware that I had a feminist father. He was not only in a relationship with my mother, but they were in a partnership. A partnership about sharing the roles and responsibilities of the home to make it as equitable (and manageable!) as possible.

It did not stop there. My father demonstrated the important role men have to play as allies in advocating for women’s right to choose, for public child care and for women’s economic equality. Day in and day out, he embodied aspects of what a gender equitable future would look like.

That is why, on Father’s Day, I pay tribute to feminist fathers.

The feminist fathers in my life identify as men and parents. They engage their families, communities and others to break down the harmful gender norms that hold society back. They recognize that care work – caring for children, aging parents and sick relatives, washing, cleaning and cooking – is work that should be both valued and shared.

On average, women around the world do three quarters of all unpaid care work, and this has significant economic impacts for women and society at large. In Canada, women do almost twice as much unpaid care work than men, and women with young children are still less likely to be employed than men, as they are forced to make difficult trade-offs between expensive child care and their careers.

In a time when women's rights are increasingly under threat, I find hope in reflecting on the examples of feminist fathers working to stand in solidarity with women and build equitable partnerships, like the one I was able to see my parents reflect for me.

Examples of feminist fathers can be found all over the world. Grace Aloyo, 23 and Mark Olara, 30, for instance, live in Uganda. They have been married for seven years and have five children, including a pair of twin girls. Since attending an Oxfam training on women’s economic empowerment – which addresses excessive and unequal care work – Grace and her husband have switched their roles in the home. She can decide to fetch water as he prepares porridge, or he could go to mind the cows while she cooks.

Closer to home, my partner and I have a three-year-old daughter and another baby on the way. We are working to share care responsibilities at home, but we are also both gender equality advocates, focusing our efforts on pay equity and quality public child care that is affordable and accessible for all families across Canada.

My daughter is growing up in a home where cooking and cleaning aren’t gendered tasks; she knows that both her mom and dad pitch in equally. A recent Canadian study showed that families that share domestic duties “influence gender attitudes and aspirations of their children, especially daughters.” This is particularly important to us in a society where women – and especially women of colour, immigrant and Indigenous women, and women with different ability levels – continue to earn less than men. At current rates of progress (or lack thereof…) my daughter will never experience pay equity, but she is already joining us at protests to break the glass ceiling!

“Dads, and especially single dads, need to step up and speak out more too – the government won’t value child care until the people do.” - Brad, single dad with shared custody (Gatineau, Quebec)

That is why I leave you with a call to action – join fathers like Brad from Gatineau to call for Canada to create a public child care system! A child care system that is affordable for families, and that ensures good working conditions for early childhood educators. This not only will have positive effects on children’s development and their happiness, but also build our #FeministFuture.

I have hope. Hope that more families will work together to challenge the delegation of care responsibilities and harmful gender norms. Hope that we will be celebrating more and more feminist fathers, in all their diversity for years to come!

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