In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday I thought I’d re-post a piece I wrote that my old friends Em & Lo published last year when they were still blogging at Daily Bedpost. To both of my dads – Dad and Tom, and to all of the other feminist fathers out there – Happy Father’s Day!
When I was little, my father read me a book from hisÂ childhood, Friday the Arapaho Indian by A.M.Â Anderson. I heard the “true story” of a young NativeÂ American girl named Friday and her historicalÂ adventures. But if you’ve ever read Anderson’s book,Â you’ll know what I discovered when I was much olderÂ and my dad confessed the truth: Friday the Indian was aÂ boy…
As a sleepy child, I heard the story of a powerful andÂ adventurous young woman doing extraordinary things -Â and I believed it. As my father painstakingly changedÂ pronouns and altered sex-related details while readingÂ to me every night before bed, he planted the seed ofÂ limitless possibilities in my brain. It wasn’t until I wasÂ nine years old that that idea was challenged: It was theÂ end of third grade and the elementary school musicÂ teacher was preparing our class for joining the schoolÂ band the next year. When we were asked whatÂ instruments we would like to play, I raised my hand andÂ said I wanted to play the bass guitar. “No,” the musicÂ teacher replied, “I need big, strong boys to play theÂ guitar next year.” So I got stuck playing the altoÂ saxophone. At least it wasn’t the flute, I guess.
This idea of boys being big and strong and able to doÂ things that girls couldn’t was new to me. Both myÂ parents took a proactive role in teaching me I wasÂ capable of anything and everything, but my dad wentÂ above and beyond what was usually expected of aÂ father-daughter relationship. He taught me skills thatÂ many would reserve for only a son: I know how to fire aÂ gun, drive a dirt bike, skin an animal, clean a fish,Â rappel down a tree, fight with martial arts and defensiveÂ tactics – the list goes on. He bought me just as manyÂ chemistry sets and microscopes and sports supplies asÂ he did Easy-Bake Ovens. He wasn’t afraid to talk to meÂ about sex or the processes of the female reproductiveÂ system, either.
I distinctly remember being about four when I watchedÂ my first informative video about the birds and the beesÂ – a cartoon featuring a man and woman with squiggly-drawn genitalia. My mother says that was all my father’sÂ idea. And when I got my first period at 11 years old, myÂ mother was in the hospital busy having my littleÂ brother, so I had to go home and tell my father whatÂ had happened to me in school that day. For many of myÂ peers it would no doubt have been a traumatic event, yetÂ for me it was completely comfortable and natural to talkÂ about it with my dad. Because he never made sex edÂ weird, or made me feel ashamed about going throughÂ puberty, I think I’ve always had a healthy outlook onÂ sex – one that’s made me curious and confident andÂ responsible (and, needless to say, brave enough toÂ intern at a sex blog).
I grew up thinking that the world was my oyster, thanksÂ in particular to my father. I don’t think he wouldÂ actually ever describe himself as a feminist – I’ve rarelyÂ heard him use the word. But I know that he is, because IÂ am.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to thank your dad for the 10 things he inadvertently taught you about sex on June 21st!