I am a Harry Potter fan, and I have always loved the plucky protagonist Hermione Granger. (I know, Harry was the main character, but Hermione was still the leading lady of the story). This week I became an even bigger fan of the woman behind Hermione, Emma Watson, a lovely and talented young woman who went a bit outside of her comfort zone to address the United Nations about feminism. Watson made a statement in her speech that feminism has become tied to the notion of man bashing. She spoke of the unpopularity of the word feminism. She was making the point that feminism has become a bad word in our society, one that conjures thoughts of angry, hostile, bitchy women ranting uncontrollably about the horrible lives women are forced to lead at the hands of controlling men. She wants us to disassociate feminism with “man-hating,” and I couldn’t agree more. I wrote in my debut blog post that while I consider myself a strong supporter of all things woman-centric, I am not a man hater. I AM a hater of when men try to force their views on women, and thereby try to force their control over women’s bodies, wages, and freedoms. But in my experience, it is only a small portion of the male population who truly believe they know better than women, and push to keep control over us dim witted, scary creatures with body parts they don’t understand. These men are complete douche bags, no doubt, but it is not because they are men. It is because they think that by being men they are more qualified to make decisions about, well, everything. My body. My method of birth control. My sex life. My career options. My salary. My health care coverage. My medical maintenance. My education. My clothing choices. My voice. My hairstyle. My right not to be raped. These are the same men who then threatened Emma Watson with retribution because she spoke her mind, her smart mind, in support of women. They threatened to hack naked pictures of her and release them to the public. Seriously. This is their response. My God – it is exasperating!
And so the association of feminism and man-bashing has been perpetuated by some, and these two ideas might seem intimately and unbreakably bonded, since most of the people fighting against equality for women are men. Idiotic men, no less, who think the best way to deal with an intelligent woman sharing her very valid opinions about women is to expose her naked body to public scrutiny. But I assert that there are a plethora of amazing men out there fighting for women, and they are the men we should pay attention to. Not these dingbats who go straight to objectifying women. For every ignorant man who tries to assert his dominance over the domain of women, there are many men who fight for equality for their daughters, wives, sisters, mothers, and friends. Men who support the dreams and ambitions of their daughters and wives no matter what they are. Men who are advocates for their ailing mothers, when they have few options for quality health care. Men who help their daughters grow up secure in the knowledge that they are strong, they are powerful, they are smart, and they are in control of their own lives. It is these men we should give airtime to in the media. It is these men who reaffirm my love of men.
I warned you in my first blog post that I would wax poetic about the fabulous men in my life. Well…ready or not, here it comes!
Men. I love men. I have always been a bit boy crazy. I was a daddy’s girl as a child, and just adored my dad. He was everything a dad should be, and everything a man should be, in my humble opinion. He was not a particularly good student, and he grew up antagonized by the local kids because he was Italian. But he was plucky! He was smart. He taught himself how to play guitar from the age of thirteen, and then he became a rock star, making his living playing music. This only lasted until he was about 27, when his kidney (the one functioning kidney he was born with), failed and he had to go on dialysis, which in the sixties was nothing like it is today. He had to go every other day and sit hooked up to the dialysis machine for six hours at a time. He was exhausted. But still, he provided for his family. Eventually he got a transplant, one of the first in Rochester in the late sixties, and several years later I was born. He worked as a jingle writer for an ad agency, worked as a talent agent, and eventually opened his first business, The Outrageous Inn, Rochester NY’s first comedy club. I got to spend many afternoons (and sometimes evenings) hanging out at the club with my dad. It was radical. On Wednesday nights The Ugly Boogie Band played blues, and my dad would join in. My parents were divorced by then, and Wednesday nights were my nights with my dad. He let me stay at the club and watch him jam with the band. It was bliss. I was thirteen, and I was in heaven.
Beyond the cool factor of having a dad who 1) had been a professional guitar player in a band that actually had records out, 2) ran a comedy/blues club and let me hang out there, and 3) took me fishing on our Sunday afternoons together and taught me how to bait my own hook from a very young age, my father was, above all else, a kind, gentle, and generous man. He never raised his voice. He never struck out at me or my mom, or anyone else. He was a nurturer, a provider, and a giver, and strong and determined to provide for his family. He never, ever discouraged me from trying something I wanted to try. He encouraged me to be myself no matter what the consequences, and to always believe in my ability to succeed. He told me I was smart and could be anything I wanted to be. Every dance recital, band performance, or play I was in, he was there with roses, telling me I was fantastic, even though I think he secretly was hoping I wouldn’t follow in his footsteps and try to make a living in the business of show. When I was 19 I sat at his bedside in the hospital while he died, and reflected on his recent plea to me that I should go to school. He always said, “Everything else can wait. Get an education. Nobody can take that away from you.” I truly believe my choice to pursue a PhD was heavily influenced by that plea, from a man I loved, respected, and trusted. He didn’t order me to go to school. He didn’t tell me I would be stupid if I did not go to school. He simply shared with me his regret that he did not go to college, and told me he didn’t want to see me pass up the opportunity to get a degree. It was sage advice and I am glad I took it!
In addition to my dad, his father, my papa Joe, was the same kind of gentle and kind soul. He had been an athlete who went to Ithaca College on a baseball scholarship. He was in the military. He was a physical education teacher. By all accounts, he was a tough guy. Yeah, he was tough. But that didn’t matter. He was soft spoken and wise. He was an avid reader. He spoke to me as an equal. He would tell me stories for hours, never too busy to engage me in a conversation about any topic I was interested in. He taught me how to swing a golf club. He let me drive his big old station wagon around the parking lot of their apartment complex when I was just a girl and curious about driving. When I was a baby he visited my mom and I every day. It didn’t matter to him that I was a girl. So I didn’t think it mattered that I was a girl. Neither of these men, my dad or my papa, ever made me feel as if being a girl was anything less than kick ass. They were amazing. They shaped my expectations of what a good man is.
Enter my husband in the spring of 1998. We start dating in graduate school at UCLA and immediately I realize that he is very similar to my dad and my papa – he is gentle, and kind, and never obnoxiously macho. He is smart. He is a hard worker. He is supportive of me. Sixteen years later he is still all of these things, and has also become my biggest fan in this little writing endeavor of mine. I have no doubt he will impart all of this fabulousness, these true characteristics of a real man, onto our sons, and they will be kind, gentle, supportive men because of it.
I also have no doubt my father, my papa, and my husband would have kicked the shit out of anyone threatening me if that situation had ever presented itself. But I never really learned that men should be considered tough, violent, or controlling because I did not witness that. I grew up secure in the knowledge that real men support women. Real men are kind. Real men believe that women are just as capable as they are, just as smart as they are, and can do unbelievable things if given the chance. Real men don’t threaten women who speak their minds. Real men are good men. Real men are feminists. Yup. Real. Men. Are. Feminists. BOOM!
Feminism is not a bad word. It is not a dirty word. It is not a word that implies man hating. Feminism is all about equality for women. And any man worth his salt supports equality for women. Men, if you have daughters, don’t you want to promote equality for them? Show them what real men are like so they settle for nothing less.
Look around, ladies. Pay attention to the good men in your lives. It’s raining men, GOOD men, and I say – HALLELUJAH!