How My Military Father Raised Me “Like a Girl”

Spoiler Alert: He didn’t.

[It’s my Dad’s birthday, so I wanted to re-post this blog I wrote for The HBIC Project. It was originally posted for father’s day, but I think in light of recent commentary, it’s still incredibly relevant. Hope you enjoy!]

BabyM

My father never taught me how to mow the lawn. We never used power tools together and certainly didn’t toss the ol’ pigskin around. We didn’t do these things—but not because I was a girl, but because I didn’t want to. I had terrible allergies to anything resembling nature. Had I ever used a chainsaw, there’s a 99.9 percent chance that I would’ve sliced off my arm (thanks, lack of coordination), and I’m less athletic than Rob Kardashian on a bad day.

In the age of Title IX, some might say that girls’ abilities are judged based on how cool they are with “masculine” activities, like drinking beer while watching “the game,” or even playing “the game” itself. At the same time, some – but not all! – feminists are quick to remove themselves from anything to do with men. That perspective fails to recognize that men are awesome, too.

Here at The HBIC Project, we recognize feminism as the definitive “social, political and economic equality of the sexes” (thanks, Chimamanda). We know that men are 50 percent of the movement towards gender equality. Hannah and I both recognize that our fathers are integral to our success. So as daughters and feminists, it’s time to give them the credit they deserve.

My father is an Air Force fighter pilot, and for as long as I can remember, he’s been my hero. He fought for our country, which I think is the noblest thing someone can do, and also gave me major cool points with all the boys in elementary school. Now, as a grown woman, he’s my hero for another reason: for raising me to be a strong, confident human being—without giving a second thought to my gender.

In the military, there is a somewhat patrilineal tradition, where men have sons who then follow in their fathers’ footsteps and enlist. Military men love their daughters just as much, but there seems to be a select value to having a son. This is something my sister and I never experienced to the slightest degree. Dad never joked about being in a house full of women. If it was brought up, he light-heartedly shrugged, like it never crossed his mind.

Me, my sister & father in Vienna, epitomizing tourist chic

Dad raised us as children, not as daughters, meaning he supported whatever interested us. For my sister, that was rock climbing, for me, theatre. It didn’t matter that I was a girl and wouldn’t be fulfilling this military trope (neither my sister nor I ever had any interest in enlisting), all that mattered is that I was happy and confident in myself. So Dad was at the front row of all of my shows, listened to me vent about boys, and yes, I’ll go there, bought tampons for me.

I am a feminist today because I was raised to be an autonomous adult, regardless of my gender. When I  freaked out as my dad taught me how to drive stick shift, he made me continue. Not because I had to “prove myself” as a girl, but because I was smart and capable.

Had I been forced to do things like mow the lawn or  use a toolbox, the fact that I lacked a Y  chromosome might have entered my mind, because I would’ve felt inept because I was female. But since it was never an issue addressed in my household, it was never one in my mind. I could do whatever I wanted, because I was never taught to believe otherwise. A great CNN article offers similar sentiments on Malala’s father.

Shirley Chisolm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, once said, “The emotional, sexual and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: it’s a girl.” I don’t believe this is true. I think that is determined in the way we are brought up. If we are immediately treated as different, in a way in which we either have to make up for our sex or prove to the world, then that’s true. But if we have fathers who treat us simply as their kids, then we are immediately on our way to independence and equality. I am who I am because of my father, and for that, he will always be my hero.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you.

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