I first identified as a feminist in college.
I silently identified as such after I read The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I was affected by her pain, and deeply bothered by the impact of religion and culture. I, however, also fell in love with her resolve. She knew what she wanted and she stood, fell and got up again and again for it.
But, the foundation that shaped my identification with feminism was laid before college, before I read Ali’s book and before I truly saw the world. My identification was influenced by two different, but adjacent and maybe contrasting experiences.
My father is the first stone that laid this foundation. I should stop here to share that my dad does not and may not identify as feminist. The older I get, the more and more I see his flaws. He, like many men in his generation and especially in the culture he grew up in, have a lot to unlearn. However, my dad is a compassionate man, and that compassion showed up in how he moved as a husband and father in our household. He is the primary and foundational influence on my thoughts on gender roles and what I want, expect, and hope to build in my home when marriage and children enter the picture.
I latched on to the way he moved. My father cooked, cleaned, bathed us, changed diapers, did laundry, and did many night feedings when we were babies (my mom shared stories of how my dad would wake up every two hours, prop my half-sleeping mom up and hold us to her boobs to feed us). He saved up all his vacations so he could take two months off when my mom went back to work after her maternity leaves. I stopped clapping for him a few years ago because he did what all fathers should be doing. He, however, did what was unusual in his time, and I, respectfully and forever, acknowledge him. I got a little older before I realized my dad’s involvement in our household wasn’t replicated in every household. Looking back, I now see how my passionate debates on why I require and expect an equitable household was lost on the many friends I argued with on the subject
The second foundation is quite similar and probably contradicting. My mom, sister and I carried the bulk of the household chores growing up. It isn’t all that surprising, given that…