Despite what some men might say, the simple act of fathering a daughter (or having sisters, or being close to his mother) isn’t enough to qualify a man as an ally to women. It’s really just the starting point.
A catalyst at best – but more often than not, a missed opportunity.
This world tells our girls they are less than; fathers have the power to change that narrative.
Dads of daughters are in a unique position to make the world a better place through legislation, healthcare reform, and the fight for income equality. They have extrinsic motivation that can be paired with their power and male privilege for maximum impact!
Here’s how to help, despite not having experienced the same types of misogyny, sexism, and descrimination your daughters will encounter over and over again as they grow into adulthood:
Start by assessing your own biases and being honest with yourself.
Take this quick online test designed by Dads4Daughters – it’s “an implicit gender bias test… designed to reveal both unconscious gender biases and hence encourage participants to compare them with their conscious attitudes towards the different genders.” Are you surprised by the results?
Then buckle up for the long haul, and start implementing these 8 action steps. Will it be uncomfortable? Sometimes. Hard? Yep. Worth it? HELL YES.
7 Ways Fathers Can Be Gender Allies for their Daughters
- Prioritize their education. This doesn’t mean expensive schools or private tutors. It means making sure they feel confident in their classes – that their teachers don’t squash their talents or love of learning. It means making sure they have access to welding or robotics if those courses interest them. It’s making sure that their environments encourage and empower them instead of breaking their spirits and playing on their insecurities.
- Give them autonomy, and respect it. From their very youngest years, do not force girls (or boys for that matter) to show physical affection to anyone they don’t feel like hugging or kissing. Even grandma. Even you. Do not train them to think that “being polite” means allowing others to touch their bodies without their consent. A girl who can say “no” to her own father, confident that he will honor her choices and still love her to the moon and back is a girl who will be able to set healthy boundaries in relationships for the rest of her life.
- Hold space for (and encourage) their male friendships. Many children are naturally drawn to same-sex friendships – and that’s great! But don’t assume your daughter should only have female friends. The benefits of male/female friendship are incredible! They allow both boys and girls to move outside of traditional “rules” for gender, and to question gender stereotypes. When a girl is given permission to play with boys, she’s also given permission to play like boys. If that means pretending to be ninjas or construction workers instead of princesses? Fantastic! If that means being loud and getting dirty? Even better. We often limit our children’s beliefs through their play at an early age – and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
- Use your privilege. Don’t mansplain. Don’t take credit for work you didn’t do. Don’t interrupt. Use the social privilege and you are afforded as a male to make sure the women in your personal and professional lives are treated like the intelligent human beings, capable of thought and deserving of respect, that they are. The behavior your daughter sees in you will become the behavior she expects from men as she grows up, so use that power for good, Dad!
- Speak to and about women in the way you would want others to speak to and about your daughter. Words used as weapons against women can hurt just as much as physical violence. By not making sexist jokes or inappropriate remarks about women’s bodies, you’re leading by example, showing your sons and daughter what respect looks like (and that it’s not hard to give).
- Recruit other allies. Be a leader in your circles! Talk to other men about the importance of speaking out, speaking up, and making noise on behalf of their daughters and granddaughters. Men are more willing to listen to other men on matters of social change, and we need your help.
- Vote for the representatives & legislation (on local, state & federal levels) that will give your daughters the freedom and respect they deserve as citizens. Do birth control, paid family leave, and sexual harassment laws affect your daily life? They do if you’re a woman. If you’re a man? Probably not so much. But your vote still counts! Use it to support and defend policies that will support and defend your daughters. Fight with them and for them. They’re counting on you.