Not sure what to post this gloomy and humid noontime. I've got my first meeting with my summer women's studies class coming up soon...
I could post about the World Cup, but everyone's doing that. I loved the Mexico-Argentina match, and enjoyed (in a train-wreck sorta way) the Netherlands-Portugal debacle. Would that more Portuguese had been sent off the pitch; England will need loads of help on Saturday. I wish they would use Aaron Lennon more.
Jill at Feministe has the most appalling story of what happens in cultures that fail to hold men responsible for their actions: breast-ironing for young girls. The endless variations on what I can only call the "myth of male weakness" never cease to amaze and sadden me.
One of the many lessons I learned from my dear papa was that the notion that even young men are incapable of sexual self-control is just that, a myth. My father taught me that it was possible to love women as family members, spouses, and friends; like women as people with interesting ideas and feelings; and never hold women responsible for one's own behavior. My Dad was often hard on himself, but he wisely neither underestimated not overestimated his limits and abilities. He made it very clear to his two sons that heterosexual attraction to women and an ability to see women as people need not ever be mutually exclusive! No matter how powerful the desire, he believed, we all have it within us to exercise loving, responsible self-control. My father never shamed my brother and me for being male, but blessedly, he also never gave us the sense that our maleness entitled us to certain privileges or excuses.
When folks ask about the origin of my pro-feminism, I usually credit my mother. My parents divorced (amicably) when I was six; I was raised by a single mom with Ms. Magazine on the coffee table! But though my mother's politics had an enormous influence on my decision to devote so much of my professional life to gender work, I must give my father heaps of credit as well. From the time I was a small child, my father embodied a very special, human, gentle kind of authentic masculinity. He was, as everyone has been saying to us in recent weeks, immensely kind. He was physically and verbally demonstrative; he hugged and kissed all of us in public, well into adulthood.
(I have a funny story about Dad. After my parents' divorce, my mother left Santa Barbara and brought my brother and me to Carmel. For the next decade and a half, until my brother finished high school, my Dad made regular visits to see us, coming up every six weeks. Sometimes he drove, but other times he would take Amtrak or Greyhound. When I was in high school, I occasionally drove out to Salinas to pick him up. One Friday evening, my cheerful papa bounded off a bus, raced up to me with his arms open, crying enthusiastically "Huggle Buggle!" -- my childhood nickname. As we kissed and embraced, I was acutely embarrassed to note a number of other folks in the bus station watching and snickering. Such demonstrative displays of masculine affection were apparently not the norm in the Salinas Greyhound station in 1984.)
In all of my commitment to men's work, I carry my father with me. So many men I meet in the "pro-feminist men's community" are carrying the wounds of poor relationships with their Dads! So many men I know talk of fathers who were silent workaholics, or alcoholics, or "rage-aholics", or, simply, completely absent. Though my parents' divorce did inflict some wounds upon me, my father made what I can only call a heroic commitment to maintain a loving relationship with us after the break-up of our family. He and my mother were in complete agreement that she should have custody of us, yet he never wavered in his emotional support. Though my father was not perfect, I am blessed not to carry through life the kind of "father wound" that so many of my brothers -- and sisters -- do.
For years and years, I cherished Dad's weekend visits. In my adult life, I realize that I learned from those visits that men can and do honor their commitments to other people, and that they can do so joyfully. Yes, I went through a period in my twenties of intense anger at my father -- we had some tearful, moving, powerful discussions where I was able to say everything I needed to say to him. He neither reacted in anger nor wallowed in self-pity; Dad heard what I had to say and validated it. We "cleared the air" on several occasions as I went through my turbulent late adolescence and twenties; I am so glad to say that by the time he fell ill last year, all that needed to be said had been said. I learned that tool of emotional openness from him, and I carry it into my work with my students and my colleagues and my youth group kids as well as into my marriage.
My Dad did not like labels much; he didn't call himself a feminist or a pro-feminist. But if ever a man was committed to the full and complete equality of men and women, if ever a man was committed to greater male openness and greater male accountability, if ever a man was committed to breaking out of repressive gender roles and simply loving gently, kindly, humanely, it was my papa. I will continue to carry a great deal of him inside of me as I do this work.