Whenever I think of Gloria Steinem, I think of my dad.
What the passage of time has changed is my perception about my dad, which grows more positive with each year. No matter what others might think of connecting him to Gloria Steinem, Dad will know that it’s intended as a compliment.
What he probably won’t understand is why.
Despite the fact that he and Gloria were both born in the spring of 1934 and both recently celebrated turning 79, their personalities and politics just aren’t the same.
But ever since I heard Gloria speak at Marshall University in 2003, she has been forever linked with my dad.
I can’t quote exactly what she said, but I can quote the essence of it: women aren’t the ones we should be encouraging to become feminists – men are. In other words, women can’t expect to occupy what was once a traditional man’s world without men occupying what was once a traditional woman’s world.
My dad got that.
As my parents tell the story, when they were first married my mom tried to be the perfect wife as defined by her parents and society. My dad didn’t let her. He encouraged her to pursue her dreams rather than tradition. He didn’t want someone who made him breakfast or washed his clothes. He wanted a partner and an equal. He knew that my mom wasn’t happy in a traditional role, and he’s the one person who encouraged her to step out of it.
And when she did, he eventually stepped into the world of being a stay-at-home parent. He took early retirement so there would be a cheerleader at his daughter’s track meets and his son’s speech tournaments.
He took over planning menus and cooking dinners while he still did lawn work and home repairs. He never let stereotypical gender roles or biases affect how he treated his children. My dad never even hinted that either of his children’s opportunities would be limited because of their sex. He encouraged and championed my brother and me for being individuals and pursuing our own dreams and interests.
Because of that, he raised a feminist.
My brother works from home and tends to many of the household responsibilities and the daily activities of his daughter. I’ve watched him cook, clean and read bed time stories while encouraging and supporting his wife, a Biology professor. My brother has his own list of accomplishments, but ensuring his wife and daughter are smiling and get the attention they need is always at the top of his list.
Gloria Steinem is quoted as saying “I’ve yet to be on a campus where women weren’t worried about some aspect of combining marriage, children and a career. I’ve yet to find one where men were worrying about the same thing.”
Gloria Steinem has obviously never met the Bartletts.