By Shambhavi Saxena:
“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word ‘feminist’. Men and women should use it to describe themselves anytime they want,” said Justin Trudeau, as the audience at Davos World Economic Forum broke into hoots and applause. We’ve heard this before, from Malala Yousafzai, from Emma Watson, Beyoncé, Ellen Page, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Louise Brealy, and John Legend. Every time someone, as well-known as they are, has made this point, there’s a sizeable dent in the patriarchy-sized wall we’ve been trying to smash so long. But if I had a dollar – or a British Pound, I hear it’s doing better – for every time a politician made this statement, well, let’s say I’d be eating a cheap breakfast, because feminist politicians are hard to come by.
Trudeau’s election was a special one from the beginning. He kicked off his campaign at the Vancouver Pride Parade. And when he did win, he brought in an ethnically diverse and gender-balanced cabinet of ministers. And last Friday, he boldly embraced feminism, personally and politically. But what’s most important about his Davos speech is what came before that.
He talks about how he wants to raise his sons “to be feminists like dad,” and that it was his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, who brought up the issue in the first place. Feminist parent duo to raise feminist daughter and sons? Yes, please!
But can we just talk about feminist dads for a second. These are guys who are taking ‘fatherhood’ (which has stood at the helm of patriarchy for so long) by the lapels and saying “no, we won’t do it the old way anymore.” Male feminists (I use the prefix ‘male’ only to highlight an identity and experience that is different from women’s) recognize the privileges they hold over women as a violation of the principle of equality and justice, and who won’t stand for it. And feminist dads? Well, they’ll show their kids that another type of man is possible, another type of fatherhood is possible. They also show their kids how to be decent human beings, not because you’ll get a cookie for it, but because that’s who you should be.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoke to Ellen DeGeneres once about how his mother’s feminist parenting had taught him to look more critically at the way gender inequality operates in this world. Those of us with feminist parents will certainly relate to the experience as more connected and organic than seeking information out of books. Our parents have always been our first windows to the world, and for them to be politically conscious about equality for all genders, for all people, well that can only do us a world of good.
One always feels like feminists are doomed to minority status, that we were greatly outnumbered by all the misogynist creeps of the world. And maybe we still are. But just as one may find comfort in the massive history of our struggle, it’s also comforting to know that our comrades in arms include public figures like Terry Crews, Mark Ruffalo, Patrick Stewart and now, Canada’s Prime Minister.