I was never really a feminist. At least not in the most basic of senses. I understood the cause and supported it but was never really an active contributor (more or less, the same way I approach any causes, political ones included). I’ve always been a nice guy myself; never harassing a girl walking down the street, overtaking a girl when in a street alone to comfort her in knowing that I’m not following her. Sure, if a fucking bombshell passes by, I do check her out in a subtle fashion…I am a guy after all.
And all of that I have learned from my loud, harassing Egyptian dad. You see, my dad was not an advocate of feminism growing up. He read the works of various feminists and suffragettes from Jane Anger to Marilyn French, yet growing up he was your usual 70s’ bohemian, even admitting to using feminism to the end of getting laid with the strong opinionated women he desired. But, at the end of the day, he held a certain respect to women in his own twisted way and he passed that on to me.
I remember once when I was 14 years old, my sister (16 years old at the time) and I were watching TV when my dad walked in and asked one of us to fix him some tea. An argument then ensued between us on who should leave the show for 5 minutes to get up. The argument escalated to the point of my dad having to intervene. He fixed the tea himself and later that night asked if he could talk to me. Of course he threw the “yabny enta ragel” argument at me; at times of differences with a female, a man should just stop if he can’t change it. I did not listen to him at the time and I have spent all my life hearing the same bullcrap of an argument that just asks me to muster up and accept that I should do more because I have a thing dangling between my legs.
That just did not seem fair to me. I told him straight up that he nurses her more than he does me and I understand that I need to be roughed up sometimes because of the whole “man” thing but sometimes it’s down right unfair. My dad calmly smiled and started telling me about how Eve was born out of Adam’s ribcage. He didn’t imply that Adam was superior to Eve, rather he was getting at the beauty of how the continuation of humanity depended on the womb of a female, that every human born is basically a part of his mother and that the first mother was a part of Adam, how humanity – despite being categorized into male and female – is, in fact, comprised of co-dependent entities…ultimately one Human.
My 14-year-old self was still far from satisfied with this story of creation, solemnly believing that I was still getting the shorter end of the stick. My dad then suggested talking things over with my sister to which I simply answered that she’s too “irrational.” He asked whether I considered myself more rational than her and, of course, I believed I was. This was how he retorted:
If men do believe themselves to be the more rational, less emotional beings, then why do they complain that much about irrational women when, as the “more” rational counterparts, they could just deal with it? Why point it out and try to change an irrational being? If you really were more rational, you would know for a fact that you wouldn’t be able to change them. My dad argued that if I see myself as the stronger person, I should opt to to start acting like one and find better ways to settle my differences with the weaker-minded sister. That when she feels emotional/hormonal, that doesn’t make her weaker, it just puts me in a position to embrace that which I don’t understand. When she cries, even on account of something that I find dumb or trivial, I should hug her and make her feel secure. That’s what I had to give for me to later proudly call myself a rational man. There is no power without grace; there is no reasoning without compassion.
He continued arguing that if my body allowed me to be physically stronger, then I should use that for protection not harassment. If, as a man, I demand respect from a woman, I should celebrate our differences and use what I find myself better at in nurturing her. Men were built like the earth and women like the wind; we coexist, men being the ground firm under women’s feet and women their wings when they crave to fly.
I learned that as a child but only ever understood its full extent as of late. I have met strong opinionated girls (and, like my dad, I have a thing for them) that have better minds than 70% of my guy friends combined. I learned that having a beautiful mind and a strong will doesn’t have anything to do with gender. I learned that nervous breakdowns aren’t just a “girl thing;” guys have them too and they are even more destructive. We are fundamentally the same and what differentiates us is how we learn to respect one another.
If I (feminist or not) respect a woman, she will respect me in return. We are not equal physically or psychologically (not a general rule, of course) but that doesn’t make one superior to another but rather allows us to complement each other. So, whether guys dub themselves feminists or not (if they actively help the cause, I salute them), it doesn’t matter because it comes down to how good of a person you are in the end. Love and respect are crucial; without them, I beg to ask…how dare you call yourself a man?
P.S.: this article is also a shout-out to my sister who needs a hug these days. Love you, sis.