I told a former lover that I wrote a book about being a feminist dad. “I’ll read it,” they said. “But I don’t know if I can take it seriously. I remember what you were like when you were younger.”
It’s true, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. I can’t deny it. Looking back now, I’m ashamed of the inappropriate ways I’ve behaved. I don’t claim to be perfect — not even to have achieved peak-feminist consciousness. Instead, I’m just working to recognize how a patriarchal culture socialized me in problematic ways. I’m doing my best to take responsibility for dismantling the troublesome narratives of masculinity that I’ve integrated over 43 years as a privileged cisgender man. And most importantly, I’m trying to raise my children in ways that counteract widely accepted, old-school patterns of sexism and misogyny.
Of course, it’s never easy to acknowledge one’s own problematic behaviors. It’s especially difficult when it comes to courtship, romance, and sex. Why? Because it requires revisiting the autobiography in my mind — recognizing that I wasn’t always desired in the way I imagined. I wasn’t as attractive as I thought. And that means the image of selfhood that I’ve constructed on a foundation of formative intimate experiences is more volatile and unsteady than I’d like to admit. I’m not necessarily the person I’d like to imagine myself to be.
I’m not unique in my avoidance of self-interrogation. In general, we all vigorously resist anything that threatens to dissolve the patchwork of narratives that drive the decisions we make and the actions we take. We’ll gaslight ourselves right out of self-reflection. But it’s urgent that men — especially fathers — rise to the challenge of reframing their personal stories in ways that are better attuned to the current cultural ethos.
We all vigorously resist anything that threatens to dissolve the patchwork of narratives that drive the decisions…