Feminism is not "The F Word"

The obvious strategy in playing a game of Guess Who with someone is choosing a person on your board that is relatively common with few distinguishable features. Objective: make it as difficult as possible for your opponent to narrow down the choices to one person.

The classic "from the 90's" game was for sale last year at a local Goodwill store. It was the full game, boxed perfectly, with all the interior pieces in their original plastic, unopened.

 8 girls out of 24 kids shown. Making up only one-third of the board.

8 girls out of 24 kids shown. Making up only one-third of the board.

When I sit down and play it with my girls, they always want to use the board with the faces of kids on it. I know the obvious strategy has eluded them when I ask the question "is your kid a boy?"


Then I know I've won. Or at the very least taken a considerable advantage over my daughters. That's because the board with the kids' faces is almost two-thirds boys. Picking a girl in this game out you in a bad spot from the start.

These subtle yet poignant observations are important for me in my day-to-day life. I never thought much of women having a level playing field with men. Even when I got married the thought never struck me. It's when I became a dad, now of two little girls, that the thought of being a feminist appeared.

For a litany of reasons, the word feminist became a word for egomaniacal women and liberal pro-choicers. It became an off-putting descriptor for women looking to usurp a man's power. 

The more appropriate way to look at feminism is the basic understanding of the slights society gives females in general, and the often ignored reality that many by accident (or even on purpose) treat women as second class citizens.

As a father, my desire is for my daughters to see that their value and worth in life does not come from their outward appearance. This won't prevent them from being hurt. It won't shield every flaming arrow of shallow criticism they'll receive, but if I can engrain in them the reality of being judged in life on what you do and how you treat others and how hard you work to achieve something, then the remarks about maybe being slightly overweight or having a gap in their teeth won't sting quite as badly.

Feminism is the desire women have to be treated with respect. That sounds too boiled down, almost basic. That's the point. Women simply want to be viewed not as men but with the same respect men are viewed with.

There's no reason, for example, that the US Women's Soccer Team receives so much less money than the Men's Team (despite having much more success). What that teaches my daughters is that even if you're more successful than a man in doing the same thing, you're not worth as much.

The argument from some will say that the women from the National Team have plenty of extra opportunities doing promo work for companies. The issue there is that often advertisers will rely on a women's sexuality to sell and market rather than their talent. Again, women want to be treated with equal respect as men. That shouldn't mean stripping their clothes off to do so.

If you took a survey of 10 women you know and asked them if, at any point in any job they've ever had, did they feel uncomfortable because a male co-worker or, even worse, a superior made sexual remarks towards them or flirted with them, I would be willing to bet that 9 out of the 10 would say yes. Again, women want respect. The same respect men get. Without being made to feel like they're a sexual victim brought in for the eye candy pleasure of some creep.

To take it a step further, look at the recent rape case involving a Stanford swimmer and a young woman. The male chauvinism in this case was not created by the rapist, it is a culture passed down by both parents, the dad even excusing the son's actions by blasting any negative consequences his son would face because hey, the rape he committed only got him about "20 minutes of action."

Women want respect. They don't want power, though that comes with respect. They don't want more money, though that will come when they're noticed for doing jobs equal to men. 

This is actually what makes a Hillary Clinton presidency exciting and intriguing: a woman, someone who not even a century ago couldn't even vote, could now be the leader of the free world.

The fact that Clinton, who many distrust, is leading in most polls against Donald Trump speaks to the desire many women have to finally have a voice of their own running the country. That and the man she's running against has some mind-numbingly musing instinct views.

Mike Greenberg from ESPN's morning show "Mike and Mike" said something a few years back that stuck with me. He was talking about how he didn't want his daughter to have posters of pop stars or models on her wall. Instead, he wanted her to have posters of people like Serena Williams. He wanted her to have images of women who didn't need to use their sexuality to get noticed but instead worked hard at something they loved to obtain success. A role model of earned success, not provoked lust.

 Serena is great because she works hard, not because of how she looks. (photo courtesy of forbes.com)

Serena is great because she works hard, not because of how she looks. (photo courtesy of forbes.com)

That's what I want for my daughters. I want them to grow up knowing that getting noticed isn't about the skin they can show or the clothes they can wear. It isn't about them always fitting what the world views a girl to be. If my oldest daughter grows up keeping her love of snakes, then I hope she becomes the best snake-ologist the world has ever known. If my youngest daughter wants to use her grit and determination to one day be president, then I hope she runs this country with grace and wisdom. I mean, can you imagine June Cleaver being told 50 years ago she could be president? She would have laughed softly, then scrambled back into the kitchen to finish dinner.

So to you fine people at Hasbro, makers of the Guess Who game, I hope in the future you'll make games that show the beautiful varied landscape of players who want to be better represented. And if you do that then maybe, just maybe, my little girls will one day have the chance to win too.