The writer, Jeremy Adam Smith has adapted the piece he wrote in response to my 10 Questions About Your Feminist (Parent)Motherhood for the Good Men Project. His full response to my questions has been included in his new book, an anthology called “Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood.” Whenever I show a woman his response she ends up with her eyes widening and her jaw dropping, he really gets it doesn’t he? Yes, I think he does. When pro-feminist heterosexual men become fathers it isn’t all good news, inequality in the home still seems to happen, the patriarchy is a powerful framework, but they may at least see that this is what’s happening, which is more than half the battle mothers face…
Read his piece, “Five Questions for Profeminist Fathers” over there.
1. What has surprised you most about fatherhood?
In college, I was active with many feminist and profeminist organizations. After college, I was in a stable, monogamous relationship, and in my work with various progressive nonprofits, I usually had solid, respectful relationships with female coworkers. I watched guy coworkers get into trouble for sexist remarks or actions (inadvertent and otherwise), but that never happened to me, and my policy was to duck and cover if it turned into a major issue.
Every once in a while, a female coworker would even go out of her way to tell me how refreshingly nonsexist I was—“When Jeremy talks to me, he never looks at my breasts,” said one person, whose breasts I did, in fact, secretly glance at once or twice. These pats on the head were always reassuring and contributed to a decade-long mood of complacency about gender issues.
Then I became a dad. And I was shocked by the degree to which my now-habitual commitment to feminist values was put to the test. In fact, habits went out the window; everything took conscious effort, as if I’d had an intellectual and emotional stroke and needed to learn how to walk and talk all over again.
Most shocking of all, I think the power in our relationship started to inexorably tilt in my direction, as perhaps it always did, as we became parents. Even when I took time off of paid work to serve as my son’s primary caregiver, the tilt continued. It didn’t seem, and still doesn’t seem, to matter what I want or decide—I just kept growing more powerful in the relationship.
What do I mean by power? In this context, we might say it’s the ability to do and say what we want and need to do or say. From this perspective, we’ve both lost power: Parenthood constrains our choices in countless ways, which I don’t think I need to explain to other parents.
But there is no question, absolutely none, that my wife has lost more power than I have. This won’t surprise moms who are reading this, but it certainly surprised me.