When we think of teaching girls about “woman power,” we tend to think about females doing the job. In many ways, however, I owe my sense of equality and independence as a woman to my father. He taught me at an early age that it isn’t just women who can teach female equality.
From the time I could speak, my dad taught me education equated to opportunity. He pushed me to be the best I could be and get good grades. Most of all, he told me to never believe in limitations others would put on me.
When the school told me taking all honors classes wasn’t wise, he encouraged me to rise to the challenge. When I was the only female trumpet player and the only student not taking private lessons, my dad encouraged me to practice on my own until I got to first chair. When math class got hard and I thought I couldn’t do it, he pushed me to keep working.
He taught me that, in many ways, failure was a mindset. I came to learn that no matter the obstacle or the critics in my way, If I set my mind to it, I could do it. Being a woman or being of a certain social class or being any classification at all was never deemed as a valid reason to back down from my goals. My dad taught me to ignore ceilings and strive for my personal version of accomplishment.
My dad taught me to be a strong woman by default. He didn’t preach about female equality or define feminism for me. However, he taught me the core values that would lead to my belief in gender equality. He taught me independence. In kindergarten, I came home crying because I didn’t think I had any friends. To my mom’s horror, my dad simply told me I didn’t, but no one really did. He said no one has true friends; you are your only friend.
At the time, his words only made me cry harder and my mom scowl. Now, though, I can appreciate how his words shaped me throughout my life. He taught me early in life to depend on myself for my own happiness and not to look to anyone to tell me what I could or couldn’t be. It is because of him I became a confident, sometimes stubborn woman who doesn’t back down from her version of happiness. It is because of him I simply don’t see limitations because of my gender.
My dad’s teaching of female equality wasn’t in-your-face feminism. It was subtle. Gender simply never was a factor when it came to my future and to my goals. He taught me to not listen to anyone when it came to what I wanted or what I was trying to achieve.
Some might argue that by not directly acknowledging the struggles of women in our society, my dad actually did me a disservice. Being blind to equality issues does not help the situation.
I think my dad simply shows that you do not have to wear a shirt emblazoned with the label “feminism” in order to teach about equality. You don’t have to march in rallies or hold signs to empower women. Sometimes it just takes an acknowledgement that girls can do anything they want and shouldn’t let anyone get in their way to instill confidence. By raising our girls to be strong in the face of negativity and to trust their own goals, we can teach girls to find the confidence to claim their equality.
Being a woman isn’t always easy. I’m the first to agree that simply having confidence in yourself and ignoring your gender when it comes to goals isn’t the easiest path. There will be obstacles, and we need people willing to hold the signs and fight the fight in order to change things.
In addition, I, in all honesty, have had a pretty smooth path. I have not struggled with women’s rights like so many in our country and our world do. When I think about Malala Yousafzai’s struggles, for example, I know my journey has been nothing in comparison. I know my view of gender equality is shaded by my life experience, as all of us are. I know in some areas of the world, my dad’s subtle emphasis of gender equality would not be enough. I know my appreciation is a result of my background and circumstances.
Nonetheless, I am thankful my dad is the dad he is. We need fathers who are willing to teach their girls to ignore the limitations society tries to attach to genders. We need fathers willing to teach their girls to be tenacious and fearless in the pursuit of their dreams. We need fathers who teach girls that they can do anything and everything boys can do.
I’m thankful my dad taught me all of these things and more. I’m glad he didn’t raise me to believe men were stronger or more capable of anything. I’m glad I grew up not really knowing why anyone would think a girl couldn’t do anything a boy could do because it just wasn’t part of my understanding.
I am thankful that my dad taught me to achieve my dreams, not in spite of being a woman, and not even because I’m a woman.
He taught me to achieve my dreams simply because. Period.
Through that simple difference, I learned the strength of a woman.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author. To learn more about her works, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com