What does it mean to be a modern feminist?
Ever since I became a father to a beautiful baby girl in 2017, I have been increasingly pondering this question. As a young father (still a fresh-faced, slightly jaded 29-year-old millennial) I am now facing the prospect of raising my daughter in western society. Doing my homework on feminism is crucial for me if I want to build my daughter to be a strong and independent woman who fulfils her full potential.
After doing a lot of reading about the history of feminism, examining media stories around the issue and engaging in my own self-reflection, I have concluded that I won’t be raising my daughter to be a feminist - well not the modern iteration of feminism.
An extremely brief history of feminism
Western women, particularly in the early ninetieth and twentieth century, were prohibited from having the same rights as men. Of course, I don’t need to explain why this was absurd. The woman suffrage movements that spread throughout western society gave women their rightful freedom to vote.
Later, we had two devastating World Wars which forced western women into the workforce while men went off to go and kill each other. Becoming part of the workforce made women realise their own economic potential – they did not have to be domesticated housewives as they could do the factory and office jobs just as well as the guys. This epiphany planted the seeds which eventually grew into the spirited feminism movements of the 60s and 70s, finally bringing about the much-needed equality between men and women.
So far, so good.
Fast-forward to 2019, and this new incarnation of feminism has me worried. Instead of pushing for equality (despite claims that modern feminism is promoting equality between the two sexes, the messages I am seeing from feminists tells a different story) modern feminism is now about cultivating female superiority while ridiculing and dismissing masculinity in its entirety.
Therefore, i have developed my own beliefs around femininity that I am going to impart on my daughter, so she grows up into a happy woman rather than a miserable one, filled with unrealistic expectations.
Women are not better than men. Men are not better than women. We complement each other
Anyone who knows me on a personal level is aware I am not religious, but I do consider myself to be spiritual to some degree. I sometimes read the Bible as I find it to be an excellent guide when I find myself facing morally tricky decisions. The Bible clearly states that women were created by God to support men and help them.
In my mind, God created men and women with different characteristics so the sexes can complement each other. This is what I will teach my daughter. Modern feminism, utilising mainstream media as its primary vehicle, seems to be driving home the message that women are competent and independent and men are bubbling and inept Neanderthals. Women have gone from being damsels in distress to the saviours of humankind. In modern feminism's attempts to rightfully champion women, its advocates have swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.
It’s my responsibility to show my daughter that men are caring, confident and competent – not the idiots that modern media wants to perpetuate.
I want my daughter to understand that there is nothing wrong with doing things to make your boyfriend or husband happy (and ditto for the man as well). Wanting to please your male partner does not make you a weak woman. It does not make you a conformist to the "patriarchy." It makes you the type of woman that a man will do anything to keep by his side.
Not all traditional masculinity is toxic
I don’t deny the fact that some men, particularly those with status and power, have abused their positions to sexually exploit young women. Recent high-profile cases are a testament to this. I will never condone the actions of a man using his status to dominate a woman in any way, and I will teach my daughter never to tolerate it either.
However, I will not teach my daughter that traditional masculinity is terrible. Toxic masculinity has become this buzzword that seems to encompass anything men do that make them inherently men. Cheeky banter, checking out a pretty woman, play fighting or being competitive – all of this has been categorised as toxic masculinity at some point by modern feminist commentators. Just take a look at this condescending Gillette ad as a case in point.
Quite frankly, I find the concept of toxic masculinity to be ridiculous, and I will teach my daughter not to be offended by a man who play-fights or a man who is competitive or a man who kindly and appropriately expresses interest in her.
Being pretty and feminine will always be important to high-quality men
I would love my daughter to go to university, obtain a degree which she enjoys studying and then totally owning the corporate world or be a brilliant artist. Whatever makes her happy and, it goes without saying, she should accomplish goals for herself, not to impress men.
Having said that, I will tell her that if she wants to one day marry a high-value man (one who is masculine, responsible, reliable, caring and hard-working), then she will need to pay attention to her appearance and ensure she has traditional, feminine qualities. Telling my daughter that looks don’t matter is ridiculous. There is a reason the market value for the beauty and personal care industry in the UK alone was expected to have reached over 15 billion euros in 2018.
" I want my daughter to understand that there is nothing wrong with doing things to make your boyfriend or husband happy (and ditto for the man as well). Wanting to please your male partner does not make you a weak woman. It does not make you a conformist to the "patriarchy." It makes you the type of woman that a man will do anything to keep by his side. "
Of course, I will never tell my daughter she needs to resemble a malnourished, catwalk model or she must have curvy hips and a massive backside. Beauty is subjective, and she must work with what she has. But I will teach her to take care of her physical appearance and try to stay as attractive as her age will allow. Not only to attract a man but for her own health and self-esteem as well.
You cannot have it all immediately
The notion that “women can have it all” has been the rallying call for modern-day feminists. Women cannot have it all, and I believe many women don't buy it. Modern feminists would have you think that all women can grow a career or business for twenty years and then expect, at 40 years old, to bear children with any high-value man of their choosing. While they are indeed examples of women who have achieved this, this is not happening in droves.
Thanks to the marvels of modern medical technology, women are freezing their eggs in their late thirties and forties so they can put off child rearing without the fear of being childless when they grow older. But freezing eggs is far from a guaranteed success.
As a father, it is my responsibility to teach my daughter the reality of her biology rather than regurgitate the falsehoods about womanhood that is perpetuated by our current feminist commentators. I will show my daughter that if she wants healthy children, she will need to have them while she’s in her twenties to thirties. If she wants children with a highly-desirable man, she will need to be maternal and feminine.
Finally, if she wants to be the best mother she can be in the early years of her child's life, she will need to work less for some time. Her career will be waiting for her. But I will never tell her she can have everything because it’s more likely that she can’t, and she must prioritise.
Ultimately, I must be the best version of a man I can be
Raising my daughter to have a healthy relationship with men will eventually come down to me. How I behave as a man, how I treat her mother and other women will form her understanding of intersexual dynamics. Inevitably, there will be outside influences but her first point of reference will be me, and when she's a fully-grown woman, her expectations of men will be anchored to how I raised her.
There is a well-known platitude that says women end up marrying men like their fathers. If there is truth in that, then I absolutely must strive to be a good man.
If I don't want modern feminism to be responsible for shaping my daughter's understanding of men and the world around her, then I must ensure I am the best version of a man that I can be. It's what our daughters deserve and desperately need right now, instead of modern feminism.
I am turning 30 this year. For millennial men and women, becoming 30, like turning 18 or 21, comes with an expectation. You've lived for three decades now and seen some stuff. By this point, you have mostly experienced every feeling a person experiences; love, heartbreak, friendships, broken friendships, death, promotion, job losses, etc. The one thing most almost-30 millennials have yet to experience is parenthood.
It’s no secret that millennials are having sex (Tinder is ubiquitous among my generation for a reason) and becoming vegans in droves, but millennials are not starting families. When I look at my social circle, I am the only one who has a child. And I have a big social circle.
For me, becoming a father was an accident. If I typed on this post that I wanted to be a father so desperately at 27 and that I was beyond excited to bring my daughter into this world, it would be an outright lie. Don't get me wrong, in hindsight; my daughter is a blessing and one of the best things to happen to my life. But initially, I was not ready at all to be a father, and because of that, there was a lot of drama between myself and my partner. It was a volatile period which has since settled.
When my male friends, often those who are in their late twenties, come to me and say to me "I am thinking about having a child," I look them dead in the eye and ask: "Why?"
Instead of asking that question, I have outlined four questions the millennial man needs to ask himself honestly before making this incredibly life-changing decision to have a child. Doing so will save young men from experiencing the regret and anger that I felt because I didn't fully think about the implications of fatherhood before throwing myself into it.
Have you accomplished your goals?
A man in his late twenties must have goals in his life so that by the time he is in his mid-thirties, he is stable in all critical areas of his life.
If having a child is not part of your goals or does not help you accomplish them, you don't need to have a child, especially if you're still in your twenties.
Now some of you men might say to me "But my girlfriend/wife" really wants a child. My retort is: "It doesn't matter." Having a child will bring such a massive upheaval to your life that you need to be utterly confident that becoming a father is a goal of yours at this stage in your life. If it isn't, then don't have a child. If that means your girlfriend or wife leaves you, then so be it. The two of you weren't on the same page.
Never have a child just because it's what your girlfriend or wife desires. I can't stress how important this is. When it comes to having children, you need to be selfish because the impact of children is too high.
Does your girlfriend or wife desperately want to be a mother and is she willing to put her career aside for a short period?
So, you’ve done a deep-dive into your soul and found that you do want to have children in your late twenties. Good for you, mate. The second question you need to ask yourself is: Would your girlfriend or wife make a great mother?
I've dated girls in the past that were fun. We had a laugh and a great time. But they would not have made good mothers at the time; their mentality was ill-suited for the demands that motherhood requires.
I honestly thank God that my partner is a natural mother. She is maternal to a fault. Our daughter's priorities come first. She has sacrificed a great deal to ensure our daughter is healthy and happy.
Although mainstream media says otherwise, a very ambitious woman who wants to be a director of a large company by 35 will probably be miserable if she becomes a mother at 30. I know the media is proclaiming “women can have it all” but in reality, they can’t - not straight away anyway. Show me an unstressed mother who is a full-time director; working 40 hours a week, while also being a full-time mother and isn't outsourcing her child rearing duties to nannies every week.
If your girlfriend is under 30 and wants children, as a man, you need to make sure that she is willing to put the needs of her child first and foremost before her career. If she can't, I don't see why she should have your child.
Depending on what kind of man you are, you might be happy taking a backseat in your career to stay at home and look after your child while your girlfriend or wife goes to work. While I could never sit at home and look after my child without working, if you decide to do that, then please make sure you're with a woman who won't lose respect for you overtime for being a stay-at-home Dad and appreciates your role.
Have you moved in with your girlfriend or wife for more than two years?
You want to have a child in your twenties. You can confidently say yes.
Your girlfriend/wife is willing to be a mother first and a career woman second or she is happy for you to stay at home and will not lose respect for you. You can confidently say yes.
Are you good to go? Better get procreating? Not quite.
In my personal experience, you want to raise your child in a stable household. I am very conservative about this. Although it's not the only way to build a healthy and emotionally stable child, it is still the most effective way in my opinion. It's going to be much harder to raise a child in a stable household if you haven't even lived with your girlfriend as stable housemates for at least two years.
I always roll my eyes when my mates, who have never lived with their girlfriends, say to me "we never argue, and we always get along." Well, of course you do, because you only see her three times a week. When you move in with a woman, you will see sides of her that will annoy you, and it's the same thing for her as well.
" Never have a child just because it's what your girlfriend or wife desires. I can't stress how important this is. When it comes to having children, you need to be selfish because the impact of children is too high. "
Live with your girlfriend for at least two years to fully understand her character, and she understands yours. Living together will smooth out the creases in your relationship so that when you do have a child together, your child is entering a home that is peaceful instead of one with constant arguments and slammed doors.
Are you financially stable?
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but I have seen couples have children they cannot afford -myself included. If my bank balance had eyebrows, it would have raised them incredulously when I ignorantly decided to have a child with my girlfriend.
If you don't have sound finances, having a child is going to test you as a man in a way you want to avoid. Again, take it from me. Raising children is ridiculously expensive. Overpriced clothes. Overpriced toys. Overpriced nappies. Overpriced nursery fees. If you're a vegan, forget about all that costly vegan food you love eating from Whole Foods. Having a child will bleed your bank account quicker than an ill-advised, drunken trip to the Casino.
Sit down with your partner and calculate your monthly income. All your outgoings and what you both need to cut now that you have both decided to have a child. Make sure you have emergency funds. Failure to do due diligence on your finances will make you stressed out and unhappy during a period where you should be happy and joyful.
Are you willing to sacrifice a lot of your money; time, energy, and opportunities?
Probably my most significant oversight was that I did not fully comprehend how much sacrifice would be required when raising children. Spending my disposable income on new trainers and weekly night outs. No more of that. Travelling whenever I want. No more of that. Eight hours of sleep. Ciao.
If you want to be a decent father, a lot of your time and energy will be spent supporting your partner in raising your child because you're also responsible for that child's growth. It's a gigantic shift in your priorities especially for men in their twenties, heck any man at any age. Raising a kid is one of the biggest responsibilities a man can have, right next to being the US President and look what happens when you mess up that role.
Are you happy to no longer be your partner's priority?
Understand this, as soon as your child is born, all the attention you used to receive from your partner will decrease, especially in the child's early years. While you should expect to be a priority to some degree, you're not going to be THE priority to your partner when she becomes a mother. As a man, you must be comfortable with this. If you still want to spend more time solely enjoying the love of your girlfriend while you both travel the world, then don't have a child with her yet.
To all my male, millennial friends who ask me if they should have children, I will now point you in the direction of this blog. Having a child is beautiful but have your eyes opened. It's not all fun, games, and trips to the park. It's a real responsibility. Don't make my mistake of blindly going through with it. Make sure you're ready.