This won't be easy, but it's worth it.
It’s kind of a gross time to be the father of a daughter in America right now.
Not only did the first serious female candidate for president lose in one of the ugliest elections in our country’s history, but the guy who won… doesn’t exactly have the greatest reputation when it comes to women.
I realize this is a matter of intense debate — and I’ll even concur that people like Bill Clinton also have a fairly dicey history when it comes to interacting with women.
This is a man who inspired Barbara Bush, the very moderate wife and mother of two former Republican presidents (respectively) to say, “I don’t know how women can vote [for Trump].”
THAT man is going to be our president — a fact that has shaken my young daughter to her core.
Because, it doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, ANYONE can understand why women might not feel represented (or even particularly safe) during a Trump presidency. And, as a father, I’m faced with having to spend four years teaching my daughter that sexism IS a big deal, even though the leader of the free world, apparently, doesn’t really give a damn about it.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot — how to empower my daughter in a world of p*ssy grabs and bikini burgers — and here are 5 things that I think dads can start doing TODAY to show their daughters that Donald Trump doesn’t speak for all men when it comes to sexism.
1. Teach your kids about consent as early as possible.
This is so important. We’re living in a culture where women keep seeking examples of men failing to get punished for assuming that female bodies are just things available for their entertainment. Brock Turner, Bill Cosby, Trump’s various interactions with female reporters. They all push the same message — men being sexually aggressive isn’t something our society is worried about.
That’s why fathers need to take responsibility for teaching our daughters about consent EARLY. Does that boy keep kissing her in kindergarten, even though she doesn’t like it? NOPE. He doesn’t get to do that. Girls need to know from the youngest age possible that they get to make the rules about their own bodies.
And we need to teach and model consent for our sons. Every child needs to learn that kissing or touching without permission, even if it seems like a game or fun to them, is totally NOT okay. Every child should know that they are allowed their own bodily autonomy (personal space, or space bubble), and that they should never violate anyone else's.
2. Volunteer for organizations that support women’s issues.
It’s one thing for a dad to say to his daughter “I support you, honey, no matter what you do,” but it’s something else entirely for a dad to say “I’m going to use my precious free time to advocate for and support groups that protect the rights of ALL women.”
That sends a powerful message to a man’s daughter — and his sons. A message that says “I’m not telling you these things because I’m your dad… I’m telling you these things because they’re TRUE.”
Dads can volunteer for organizations that support women’s rights, equal pay, health issues — whatever organizations that might help build a better future for all women, because “all women” definitely includes their daughters.
And their sons will see modeled exactly how important it is for men to make sure women and girls are treated fairly.
3. Keep informed about the issues that affect young girls.
It’s hard to be a “woke AF” dad when you’re just not sure what’s going on in the lives of your daughters. You want to be there for them, you want to be angry on their behalf when it’s appropriate, but how do you know?
Fortunately, there are a lot of resources online that make it fairly easy for dads to engage in the conversation when it comes to issues surrounding young women.
Two of my favorite resources on Facebook are A Mighty Girl, a resource site devoted to empowering girls, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls (founded by Parks & Recreation’s own Leslie Knope!), a place for “information, comedy and community” dedicated to helping young girls cultivate their authentic selves.
Both groups post daily information that any dad will find beyond valuable when it comes to staying woke about their daughters, and to keep their sons in the loop of things that are challenges to girls and women.
4. Seek out diverse books, movies, and TV shows for your children.
This is applicable even if you don’t have daughters. One of the subtle ways that society remains sexist is how women are represented in media.
If the TV show you’re watching has a cast full of men and only one token woman, it has representation issues. If the cool dystopian sci-fi book you’re reading only has one female lead and her main conflict is deciding between two boyfriends, it has representation issues.
The best news here is that it’s never been easier to find media with more positive images of women.
There’s still major work to be done, but you don’t have to keep watching a sexist show anymore just because “nothing else is on.” There are SO many TV shows, movies, podcasts, and comic books available at our fingertips now that dads don’t need to accept crappy representation for their daughters anymore.
You can choose to support media that supports a more diverse range of women, because why the hell not?
Don’t you want your daughters to see themselves in the world of art and pop culture? They deserve it.
And the more comfortable our sons are with seeing empowered women and girl heroes, the more they'll believe that women's equality is an issue worth fighting for.
5. Call out bullshit when you hear it.
If Trump tweets something gross, say that it’s gross.
If Congress or your state government passes legislation that marginalizes women’s causes, talk to your kids about it.
Let your daughter know that she doesn’t have to passively accept what the world has to offer.
Let her know that, even her dad — who won’t be directly affected by a sexist politician or the closing of a women’s medical clinic — recognizes that those events marginalize women and he doesn’t accept that the status quo is particularly right or fair.
Let her know that you’ve got her back, even if some of the most powerful people in the world disagree with the both of you.
Because Donald Trump and Bill Clinton aren’t going to look out for your daughter. They don’t really care.
But YOU DO. And your sons do. And, more than any other time in recent memory, NOW is the time to show them.