Sunday, October 28, 2012

10/23 Brown bag response: Feminist Fathers

In many families, kids are raised with gender roles playing a big part in the daily activities within the home. Girls help their mothers with chores within the house like cooking and cleaning while the boys and fathers do the work that requires more physical energy such as mowing the lawn, taking out the trash and shoveling the driveway.

On Tuesday 23 October, a panel of feminist fathers, 3 of whom are Colgate professors: Chris Henke, John Palmer and Andy Rotter together with Dominik Pangallo who works with the partnership for community development within the village of Hamilton led a brown bag discussing how they practice feminism and embed it into their parenting skills and techniques.
One of the feminist fathers, Prof. Chris Henke, mentioned that being a feminist father starts with being a feminist oneself and embracing feminism within one’s personal life. As they shared different stories as to the different ways each of them raise their kids, they did mention the difficulties they face at times especially when trying not to affirm to societal gender norms for example not wanting their kids to “throw like girls”. Despite this, they discussed the different ways they try not to affirm to the norms that dictate parental roles and behavior of a father within a family. Sometimes, they consciously see gender playing its roles within the family, as Prof. Palmer said, but at least he wants to see his kids grow up aware of  the existence of feminism and be able to incorporate it in their lives. They encourage their kids to do things that they enjoy and also expose them to a variety of toys, colors, clothing to enable them make the choice as to what they feel most comfortable with.
It’s great to have feminist fathers so kudos to all the men out there practicing some extent of feminism- be it first, second or third wave feminism!:)
For more information on feminist fatherhood, check out this website:

-Gloria Kebirungi ‘15


  1. I couldn't agree more with you here, it was great to see feminists father's at work. Growing up i was in the house cleaning and watching my mom cook meals. However, i also was outside playing sports and feeding the animals. To this day i think my brother does a lot more of the cooking than i do. I never really thought of this as a feminist thing, but not many women were raised like i was. Listening to these men talk about how they try to make it to where their children are able to make their own choices is great. It is hard for parents to not give in to the social norm because we live in a society where everything has to be socially acceptable and everyone wants to be accepted. Becoming a feminist is the first step for parents and it allows them to not focus on the social norms and teach their children to lead the lives they want without all the social constraints put on them based on their gender.

  2. Hey Gloria! Thanks for this post. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this brown bag, but I really wanted to, so I'm glad I can reflect about it here. I think it's exciting that "feminist fathering" is being highlighted as a method of parenting (though some could argue that it should be an innate aspect of parenting)... and more so, that it's being applied to girls AND boys. I definitely grew up with feminist parents -- my mom and dad took every opportunity to show me that I should never feel constrained by my gender and that being female translated into being someone who was active, capable, interested, intelligent, confident and effective. Though she was a stay at home mother, my mom made a conscious decision to bend gender roles in other ways. She was never afraid to drive long distances, she played golf at a male-dominated location... my dad was the same way- though he was the working parent in my family, his work was largely driven by his desire to offer my two sisters and me the best education possible. I agree with Andrea that I think feminist parenting comes from a parent him/herself first viewing him/herself as a feminist, and until it becomes perceived as a natural and obvious way of parenting, it is important for feminist parents to publicly identify this way and share their stories.

  3. I agree strongly with what everyone has said so far. I grew up with unknowingly feminist parents. While my mom stayed at home and raised my sister and me, my dad worked. However it was my dad that did all the cooking and a lot of the cleaning. I remember when I was young it was my mom that taught me how to throw a softball and practiced sports with me in the yard. Besides living outside of the stereotypical gendered roles, they both insisted upon the importance of education. I credit them both with instilling drive and confidence in me. In addition, I was raised in a very balanced emotional setting. They taught me that it was good to express yourself. I think I have seen my dad cry as many times as my mom. Being comfortable with yourself and feeling confidant enough to express your emotions are invaluable skills. I think a large part of that develops at a young age, making it essential for parents to raise their children in this way.

  4. I am a male and SO excited to be a father in the future. I have two of the greatest parents in the world and their commitment to family has always inspired me and made me want to raise children. Brown Bags like this will help me be the best dad I can be. No matter what my children's gender identities are, I want to support them completely. One of the points I really appreciated was how the feminist fathers were careful not to shelter their children, especially when they got older. They had to know that strict gender roles do exist in the world and there is societal pressure to follow them. The key is educating them about what is right and giving them the confidence to stand up for their values, even when it is hard. That is what these feminist fathers did and are doing and what I hope to do with my own children someday. I don't care if I have a son who plays sports and a daughter who dances or vice versa. The most important thing for me is that THEY are comfortable with themselves and able to develop and pursue their own passions.

    I've found that sometimes I can come off as a stereotypical male. I love sports, beer, and I occasionally try to dominate conversation (something I am working on). That being said, I often find myself in spaces where I am the only male bodied or heterosexual person through my work with the COVE and the Center for Women's Studies. I have definitely felt pressure in the past to highlight the stereotypically male parts of myself and hide the ones that conflict with my assumed gender role. Luckily, the people I have worked with and learned so much from on this campus have been welcoming and supportive from day one. The love and support of these individuals allowed me to have confidence in all parts of my personality and I know I am a better person now because I have undergone a more well rounded development. I still have a LONG way to go but the ideas and values that have been instilled in me here will help me move forward. If I can pass on to my children a fraction of the passion and support I've felt in my time at Colgate, they will be prepared to take on the world.