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I Became A Feminist The Day I Became A Father

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Five years ago, I didn't classify myself as a feminist. Gender inequality, like the lack of baby change tables in men's washrooms, was something that bothered me in an abstract political sense, but was not something I felt personally compelled to fight against.

In hindsight, this stemmed from a lack of intellectual honesty with myself. I think it is impossible for a reasonably intelligent person not to see the privilege that comes with being a man in our society. Once a man acknowledges this privilege, he is put to a decision -- are you going to cast your lot with those pushing for equality, or are you going to stay silent and enjoy the fruits of the privilege you did nothing to earn?

Put another way -- are you a feminist, or an asshole?

Before me lay a perfect little person with limitless potential who was already at a disadvantage when compared to the little boy born down the hall.

I chose the "asshole" route for many years until my daughter's birth in 2013 forced intellectual honesty upon me. Before me lay a perfect little person with limitless potential who was already at a disadvantage when compared to the little boy born down the hall. That disadvantage had been baked into society by generations and generations of people like me, and I had directly benefited from it throughout my schooling and career.

Like most parents, I would do anything in my power to make my child's life better. Were she to face any other systemic challenge, whether big or small, I would take that challenge on as my own. I would write, speak, march, lobby and fundraise until my throat was hoarse or, more likely, she became embarrassed by me and asked me to stop.

How, then, could I justify turning a blind eye to the primary systemic challenge she would face throughout her life? It made no sense, and I resolved to change.

My wife and I are consciously raising our daughter to be a confident, assertive person who speaks her mind. It's not hard, because I am proud to say our little girl is wired like her mom, and her mom is tough as nails.

To be frank, it's pretty embarrassing that it took over 30 years for me to get here despite being surrounded by strong, intelligent women my entire life.

We want our daughter to have these qualities because, at some point, we will be sending her out into a world which simultaneously sexualizes and infantilizes her, and there is very little we can do about it. It's heartbreaking.

I don't want our daughter to live in a world where the wage gap is still somehow widening in 2016, or where she is taught as a preteen to stick her house key through her fist while walking home at night in case she is attacked. Since she is going to face these things, however, I guarantee that she will be ready. She will also have a dad who will fight; first for her, then alongside her.

I am not suggesting that my feminist awakening is worthy of praise. I am not looking for a feminist cookie. I know I have a lot of reading and reflecting to do before I can use the label responsibly and learn to how to be a helpful ally.

To be frank, it's pretty embarrassing that it took over 30 years for me to get here despite being surrounded by strong, intelligent women my entire life.

In any event, I do think it is important for me to both acknowledge my feminism and spread the word. If more dads come to the conclusion I have reached -- that ignoring gender inequality is incompatible with being a good father to one's daughter (or son, for that matter) -- we may inch closer to a society where my daughter and the little boy born down the hall begin life on an equal playing field.

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