Kindness and compassion are what liberates us, not power and control.
by Shannon Drury
I love you. Really, I do. I know there are some who say you don't exist (conservative-gender-essentialists like Phyllis Schlafly) and there are some who claim you can't exist (radical-feminist-separatists, Schlafly's worst nightmare), but I see you. I believe in you. In fact, I live with a very special member of your tribe-my life partner of more than 15 years, Matt.
When I met this member of your feminist brotherhood, I knew that he was someone special. Here was a record-store hipster who, to my great surprise, enjoyed both the macho punks Black Flag and the exquisite, operatic soprano Rosa Ponselle. He didn't compartmentalize people, either, by their gender, sexuality or musical taste. I was his equal.
Our decision to marry was a mutual one, not a formal request made by one to another. When I declined an engagement ring, he wasn't miffed; when I opposed on principle a white dress, he understood completely. Comfortable with himself and our relationship, he didn't require constant cultural reaffirmation of his masculinity. He said that if I wanted to change my name after our wedding, I could, but the decision to do so was mine, not his (I didn't).
Now don't misunderstand me, heterosexual feminist men of the world: I am sure there are many of you who generously shared both diamond rings and your last names with your legally married beloveds. But my guess is that you asked if she wanted them first. You're very aware of the romantic possibilities of consensus.
In December, the writer Suzanne Venker (niece of the aforementioned Schlafly) kicked up a media firestorm when she opined that Second and Third Wave feminism's "war on men" was the reason that so many heterosexual women were miserable. In a piece for Fox News, she advised these women that "surrendering to your femininity" was the remedy. "It's okay if your guy's in charge," she wrote. "It's okay if you don't drive the car. In fact, it's rather liberating."
Feminist men, I know you are laughing right now, as you should be. When I shared Venker's assertions with Matt, my feminist husband, he just stared at me, mystified. "Why should I care who drives the damn car?" he asked. "What does that have to do with real life?"
Feminist men, when you resist the pressure to control everything in your grasp, you allow real life to unfold in all its complexity and sloppiness. And marriage is probably the sloppiest, most confusing and difficult institution there is.
Feminist men, you know as well as I do that a truly equal partnership under capitalist patriarchy is a daily challenge. Like Matt, many of you outearn your female spouse by a significant margin, making her decisions regarding family life and the care of young children look less like "surrendering to femininity" than grappling with economic practicality. Yet you never use this as an excuse to absolve yourself of the responsibility of parenthood, for feminism helped you understand that kissing boo-boos and reading bedtime stories is your job, too. In this way, you model to your children that kindness and compassion are what liberates us, not power and control.
Thank you, feminist men, from the bottom of my heart. This ongoing revolution can't happen without you. I'll be so proud when my son Elliott, as yet still a feminist boy, matures and joins your ranks.
Shannon Drury is a self-described radical housewife. She lives in Minneapolis.