Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 29 December 2017

The Father of my Feminism

And the Corresponding Website
The very clued-up Dort bought me a copy of the fabulous Laura Bates’s ‘Everyday Sexism’ for Christmas, and I’ve been reading it.

This book should be mandatory. Everyone should read it.

Laura Bates isn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know; I’m a middle-aged woman with grown daughters of my own. But, her arguments are beautifully articulated, in her own words and the words of many other women, and she brought greater focus to my Feminism.

I have always been a feminist. I grew up in the ‘70s with the examples of women as diverse as Germaine Greer and Erin Pizzey, with the Greenham Common women, with the Women’s Liberation Movement, and even with the examples of women leaders like Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher.

This book helps me to understand why the older I get, the more Feminist I become, just as my observations of society at large and the financial straits of friends, family, neighbours and young people make me more Socialist the older I grow.

Early in her book, Laura Bates says that some women manage to cope with the nonsense the patriarchy shovels at them and even fight back, but the point is that no one should have to. She’s right, of course.

I count myself among those women. It isn’t about strength of character, and I am insecure about all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, but, the bottom line is that I do stand up for myself, both in individual situations with men, and when I speak out on my blog. I use my voice for myself, for my own good, but I like to think that I also do it for the young women coming behind me, who, I strongly believe, have an even harder time than the women of my generation have had.

Pops, taken maybe a dozen years ago at a family wedding
My father would probably never have called himself a Feminist, and, in some ways he was deeply flawed. I know that my relationship with him was sometimes complex, difficult and even unsatisfactory, to me, at least. I also remember what it was to be his child when I was simply that.

My father had five children, three of them girls. He was born before World War II, and was, in many ways, a product of his own times and upbringing. He was also the father who bathed us and put us to bed. He was the father who encouraged my endeavours and was proud of me. He was so proud that when I was reluctant to pick up my A level results at school, in person, he collected the envelope for me. He was the father who cooked meals, dried tears, kissed cuts and grazes, bought sanitary protection and administered analgesics for period pains. He was the father who treated me like his child.

It was my father that I ran to when another man, a neighbour, asked why a little boy was knitting. I was sitting at the top of the stairs with my cropped hair, in my shorts, fearfully upset that a man should mistake me for a boy when I clearly and resolutely identified as a girl, at the age of only four or five. It was my father who had taught me to knit. He also taught me to bleed the brakes on his car and make a temporary fan belt out a pair of tights. It was he who bought me my first record and my first Airfix kit, and it was he who discussed maths and science with me.

He wasn’t always perfect… He wasn’t ever perfect… It was natural, or, I suppose conditioned in me to want my father to think I was beautiful. I know that he did, despite him not saying so. He didn’t judge my appearance, my actions or my choices. He was delighted when I was his first child to go to university, despite being the fourth, and a girl.

He knew that I was smart, and he liked it. He knew that I needed a shoulder to cry on at times, and he was sympathetic. When I wanted to put a shelf up in my room, he showed me how, rather than doing it for me. His expectations of me were well-founded, realistic, cheerful.

Yes, he made gentle fun of me at times, but he also respected me when I stood my ground with him or with anybody.

As flawed, as imperfect as he was, my father was a kind, thoughtful, funny, often perspicacious man, the first man to love me, and the first to make that love count.

I haven’t talked about my father very much, about his life, or about his death, almost exactly three years ago, but he, as much as anyone, made me capable of standing up for myself and for other women in a World that doesn’t like, respect or understand us... or care that it doesn't.

His influence and his love was also, at least in part, responsible for the choices I have made in my relationships with men. The confidence in myself, in who I was and could be made me choose to know a lot of very smart, very clued up men, some of whom I still know and cherish. That confidence also made me strong when it came time to questions mens’ behaviour towards me, and to leave the relationships that were detrimental to my physical, mental or emotional health.

I hope that there are many men in the World like my father; men who love their daughters, see them for the people they are and can be, and offer them the strength that the patriarchy so often denies them.

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