In this month of June, where Father’s Day is celebrated, and we are focusing on our interdependent relationships with men here at Big Ocean, we thought having insight from a man who considers himself a maternal feminist would be valuable. Here, Matt Hyde shares his experience in embracing this philosophy. We are thankful for the support of our brothers, fathers, and husbands as we work to rise together. ~ Lisa
In many ways, I’m the quintessential guy who grew up wrestling my four brothers and loving sports and meat etc. But on the other hand, I’ve always had a sensitivity to caring about the issues facing the women around me, and I’ve never felt uncomfortable in settings or in discussions that might be predominantly feminine (exhibit A, my college classes in Marriage, Family, and Human Development were usually 90% female, and I’ve had jobs that were the same). This likely has a lot to do with having a powerful connection with a wise mother and having two older sisters who always charted their own course as powerful women.
However, even with that said, as a man I never felt entirely comfortable with the term “feminism.” It can be an intimidating word even for a man who has always tried to listen to and understand women’s issues and speak out for equality and boost women’s voices in education, the work place, at church and on social media. Especially with so many different brands of feminism that have varying degrees of openness and acceptance to men, it can be hard as a man to feel welcomed and invited into feminism. I literally remember having a conversation with another man where we both agreed that we felt comfortable with just about everything about feminism, except the term “feminism” itself.
A while back, my wife discovered “maternal feminism.” From the first time I heard the term “maternal feminism,” I immediately recognized and felt the power of the word “maternal.” It changed everything for me. It was like we had found the missing piece of feminism that had kept me from feeling completely comfortable with it. The word “maternal” powerfully implies that women aren’t trying to take anything from men; they are just claiming the power that is their inheritance as women, a power that has been kept from them in many ways over many years. That’s a cause I can jump behind whole heartedly! I also clearly see myself as a man in the context of maternal feminism. Maternal implies mother; mother implies father, not to mention son. As a man, as a father and son, I immediately see myself within the context of maternal feminism, and that helps me feel like I’m a part of it.
I have tried, and I can’t think of a more powerful word to precede “feminism” than “maternal.” It’s perfect.
Above all, the proof is in the pudding. When my wife got more and more involved in maternal feminism, I watched closely to see how it would affect our relationship. Would it change how she viewed me as her husband or how she treated me? It turns out that it did, but for the best. She has been happier in her own skin as she has claimed the power that is her right as a woman. It may be counterintuitive, but it hasn’t taken anything away from me. In fact, I feel like she has been more aware and grateful of the things I do for our family as a father. It’s been amazing to see how supporting my wife in more deeply discovering the divinity of her womanhood has also strengthened me and assured me in the divinity of my manhood.
I believe this approach can help many men and women to increase their ability to perceive their own value. Realizing that one gender doesn’t have to take from the other to build itself up, we can build each other together. This is what my exposure to maternal feminism has done for me.