Men make up half of this world. They are our fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, and friends. We recognize that just like us, they too have unique characteristics. They are an essential part of our human family. When we work harmoniously together as women and men, we establish a model of true human social stability, and we set a standard for generations that follow. This harmony and respect between women and men is first taught and modeled within the home – one of the first environments. As future generations adopt this life-sustaining model, they draw upon their individual and collective strengths and learn to unite in common goals. When we take the time to recognize and value our unique strengths and contributions as women and men, whatever they may be, we bring more solutions to the table and expand our potential as we access a broader storehouse of resources, help, and support.
Active and engaged fathers make a critical difference in the lives of their children, home and community. Many research studies suggest that their active involvement is associated with positive socio-emotional functioning, academic success, financial stability, significantly reduced aggression, decreased maternal and infant mortality, reduced rates of crime and incarceration in young people, reduced rates of teen pregnancy, reduced rates of child abuse, reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse, reduced rates of obesity, and overall increased sense of identity, security and overall happiness in a child’s life. These are tremendous contributions, and we must celebrate the fathers who are working so diligently to likewise support and strengthen the rising generation!
A positive father-daughter relationship can have significant impact on the life of a young girl. His influence shapes her self-esteem, self-image, confidence, life satisfaction, academic achievement, career choice, mental health, resilience, and mate selection. The relationship between a father and daughter greatly impacts her opinions of men and how she will most likely navigate future relationships. If she was treated well, she will seek out a mate who will likewise do the same. And this positive cycle can continue for generations.
Fathers are key players in establishing homes and communities that respect and support women and girls. In many parts of the world, the birth of a girl is not celebrated or welcomed. From birth, a girl is discriminated against, dominated, and treated as property. She is withheld from school, blamed for being a victim of crimes, sold or traded, and denied basic human rights. Because of such male-dominated cultures, it is almost always the father who sets the tone for the dignity and respect of the women in his life.
Our Big Ocean maternal feminist paradigm includes men and invites them to work shoulder to shoulder with us in improving cultures to elevate the status of women everywhere. We see men as critical agents of change and highlight the many ways in which fathers, brothers, sons, and friends are creating positive changes in their homes and communities. Including men as part of the solution is essential to a generative movement to eradicate discrimination and violence against women. We seek to highlight the men who are changing the cultural traditions in the many countries and cultures where women are not currently emancipated.
One such man is Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of the Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai. His loyalty and fierce devotion to his daughter in a culture that would just as well put a bullet in her head simply because she wanted to attend school, is exemplary. But if you were to ask him, he would say, “Don’t ask me what I did, ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all.” From the very beginning Ziauddin wished to give his newborn daughter a sense of strength, security and love. “When Malala was first born and for the first time…I went and looked in her eyes, I [felt] extremely honored.” We wish this to be culturally commonplace for the life of every young girl. With such exemplary fathers sharing their courage to stand against negative cultural practices and attitudes, we are hopeful that more will follow suit.
As we seek to nurture our relationships with the men in our lives, we are in fact attaining a sense of wholeness within ourselves and feel an empowering sense of wholeness within our greater world. Ziauddin once said, “If fathers are crucial to the well being of their daughters, their daughter’s happiness and success is also pivotal to their own satisfaction.”
As Big Ocean women, we value the irreplaceable role of courageously good and dedicated fathers. We honor the strength and peace-loving leadership of supportive husbands. We highlight the powerful and gentle qualities within the men in our lives. We recognize our interdependence and invite all men to join us as maternal feminists.