Sambridhi advocates for raising girls the way she was raised—to be strong and independent.
“He was raising soldiers, not princesses.”
My father once said, "Be the kind of girl who doesn't need anyone's shoulder to rely on." He always wanted my sister and me to seek a life beyond the ordinary. He would ask us to be daring and bold, to lead the herd and not follow. And I could not be more his daughter.
From an early age, my father would ask my sister and me to do things we thought we couldn't— from riding a bicycle for the first time to accepting a difficult job interview. He told us to not give up easily. We never did.
At times when most fathers would come to the rescue of their daughters, our father would let us get through a tough situation on our own. If we had to return late from an evening event, he would sometimes strand us there, asking us to figure things out. At the time, my sister and I would get furious with him. It wasn’t until later that we realized he was raising soldiers, not princesses.
I wonder, what does it mean to be a feminist father? Could my father be considered a feminist? It’s true that he is not the over-protective, stereotypical father. He doesn’t fit that image of a man ready to shoot anyone who hurts his daughter. He is a father who talks about love and relationships. He brings up his own past experiences to teach his daughters about life. Most importantly, he is a father who trusts his daughters. He knows we will get it right. He knows we don’t need an army to protect us; we can do it on our own.
My father is not a perfect feminist. He can get caught up in patriarchal values that mainly recognize women for their homemaking and domestic skills. He used to ask my sister and me to be more "feminine" and adhere to society’s idea of a "complete woman." It drove me mad. Why did he go along with the crowd instead of his own ideals? How could he teach us to rebel and then expect us to get society's approval? Sometimes, when he'd wish aloud he had had an elder son, it would hurt my ego. What could a son could do that I can’t do?
I don’t think a feminist father needs to speak about feminist issues, go to women’s marches, or even call himself a feminist. A feminist father is any father who tells his daughter from a very young age that she can do everything. A feminist father is someone who empowers his daughter at every step and teaches his daughter to speak up for herself. A feminist father loves his daughters and knows the importance of raising a daughter who takes no shit from people. A feminist father may not be there to rescue his daughter every time, but he has made sure his daughter knows how to be her own superhero. He does not put his sons ahead of his daughters. He simply believes in and practices equality.
Feminist fathers are super fathers—the greatest gift any daughter possibly could have in her life. Girls with feminist fathers dare to stick out of the crowd; they dare to dream; they dare to lead. These girls later become women who are confident, strong, and inspiring. I have seen enough examples in my own life to know that how a man treats his daughter during her childhood and youth impacts her whole life.
The world needs more feminist father icons. We need more fathers who don’t limit their daughters, who encourage their daughters to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Fathers around the world should remind their daughters that their gender shouldn’t hold them back. Fathers should teach their young daughters to dream to be different: not just princesses, but warriors, adventurers, travelers, intellectuals, and heroes. Daughters can be heroes who fight for what is right, heroes who save the world.
If you are a father of a daughter, tell her you believe in her and that she has super powers, that she can be anything. When you do, the world will see more magic. My own father can attest: If you treat your daughter like a hero, she will definitely make you proud.
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