Here is a picture of my dad and I... roughly 5 years ago. Why am I showing you this? Well... Firstly, because my dad is a legend, but secondly because I am inexcusably and unashamedly a feminist. I was brought up in a world where being 'as good as' or 'better than' men, was not even a thing. It was not even a consideration, because... doh?! of course I was. Why would that even need to be said?!
I was brought up in a family, where I was told that if I wanted to be the next president, the next pioneering researcher, the next war journalist, then I could do it (okay, when I first suggested I was going to be dancer, that maybe did not go down quite as well, but the disapproval did not last for long!). The world was shown to me as being wide open with possibility. I never doubted that I could do it, and I never believed people would not support me on the way, because I grew up in a home where men and women were treated equally, and in a home where my father actively said: "we would probably be better off if we had more female political leaders" (readers... this is not a time to bring up Marine le Pen).
I was never taught to be scared of men, but after my Mum's eye of tiger fierceness when a man touched my bum on the escalator aged 6 (yes... 6), I was always taught to trust my instincts. If a guy seemed weird, he probably was, and I should change pavements. And that did not go just for men. It was people in general. And since then, I keep following my gut with people, but also in life. So far, it has served me well, although I suspect I have had many more lives (dancer, bar tender, event manager, DJ, yoga teacher.....), and more areas of study than most people by the age of 30. Trusting your gut comes with a lot of swerving.
Sadly, I realise not all women have grown up in this environment. Many women grew up in families where girls 'jokingly' were called slags, where women 'jokingly' were only good enough for the household, where 'jokingly' women could not park. We live in a world where as my father approaches a small child in the street to play, my mother or myself have to come running and promise he is not a kidnapper.
I believe women are equal. Different to men, for sure, but equal... and as I am surrounded by some great men, I also know (for a fact!) that many guys believe that too (hurrah!). Last night, I was lucky enough to attend the ever so inspiring Tania Brown's class in Dulwich (which I am honoured to be teaching as of next Thursday). Alongside the usual yoga types, walked in many mums, and their young daughters... but also dads and their young daughters and nieces. What an amazing, awesome thing to be doing with your kids. I was chatting to some of these teens, and they put up a good show of saying that maybe it was not so cool that their dads were there. I assured them that even if they did not think so now (which I don't actually believe), they would feel very differently in ten years time.
In many households, fathers are still the main bread winners. This often means, they don't get to be around so much. My dad made such an effort to spend time with me when he was around. We ran down the pavements being chased by crocodiles, we made plans to capture Father Christmas, he made up songs about 'Elodie jolie' that he played on the guitar over breakfast, but he was not there for dance classes, and I don't think we got much regular one on one dad and daughter time (although we definitely got family time). I would have loved, not only to practice yoga as a teen, but to practice yoga with my dad. I could not pay him enough to join my classes now (... hi Dad!), but I was truly moved to see those pairs of dads and girls moving on the mat last night. Doing the same thing. Feminism, equality, allowing your daughter to know that she is 'as good as', 'worth more than', 'the next superwoman' starts with simple stuff like this. Proving that men and women do the same, and are deep down, fundamentally made of the same stuff. Without forgetting the presence of amazingly positive role models such as Tania.
A piece of dance recently came to my attention as one of my friends was performing in it. Men and Girls Dance... The clue is in the title. It is so simple. We have made the relationships between men and girls so complicated and obscure... How can women not take that into their adult life?
Feminism starts at home. And I can feel that there is a wind of change blowing through the trees. This 'Swedish Dads' photography project by Johan Bavman goes to show that dads are missing out on that one to one kid time as well (and not just with their daughters).
I think we all know that dads want the best for their children. When they have daughters in particular, I truly believe that dads can rule the world by paving the way for their daughters to never even consider the possibility that they could in some way be inferior to men. Why should that even be on their radar? Dads have the amazing, and wonderful possibility to show their daughters that men are ace, and that men are not a**e holes. So whether that is through taking your daughter to yoga (and doing it with her!), whether that is playing football with her, learning to play an instrument... the power to change the world could (and is) in your hands.