Our founder Emma Tattersall shares with us her musings this Father's Day.
We have an old a cushion that has made its way round every room in my parents' house and always brings a smile to my face as it survives the latest round of donations to the local charity shop. It's been a tiny part of home for as long as I can remember, with its dark green border and very traditional looking design and I guess it was a gift given to my parents when they realised two was going to become three, I've never thought to ask. Embroidered on the front are the words: "Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone very special to be a Dad".
It’s only in recent years that I have realised quite how much I take for granted the nest I was raised in. I was brought up in a happy and loving home, given an abundance of support and encouragement and always made to feel like the world was my oyster, no mountain too great for me to climb. More importantly, I always knew that I would have my own cheer team one step behind me, armed with motivation, advice and support at every turn. My Dad was always totally outnumbered by females, not just my Mum, sister and me but also the menagerie of female pets that shared the space under our roof. I grew up around strong and fearless female role models who I was encouraged to learn from and engage with. Equally as important was the man I was learning from as he helped me take my first steps and encouraged me to utter my first word.
His disdain for labels of any kind means he doesn’t lay claim to the word feminist, but the way he co-parented two headstrong young girls, now two headstrong young women, means I struggle to think of him as anything but.
From a young age, my Dad always encouraged me to speak up, to question and to debate things that I didn’t agree with or that didn’t seem right. Much to my disappointment the outcome was often that yes, I did have to eat my greens or no, I couldn’t have another puppy.
In her article for the Telegraph, Laura Bates quotes the impact that this can have on women in later life; “how dads treat their daughters can have a big and long-lasting impact, itself – one study of university age women found that when a father encouraged his daughter to express her opinions growing up, she would generally become more confident at expressing her opinions in school and throughout her life, even when they diverge from the norm.” That’s not to say that single parent families or female parents can’t do the same, but being lucky enough to have that sort of affirmation from a man in your life at such an early age can be a very powerful thing.
In my family, having a feminist father doesn’t mean having a Dad who calls himself a feminist or who likes to quote lines from Lean In or who waves an emblazoned banner at every march. It does mean having a Dad who encouraged my sister and I to play with F1 cars and rugby balls as much as we did with dolls and dressing up. He would buy tampons and sanitary towels without batting an eyelid and would sit combing nit treatment through our wavy manes long into the evening having tackled his share of the domestic chores. We were encouraged to read books, to learn languages, to play sports, to challenge ourselves, to dream big - all of which he still does today.
In recent weeks as I’ve been going round in circles debating a big job move, he’s been checking in making sure I’m asking the questions that really matter to me and listening patiently as I weigh up the pros and cons and talk incessantly on a loop. In my 27 years, he has never once suggested that my gender could be an obstacle to my own success. In fact, he’s made me feel that my personality, spirit and identity must be valued first and protected at all costs. My father might not believe in labels, but he most certainly believes in equal and today, like every day, I am so very grateful and so very glad he is there.