March has become my favorite month without me even realizing it. Every March signifies the beginning of spring. Life is blossoming. It’s also an opportunity for a fresh start for those of us that have failed to keep their New Year’s resolutions. There’s something poetic and meaningful beyond my understanding that Zora Grace, my daughter, was born in the month of March. This month is culturally significant as well, due to the recognition of women’s history. How fitting that my daughter was born in the same month that we earmarked to highlight the many contributions women have made in society? It opens my eyes to how I’ve evolved over the years in the way I view women. Some would say that having a daughter should not be the spark to make one change their views on women in general, but I say everyone has their own unique path to walk. The end goal is equality and equity, though the method to achieve that objective may certainly differ. Contrary to popular thought, none of us were born “woke”. We all came to our current consciousness through experiences, but most importantly through mistakes.
“They say boys don’t cry, but your dad has shed a lot of tears. They say I should be a strong man, but baby, I’m still filled with fear. Sometimes I don’t know who I am. Sometimes I question why I’m here. I just wanna be a good dad. Will I be? I have no idea.” - Macklemore
The summer of 2010 will forever be etched in my memory. I figuratively and literally jumped the broom with my college sweetheart and a few months later found out we were having our first child. All of this was happening while I was on my third failed attempt at grad school. Not to go into too much detail, but I figured I would try my hand at truly becoming a scholar and eventually become a professor. That didn’t last long. Matter of fact, my half marathon race time was probably longer. One glimmer of success from that entire ordeal was a gender studies course that I was enrolled in my first semester. In that course, I learned more about micro aggressions, mansplaining, and the gender pay gap than my entire existence up to that point. It adjusted my lens on women issues and has given me the confidence to advocate for women with the privilege I do have. I vividly recall the nights that I would come home from class and share what I learned with Julia, only for her to reinforce empirical data with real life examples. Not only was she a sociology major in college, but she’s a woman as well. One that has experienced this world as it is and not how it should be.
Even as I was confronted my myopic understanding of true equity in our society during class, I was still eager to learn and unlearn. In no way was I magically transformed after a mere semester of gender studies, but the true work lived on beyond the university walls. I remember being excited, nervous, and mostly proud as I revealed to my classmates that my first kid was going to be a girl. I was ready to be a father, but more importantly, I was ready to be her dad. I was prepared to protect at all costs, defend her when she wasn’t able to, and love her unconditionally through all of life’s challenges.
Zora has pushed me out of the comfort zone of what I have deemed as normal thinking. I’ve been forced to come to terms with my previous ideas of gender roles and have put into practice methods to understand first, before preconceived notions. Zora has made me something I never realized I could be, a girl dad. As the hashtag has made its rounds across many social platforms, it was initially spurned on by tragedy. The untimely death of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, and seven other passengers upon that fateful helicopter has lead many fans and the general public to take interest in how Kobe lived his life. The five time NBA champion had all daughters as children and was a strong advocate for women in sports. In a recount of the one and only time ESPN anchor Elle Duncan met Kobe, he described himself to her as a “girl dad”. Though I could never replace Julia’s role in our daughter’s life, I continue to be fully committed to uplifting her. As the Head Girl Dad In Charge, every day I strive to ensure she’s confident, firm, well-rounded, and independent. I’ve pledged to be a listening ear, non-judgmental, and the peace she needs in a world that seeks to silence brown girls.
Shout out to all the girl dads who are on the path of continuous learning. Who’ve made mistakes in the past concerning women, but don’t shy away from their wrongdoings. As I continue to grow and listen actively, I understand that there are a myriad of ways that I can lend my privilege to the women in my life and the women that I work with on a daily basis. Often, that helps comes in the form of merely shutting up. Being quiet enough to allow women to vent, strategize, or whatever they choose to do without providing my input. It means leveraging the power we wield in the workplace to advocate for women and allow their voices to be amplified. Sharing slices of the pie does not equate to losing out on the entire meal. Equity is not just a fancy diversity and inclusion buzzword, but something to strive towards by each member of our society. For me, being a girl dad goes beyond our father/daughter dates or watching Descendants 3 together, it means building a new world. One that doesn’t stifle, limit, or out right bar girls from achieving excellence, but encourages, nourishes, and promotes half our population to be their best selves.