Powerful is the lure of privilege and so long is the shadow of power. –Curtiss DeYoung
What does it look like for a father to leverage his privilege on behalf of his daughter? How should a father use his platform and privilege to advocate for women?
These questions complicate the vocation of fatherhood immensely. After all, daughters are not just daughters, they are also women and women-to-be. It is impossible to erase the implication of a daughter’s womanhood on her status in the world.
When your daughter is born, she joins a people group that has been marginalized and silenced for much of history. She is a woman and thus her capability and humanity are still subjects of debate. Though her worth is likely clear and incontrovertible in your eyes, it is not so in the world. Her value remains an unsettled question.
This painful reality is part of what it means that she was born a daughter and not a son.
And that must inevitably affect your mission as her parent. As a father, you must think beyond the implications of your fatherhood to the implications of your maleness—your privilege.
You are not merely your daughter’s father, you are someone who already sits at the table that she will inevitably be excluded from.
So how does that alter and expand the vocation of fatherhood?
Your daughter will fight for a voice where yours is exercised freely. She will be silenced where you are celebrated for speaking up. She will have to argue for her dignity and her humanity where yours is assumed. She will long for permission to lead and teach where your same gifts have been welcomed and sought after for centuries. She will seek what you already have: a seat at the table.
Being a father means recognizing that your daughter was born into a world that undermines her dignity, and then intentionally doing something about it. It attaches new responsibility to the job. You are not merely a father, you are also your daughter’s advocate. Because you have a seat at the table, you have the ability to lobby for a seat for her too. You can partner with your daughter as she fights for her rights. You can make this your fight. And you can leverage your privilege to give her back her voice.
My dad wasn’t always an advocate for gender equality. He didn’t necessarily oppose it. Like many Christian fathers, he was raised in a family where male leadership was assumed and gender roles were at least loosely observed. A father of three daughters, my dad has always believed that I am the equal of men. But until a few years ago, he hadn’t yet stepped into my shoes as a woman in a world where that often means less than.
When I laid my broken heart for women before my dad, he began to see the world through the eyes of women. He became an advocate. He made gender equality his fight too.
Now, he speaks up when someone makes a gender-based joke or assumption. He pushes back at theology that diminishes women’s humanity and ability. He is eager to talk about women’s experiences around the world. And he leverages his privilege and position on women’s behalf.
So what does it mean for a father to leverage his privilege? I’d like to offer an example from my own life.
Recently, I sent an article to my parents on the importance of women preaching titled, “When She Preaches” by Tara Beth Leach. I wrote something to the effect of: “this is why what I do at CBE is important,” and thought nothing more about it.
A day or two later, my dad forwarded an email he had sent to his pastor. This is what he wrote:
I have been attending [name of church removed] for over a year now and I truly love going to [removed], however I do recognize that many women who are called by God through his Holy Spirit to share the gospel are undeniably left without a place at the table. How can this happen? Will the church listen to and change the heartbreak of so many equally talented women? I pray that the change will start here and now, so all of God’s children are truly equal.
My twenty-three year old daughter sent me this and it has had a profound effect on me, as it has on her. She has shared with me why she can’t attend many churches. She is a writer and editor for CBE and she has enlightened me, her father, to really understand why she feels so passionate about her convictions.
I admit that his words had me blinking away tears. These are more than the words of a loving father. They are the words of a true advocate—one who is not only willing to step out for women, but who is prepared to use his position of power to lend them a voice.
In passing the article along to his pastor, my dad showed that he was moved beyond empathy to action. He was willing to put his name on the line for women who are marginalized in the church. He used his privilege, his seat at the table, to fight for women.
My dad did get a response from his pastor within a few days. I sent a follow-up email, asking for clarification of the response he received. It’s been almost three weeks and I haven’t heard back. The lack of response may have nothing to do with my femaleness—it’s hard to know. But I do know that my dad has a platform of privilege that ensured that his concern was taken seriously.
But significantly, my dad used his male privilege to fight male privilege. He brought my concerns to those with power. And it’s entirely possible that his words fell on listening ears.
I think it’s important to note that men do not have to advocate for women. They do not have to listen. They do not have to fight for change alongside women and on their behalf. They can passively ignore women’s cries for equality. They can even actively oppose justice for women. They can hold tight to their privilege at the expense of the oppressed.
But this is not the heart of the gospel. We are called to use our gifts, even unearned ones, for the glory of God and for others. My dad chose to use his privilege to elevate women.
My dad saw Christianity as necessitating justice for women and he expanded his mission as a father to include a call to advocacy. In the spirit of Christ who poured himself out, my dad was prepared to give up his seat at the table so that women might be heard. This is the expanded mission of a Christian father.