Australian Father’s Day, of Things to Wax Poetic, and Me
In Australia, Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September. Because of this, the day falls victim to the international church standard of every first Sunday being a fast and testimony (“F&T”) meeting. Many people bear particular testimony of fathers on this day, and some bishops allow for special primary presentations during the Priesthood lesson hour of church. But for the most part, Father’s Day is not institutionally celebrated within the Australian arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The absence of the institutional adaptation within Australian culture with a simple “F&T Sunday swap” has always bothered me, in many ways more than it bothers my husband. To me, it is a glaring example of the Americanization of the correlated church; it is also an example of sexism.
My husband is a good father, and I love him for many reasons, including his fathering skills and loving father’s heart. I find joy in recognising and celebrating him as the father of my children; for me, it is an egalitarian recognition of shared parenting within the walls of my home. I like having my children select gifts for him, and help me make and decorate his favourite kind of chocolate cake.
In preparation for this, I took one of my daughters shopping for Father’s Day a week ago. It was a lovely spring day (seasons here are opposite to the northern hemisphere), and I enjoyed having one-on-one time with her. She mentioned knowing about something that her dad had looked at on the previous weekend when he had taken her to do the shopping, so she and I were on an easy hunt. We found the items she recalled he wanted, and happily went to the checkout counter. The checkout counter had a display of Father’s Day cards on it—and these cards were just up my alley. The cards were sold by a charity that raises money for low-income families to use for school supplies and uniforms. For us, school fees, requisite books and supplies as well as school uniforms cost something in the market of $500 per child at the start of the school year. This is not an optional fee; it is required. The aim of this charity was to help provide funds to low income families to get these necessary school supplies for children to attend school. Not only that, the charity also helps low-income students to attend and participate in extra curricular arts and sports. Yes, it was just the kind of business I love to support.
Next awesome thing: Embedded in the cards were seeds. So, father and child would plant the card from whence flowers would grow. Be still my heart! So much beautiful symbolism! Father’s seeds being planted with celebration in mother earth in Australian spring! Oh! and then the long term relationship symbolically shared between father and child watering and caring for the plants— well, it all just made me want to wax poetic!
But then I really saw it:
Daddy’s Little Man vs. Daddy’s Little Girl.
I hoped that the cards might be different on the inside, but they weren’t. Inside said the same thing. I was shocked by how much this bothered me….because there was so much good. So, so much good. But I was stuck. Was my daughter only a “girl” whilst another woman’s son was a “Man”? Why? Wasn’t it blatantly obvious that this was berating to females? The mixed messages of compassion and sexism confused me, and I decided I could not buy a card.
Instead, I photographed it. The cashier was curious as to why I wanted to photograph the display. “It’s sexist,” I said bluntly. She looked at me blankly, as another cashier and the man in the next line peered over, curious about my statement. The cashier looked at me blankly.
“It’s meant to be cute….” she said, confused.
“See?” I said, “Man and girl. It says ‘Daddy’s little man’ and ‘daddy’s little girl.’ Why couldn’t they have used ‘boy’ instead of man? Or written, ‘Daddy’s little woman’?”
“I just think it’s cute,” She said. “It’s meant to be cute.”
The man next to me looked more intently at the display. Another woman came over to see what the fuss was about, and I began to feel like I was causing a scene. I didn’t want to cause a scene. I quickly took a photo that came out blurry. So I took a breath, then tried again. This time the image came out. I was suddenly feeling angry.
“Yep….” I muttered as I punched in the pin number on my bank card to pay for my other purchases, “but it is sexist to label the female as a ‘girl’ when the male is a ‘man.’”
“Oh, I just think it’s cute,” she said again, as though she was trying to explain to me that it wasn’t meant to be political.
But it was political. “I’m a feminist,” I said soundly. “The card is sexist. ‘Boy’ is equal to ‘girl,’ and ‘man’ is equal to ‘woman.’ The cards are unmatched. They are not positioning women and girls as equal to men and boys.”
“Is it the same inside the cards?” she queried, looking inside, but not making eye contact.
“Yes,” I said.
“I just think it’s cute,” she said yet again, and started to stack things under the counter. She was trying to get away from me. So I took my bag and my daughter and left, feeling the cashiers’ and shoppers’ eye rolling as I walked away, anxious to avoid a scene.
But I am a woman. And a daughter. And I have daughters. And those words…..
I felt like I often do at church: I am the ‘girl’ in the room with a Priesthood ‘man.’ I am the Australian’girl’ in the American ‘man’ church, where idiosyncrasy of calendar and culture, even in relation to support of the traditional family– still only have a child’s voice: a voice that is too easily overpowered by the corporate, American, church of man. Yet…. the church is so much of who I am and what I love. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I have a testimony of Christ. The church has so many things of which I want to wax poetic!
But. Daddy’s Little Man vs. Daddy’s Little Girl.
Too often, the words do not match.
Maybe the cashiers and other customers talked about me after. Maybe they laughed about the situation. Maybe they just forgot about it, and labelled me as a daft rebel-rouser. But what if they didn’t? A week later, I still wonder if I left a good, or bad name for feminists. I was concerned that these strangers would label feminists as women would didn’t support education for impoverished children, or that feminists weren’t environmentally astute. Or that feminists didn’t appreciate “cute.” Just as I worry that people challenge me about my testimony when I speak up for women, or non-Americans, or any marginalized group, when I am only allowed the voice of a girl. Because I care deeply about these things. Really, this is just the kind of card I want, just the kind of organization I support. Just like this is the church wherein I want to worship, serve and participate.
The card was too much like me. I think that is what bothered me the most.
In the end, I resolved to send an email to the charity. Because I support them and their goals of education and the environment. Plus, I am sad that I didn’t get a cool card that could be planted. But I am a feminist. And the words in the card were not. So I could not buy it.
Could you buy this card? Why or why not?