(60) Feminist Dad with Jordan

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Join me for this remarkable episode where a dude, author Jordan Shapiro, is doing the important work of fighting the patriarchy! Feminism is funny, apparently, because we laugh a lot as we talk about what he learned in the locker room that stayed with him as he grew into a man, the problematic narrative of men thinking they’re the hero of everyone’s story, subtle anti-feminist sentiments dads don’t realize they have, how they can shift their thinking which benefits everyone around them, and more.

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Brandy: Hello Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. What’s remarkable about this episode is that the majority of the interviews I do on here are with women who are trying to right the wrongs of the patriarchy. But in this episode it’s a DUDE who’s doing that important work and he’s really good at it. And gosh, we laugh a lot together and really hard so join me and my author guest Jordan Shapiro as we talk about his new book detailing what he learned in the locker room that stayed with him as he grew into a man, the problematic narrative of men thinking they’re the hero of everyone’s story, subtle anti-feminist sentiments dads don’t realize they have, and how they can shift their thinking which benefits everyone around them. And why not invite the men in your life to listen as well? And by men in your life I mean the twenty men you’re seeing on the side. 

Brandy: I want to give a quick shout out to my newest Patreon peep, Missy Coffman. Thank you Missy and my hoards of other Patreon subscribers who make this podcast possible. If you want to support me and this podcast, go to Patreon.com/AdultConversation and for the price of half of a rotisserie chicken, you can make my most wildest dreams come true. On to the show.

Brandy: Today on the podcast I am lucky to have a returning guest, author Jordan Shapiro who spoke about his book The New Childhood last time which was a gift to us parents because it said among other things that we don’t have to fear screentime like it’s going to completely ruin our kids. And it had such a refreshing and science-based point of view so I loved it. And now Jordan’s back with another progressive book called Father Figure: How to be a Feminist Dad which had me all fired up as I was reading it and we are going to unpack it together. So welcome to the podcast, Jordan.

Jordan: Thanks for having me, it’s great to be here.

Brandy: Yes, it’s good to hear your voice again. Ok, so I ask all my guests what they think the listeners need to know about them and since I already asked you this last time, this time I want to know what is something the pandemic has taught you? Because we weren’t in a pandemic  last time I talked to you.

Jordan: That’s true. Something the pandemic has taught me. That’s a hard question. I mean on the one hand I think at first the pandemic didn’t feel that hard to me. I was sort of getting ready to write a book anyway, so I had already put my mindset in lockdown, not talking to anyone so— {Laughs}

Brandy: Yeah, yes.

Jordan: So I was like, this is great, now I don’t need to make any excuses, I could just be like, “Sorry, can’t go anywhere, can’t see anyone.”

Brandy: And you thought the world revolved around you like, “This is so nice for the universe to have given ME this time, right? I’m so sorry people had to die for it but it’s really nourishing to my book writing.” 

Jordan: {Laughs} Yes exactly. Something like that, maybe not those exact words. {Laughs}

Brandy: {Laughs} Right, right.

Jordan: But I think one of the things that struck me was I do a lot of travelling for work and I do a lot of speaking at conferences and I have a lot of friends that I only see at those kinds of conferences and to realize the degree to which they nourish me or shape a part of who I am and I had to plan those things and it took me months before I went, “Whoa I haven’t had Lucy’s voice in my head in months, I haven’t had so-and-so’s voice—” and so I really had to plan those Zoom meetings instead of them being able to happen by happenstance. I think we forget how many people actually shape our psyches on a daily basis.

Brandy: True, when you really look at the people that you’re seeing in person and it’s such a short list, it’s like, oh my gosh, what happened to my world? 

Jordan: Absolutely.

Brandy: Ok, so this is a long thing that I want to talk to you about here. As I read your book I kept copying and pasting sections that stood out to me and it was getting ridiculous. I was just copying and pasting nonstop. There was so much that I wanted to ask you about with this book and the one thing I want to address here first is that many of my listeners are women. So as I’m reading your book and then putting this interview together I’m thinking about who it’s targeted to. Is it targeted to moms or dads? And like I said, there were so many parts to the book that made such important points. And then I was having a bit of a hard time thinking about sharing its ideas with other women here because who really needs to hear it are the dads and I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that moms should read this and then give their husbands the highlights or pre-read it for them (which is a thing, by the way) because that’s part of the problem. 

Jordan: {Laughs}

Brandy: Why are women having these conversations about feminist fatherhood instead of the men? So I was finding myself feeling torn there and wanted to vocalize it here and get your take on who you wrote this book for, how it’s best used, and this podcast episode – do we think it’s for moms? Is it for dads? I’m not totally sure, maybe it’s for both? Because I will say as a mom it was so validating to hear what you had to say and your philosophies and theories about things and research about why, for example, dads seem to believe they’re the hero in their own story and their nuclear family typically bends toward their needs and desires. This book felt really similar to Darcy Lockman’s All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers and the Myth of Equal Partnership (she was a past podcast guest whom I loved) in the way that it gave words to something we all feel but most haven’t named. Thank you for that. What are your thoughts on all of that? 

Jordan: {Laughs} This is something that I’ve been sitting with for almost a year and a half, this exact question for myself which is, who’s really the audience for the book? On the one hand, as you know, when you’re an author you’re writing the thing that needs to come out of you on some level, but then you have to constantly be asking the not-so-fun marketing questions all the time: Who’s the audience? Who’s gonna buy it? 

Brandy: Right. Of course.

Jordan: This book was hard because certainly the audience in my head was men and dads. Dads similar to the dad in your novel. Dads who are mostly trying to do the right thing, who are trying to care for their families but are missing the mark and don’t understand how and don’t understand why and are having trouble making sense of how often their partners or their families are disappointed in them. Right? That’s who I was really imagining as I wrote it but then of course the statistics when you look at them— men don’t buy books. Women buy most books. I don’t want to say no men buy books, I buy a ton of books. But you get the point. Statistically speaking women buy most books so the question for me has always sort of been, who’s going to buy it? But I love what you said because I’ve heard from a number of the early readers that were women that they did find it not only validating, but also an explanation for—

Brandy: Yes!

Jordan: One of the things I talk about in Father Figure that I think is under-talked about is this notion that so many men— men’s experience of patriarchy is not just the opposite of women’s experience. Women experience being subjugated, being oppressed, however we want to say it. But for men it’s not this feeling of dominance because in most places, in most men’s life, we are not the dominant one so we also feel subjugated. {Laughs} We’re in this battle for who’s the alpha male all the time and mostly losing because it’s nonsense.

Brandy: Well right, because you’re all doing it and you all think there’s one winner. That sucks. {Laughs}

Jordan: Right and so on some level I DO think it’s really an important book for moms to read to go, “Oh right, this is what’s going on inside men’s minds” but there’s no part, as you know of this book that’s going, “Hey, men are a victim, or, men don’t have to bear responsibility.” This book is all about bearing responsibility and taking accountability but also with a deep understanding of the psychological struggle that men are going through.

Brandy: I thought that was great because to be honest with you, at the very beginning when I started reading it, I’m like, “This should be interesting.” I’m so curious – as I’m sure any woman who picks up the book is maybe wondering the same thing, and you totally had me. I love that you start each section with your process and the way that you’re messing it up sometimes and those things because I think it’s helpful to get into the head of that, but then also I’m thinking about other men reading it and then I’m thinking, that’s so validating because maybe they’ll more easily be able to lose the defensiveness and be like, “Well if Jordan said he yells at his kids and wishes he didn’t and maybe he’s playing out some story that he’s been told about that dads are authoritative and all these things, maybe I can take a look at that instead of trying to defend myself.” I really felt like you did a great job on that. There was— let me look through my seven pages of notes— There was a quote that, I think maybe I gasped at? Well, there were two actually. The quote was (thank you for this). You say, “To this end, I announce my feminist intentions to the whole family regularly but it’s not really enough. Feminist Dad is not a costume I can pull off the shelf. It’s not a political stance that I can silkscreen onto a T-shirt or a selfie I can post on Instagram. Instead I need to make proactive choices that affirm my ongoing commitment to gender equality. To do so, I start in the most obvious place: thinking critically about the distribution of household labor.” This is where I just was like, “Yes, Jordan, thank you!” and wanted all the men in the world to read that.

Jordan: Yeah, and it’s sort of like the simplest place. You just sit there and go, “Who’s doing which jobs and why are you doing those jobs and why are they divided that way?” I write about this alot in Father Figure. We all sort of divide jobs based on what we’ve seen happen before without ever giving much thought to it and they don’t necessarily make sense. In my house with my partner, Amanda, I do all the cooking. This is not an attempt to flip the script, it’s because I was a chef for years. {Laughs} I do it better so it makes more sense that I should be the one doing it. So that’s the question I would encourage all men to ask: Are you doing it because someone’s actually better at it or are you doing it because you don’t want to and you think it’s her job?

Brandy: Exactly. The way that I put it, the less intellectual way I put it, “Are genitals dictating chores? You have a penis so you take the trash out, I have a vagina so I do everything else.” Or however it goes. {Laughs}

Jordan: {Laughs}

Brandy: The other quote— I’m getting to this at the beginning because it’s the one that I have forwarded to a whole bunch of my friends because it spoke to something I didn’t know was a thing inside me, and it’s a thing. In this quote you said, “Fathers, by the way, tend to spend a lot more time playing with their kids; ball on the front lawn, jovial roughhousing, pro social teasing, joint media engagement and video games. This seems nice, but it also reinforces narcissistic, patriarchal authority. Like the old image of the lazy husband served dinner and beer in front of the football game, it sends kids the message that the home is maintained by  women for the purpose of providing a place for male leisure and relaxation. Worse still, when it comes to the business of family care, even the dads who identify as progressive, evolved, and feminist are inclined to see themselves as helpers and babysitters, not the assertive administrators of everyday parenting tasks. They’re happy to offer assistance when mom asks but when you add all their contributions up, fathers look a lot more like children, albeit obliging older siblings than equally responsible co-parents.” This, Jordan, was so important for me because when dads play with the kids in their time together it feels so special, and as a mom I don’t want to break that up, that’s special time with dad. And so sometimes when we’re still doing the dishes or getting the backpacks ready for the next day and the dad is playing with the kids, we feel like “I don’t want to interrupt that because that’s bonding.” But it also feels like something is being missed or avoided and you nailed it! That’s exactly right, it feels like the work of women is to make leisure happen for the husband. So thank you for that.

Jordan: {Laughs} Yeah! You know, I think I actually, in your book underlined something where you said the same thing. You called it “bookend parenting,” which is what dads often are doing and I think it’s not just—I mean it IS often schedule-wise bookend parenting but I think it’s also bookend parenting in that in between diaper changes, in between temper tantrums, in between baths, and putting to bed, there’s the opportunity for dad to just be playful best friend. I have to give credit to Anya Kamenetz who wrote The Art of Screentime, NPR correspondent, she’s a friend of mine and we were once on a panel, both of us, talking about our books, my previous book, The New Childhood which we talked about last time I was on your podcast. Anya at one point said, “I think the difference between our books is Jordan’s a dad so he writes about playing with his kids. I’m a mom so I have to figure out the logistics of screentime.” And I went “Oh crap.” {Laughs}

Brandy: Shit. Yeah.

Jordan: That actually inspired a lot of this whole book. Anya’s dead on on that. I don’t think anything I said in The New Childhood was wrong but I think there was a level of male privilege that wasn’t acknowledged in all the advice I was giving in that previous book so I felt like I had to follow it up with a book that acknowledged that. 

Brandy: That’s so interesting because I was going to ask you, is there anything especially with the pandemic— was there anything from that book that you felt like, maybe now that we’re all on screens all the time, maybe some of those things aren’t true? But this is actually almost even more interesting because that’s the thing I was just going to say, the thing about the playing. As the women, we’re holding onto the rules of everything, the overarching, all the pieces. So for dad to come in and plug in and plug out, he’s not part (a lot of the times) of the framework of how things work and the discipline of that or just holding onto that. So gosh, that’s a really fascinating moment. 

Jordan: But then often he’s supposed to give the lectures, right? Because— and I get into this in Father Figure with all this stuff you were just saying about: being in charge of the story, being the hero, dad gets to then be the moral authority. “Now I’m gonna lay down the law even though I’ve done nothing to enforce it.” {Laughs}

Brandy: Yes, that’s problematic as well. Also adding on to what you were saying about this colleague of yours and what she said, you talked about—you mentioned a review of your last book in which you were stigmatized because you were a divorced dad and people felt like, “Well you’re a divorced dad so you’re not as involved,” or something and that seemed like part of the impetus for this as well. Can you tell us more about that? 

Jordan: Yeah so, I open the book with the story of seeing the first review of The New Childhood and discovering in it that it did mention right away “divorced dad” with this implication that if you’re a divorced dad you couldn’t possibly be a good dad, that if things didn’t look like the “normal cis-hetero” family then it must be automatically not good parenting. I hadn’t really imagined that. There’s a lot more to it as I’ve discovered while promoting a book as a parenting expert that I didn’t even fit the “normal” model of the male parenting expert. We’re ok with books by moms that are about experience and intuition and we’re ok with books by male doctors about what’s in the best interest of kids but the idea of a dad writing from personal experience, that just doesn’t fit our model because dads are supposed to know best, not learn from experience, not ever have to reflect, not have to do the kind of self-interrogation that realistically we all have to do, but that’s not the image that’s held up in the media and I found that a lot while promoting The New Childhood that I just didn’t fit what people expected. That doesn’t mean that— I’m not trying to say anyone was mean or that I’m a victim or anything like that. 

Brandy: Sure, sure. No.

Jordan: I’m just saying it was a clear message that was coming in from all sides and it made me go, “Hey I think I need to write a book that sort of re-examines what it means to be a dad in the twenty-first century” because the truth is those familiar, comfortable images that are all over our televisions and all over the internet and all over books and all over everything about what it means to be the “good dad” does not fit into the current world and there’s not another alternative. I think that’s a big— for me there’s another deeper, larger social problem that I was hoping to be of service to, which is, how do you provide to men? What we see is in a world where gender’s being renegotiated, where we’re all thinking a lot more about equality (not just around gender), inclusivity, around everything; race, ethnicity. A lot of people don’t know how to imagine themselves without old identity signifiers, without the old imagery of “patriarchal tyrant,” right? 

Brandy: Yes.

Jordan: What you see in the news is a lot of people sort of going backwards, going, “Wait! You’re breaking everything! I feel unstable. Please put it back in order the old way!” and this is like the backlash of patriarchal misogyny. We should be sexist, all these books, you know, the Incel movement, all the stuff we hear about all the time.

Brandy: {Laughs} Right?

Jordan: To me there’s (I’m not trying to say it’s ok) but there’s something understandable to me about the idea that when your footing is missing you’re going to grab anything that feels stable and so the service I wanted to provide with Father Figure is, how can I provide something stable that’s a better choice, that’s more progressive, that’s more forward looking, that’s more attuned to what seems, at least, to look like we’re moving toward a post-patriarchal world. We’re not there yet but we seem to be moving in that direction.

Brandy: Yes, and you had a quote that was something to the effect of, “It’s so much easier to call out the problems than it is to actually change, make new systems and structures” and I felt like that’s where we’re stuck. We are stuck in that spot. Which as we all know— well, I mean I guess we’re maybe a step before that because not everybody knows. We’re starting to know these things but in order to make this new world and change things, I think a lot of people are stuck with the “let’s point out where it’s broken” but people aren’t in the “here’s how we fix it” yet. I feel like your book is great at calling that out and then also hopefully starts to give a map of, “Here’s some of the ways that we can do this.” Obviously, systemic needs to happen but I just keep feeling like even though we are there, we’re not. My example for that is in the pandemic, so many kids (my kids) have been home for an entire year and a lot of other peoples’ have and I only have two and they’re pretty well behaved but I know a lot of other people who are just drowning with their kids at home and I thought in the beginning, “Okay, everyone’s going to know what it’s like to try to get shit done with kids at home and all of a sudden dads are going to be saying to their employers, ‘Listen, I have to work an hour or two less a day because I gotta help with my kids at home now,’” and that did not happen. Women picked up the slack and not only that, but they left the workplace and left their careers which is really their financial freedom if they need it and basically bore the burden of this and nothing changed. I didn’t see any corporations and the workplace—[say] we now work less hours a day so that dads can help with all the things that have to happen. So we know this and every woman— I mean all you have to do is be in one mom’s group to really understand how done we all are. But nothing’s changing. It’s just the same and once the pandemic’s over it’ll be like, “That was cool,” and I don’t think we’ll look at it again.

Jordan: Well, I hope you’re wrong. {Laughs}

Brandy: Yeah, ok so maybe I’m a little pessimistic but I feel like I’ve earned that right because I’ve seen it over and over and every time we feel like, “No, this is the moment that people are gonna wake up and there’s gonna be change,” there never is. We just keep doing the extra shit because nobody is. But I appreciate your take (which is probably right) which is, it will get better. 

Jordan: I get as skeptical as you sometimes. We never know. On the one hand, I think we’ve seen a lot of press covering the “care crisis” that the pandemic revealed and that’s encouraging, but then there’s also the part of me that was already researching this book before the pandemic and going, “Wait a second, this was all here and clear way before the pandemic.” 

Brandy: Yes! 

Jordan: I really hope this makes us talk about it but let’s not pretend that there was that much of a change because of it in terms of gender and family because really, the only thing is we’ve got a lot of New York Times articles about something that was already very present.

Brandy: Yes. Oh my gosh, yes. That’s what I want to ask you about— for some of the women listening who want to pass this along to the men in their life or men listening, for any of us and anybody in between— you have so many things that you call out and one of them is “narcissistic patriarchal authority.” Will you talk to us about what that is? 

Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. “Narcissistic patriarchal authority” is this idea that I think has been presented— it’s a term that I’ve come up with— that describes something that I think is all over the media that dads are told about them, it’s in the “father’s know best” idea and it’s this idea that we’re at the center of the story. That Dad is the hero of the story. The reason I call it “narcissistic patriarchal authority” is because I’m being really literal. The story of Narcissus is the story of the boy who sees his reflection in the water and starts to love it so much that the rest of the world disappears. That’s the narcissistic part. That’s literally what “narcissism” means, is that no matter what you see, you just see a reflection of yourself and for many dads that means they just see their children as their patrilineage, they just see their wives as the person making the “fathers know best” work better. {Laughs}

Brandy: Yes. Supplemental. 

Jordan: Right, so that’s narcissistic and patriarchal. “Patriarchal” just means having to do with the father and then I use “authority” very literally which comes from the same as “author.”  It’s this idea of “Who writes the story? Who’s the author?” The argument that I’m making here is that dads are taught that they SHOULD author the story, and everybody else is sort of a supplemental character in this story that’s ultimately theirs. What I think that looks like on an everyday basis is— I know myself sometimes, when I’m at my worst— if I’m writing and my kids come down and talk to me, I feel like it’s an interruption. I sort of forget that they have their own life going on where they’re the hero and there’s an alt narrative and a whole story outside that has nothing to do with me. One of the ways I put it in the book is, everybody believes they’re the hero of their own story and to be less “narcissistic patriarchal authoritative” what you have to do is recognize that you’re probably the villain in somebody else’s story, or the mentor, or the comedic sidekick. {Laughs}

Brandy: The fool. {Laughs} 

Jordan: Exactly, and you have to acknowledge what is the part you’re playing in other people’s stories? Another thing I think is important in this is if you ask— one of the reasons I love this idea— I think if you ask most dads if they are for gender equality, they go, “absolutely” but if you say, “Are you a feminist?” they go, “Oh no, I’m not THAT serious” as if these things mean anything different. But I think what’s at the root of this IS the “narcissistic patriarchal authority” which is that we walk through our lives thinking we’re the hero, thinking we’re making the right choices, trying to be good men, doing the best we can to be good men and then we turn on the news or we hear from our partners that, “Whoa! What you just did is misogynistic, what you just did is sexist,” and it’s too hard for us to realize— dads can’t understand, “How can I be both the hero and the villain at the same time? I’m definitely the hero so why does everyone keep saying I’m a villain?” What I’m saying is yeah, you CAN be both. It’s possible for you to be a really good person who’s always putting your family first and also be the villain in their stories because you’re not doing it in the most responsive way. That’s what I’m trying to help men see. I think there’s all these men’s books—when I was researching I read all of the popular men’s books like Way of the Superior Man and the Jordan Peterson book, and I have terrible, evil things to say about all of them but I don’t want to criticize them because I think what happened is many men read these books and what they find is this real sense of, “How do I feel confident in myself? How do I do something that’s authentic and real? How do I be present?” and that all feels really good and that’s all really good advice. But it’s all sort of couched in this gender-essentialism like all that’s part of your erection or something, like “I need my authentic erection to be present. What does my penis think?” It’s nonsense. {Laughs}

Brandy: {Laughs} Yes, right.

Jordan: I think what confuses men is, on the one hand, they read these books and they go, “Wow, this is good self help that makes me feel strong and empowered and autonomous and good,” and then they go home and they tell the things they read to their wives or their partners or their daughters or their mothers (any women in their life) and they go, “That sounds pretty sexist to me,” and they can’t reconcile this. Imagine you read your favorite spiritual book that made you feel totally transformed and then you went and told someone about it and they went, “Yeah, that’s evil.” {Laughs}

Brandy: Wow.

Jordan: Right? So I wanted to go, “How do we take out the good stuff in these books that have put the penis at the center of something that has nothing to do with genitals and throw all that out and just be the authentic, present, good person trying to make the right decisions?”

Brandy: Yes, right. There’s something that you said that makes so much sense to me which is, “Dads who are the hero of the story and they have a hard time understanding that they could also be the villain and the hero” because I think (and you talk about this in your book) about how black and white thinking that men can have – the “baby jar” metaphor that you used, which we’ll talk about in a second – I think what happens is when dads are the sole breadwinner I think that they think, “I’m making money and so I’m the hero. The hero makes money,” as if that’s the end all be all. So any wanting to tweak that around like, “Hey you’re working sixty hours a week, maybe we should think about that” it’s like, “I’m the hero. I go out and I make the money.” It’s like that somehow checks the entire box of “hero” and it’s that nuance of it. You can be the hero and not maybe be making as much money but be tending to all the other people’s needs that are outside of just that one need. I see that in so many moms and friends. It’s something that people talk about all the time. Then that dictates as part of the “narcissistic patriarchal authority” that you’re talking about— that then, dictates, because man makes the money— that dictates everything. So everything DOES bend to him and then I think what happens is moms have a hard time arguing with that because it is like, “Well, he makes the money.” But there’s so much more to it and that’s not just heroic in its own right. Even though it’s amazing and it’s great and we appreciate it. But that alone is not everything. The money does not check all the boxes. 

Jordan: Yeah, I think that’s right. I also think that it’s even deeper than just the money. I think the money and the breadwinner is often where it gets thrown in but I think it’s sort of built into the narrative of fatherhood and this idea of what fatherhood identity is and I think if you spend a little time on Instagram at some of the dad influencer things, what you’ll see is that even the stay-at-home dads, they’ve got the whole family revolving around their home brewing and bread making. {Laughs} Right? They’re still the center of the story, even if the mother IS the breadwinner. I think this is straight up misogyny and patriarchy. Men are taught— I see this with kids, I see this with students, and I think we know—we have a ton of research that shows that even as very little kids, boys are often taught that they’re allowed to create the story, where girls are often taught that they’re supposed to respond or help others. I see it sometimes in kids— you’ll often see a brother and a sister and the sister is always willing to sacrifice for the brother but never the other way around. {Laughs}

Brandy: Yes. Oh gosh. 

Jordan: That’s what we’re teaching them really young and then I think that it sort of grows up to where dads now see it, and what I’m imploring dads to do in this book is to go, “Hey it’s really not that hard for you to say ‘I’m not the center of the story’.” I mean you’re still the center of your own story, I’m not trying to tell you to be any less than what YOU are. I’m just trying to say, also acknowledge that all the other people in your household are also the center of an equally important story. The truth is I promise you— and I’ve said this to a lot of men— I promise you that if you take this stance of self-interrogation, a willingness to respond to your children and your partner, you’re going to like it better because they’re all going to like YOU better. Because if there’s one thing we all know it’s that we like the people who care about us more. 

Brandy: Yeah. Right.

Jordan: The more you turn to your wife and go, “Tell me about you, how can I help respond to it?” the happier your marriage is going to be. It’s so simple. {Laughs}

Brandy: Oh my gosh, that’s so true! All this patriarchal stuff, it sucks for you guys, too. It’s so much better (it would be)— and this is always what I’m imploring— especially to guys who are like, “You’re a ‘man-hater’” or whatever. “No, I want you to have autonomy and joy and respect and happiness and authenticity. I want you to have all the same things.” That actually brings me to— I love the definition of “feminism” that you included in the book. It’s from bell hooks and it says, “Simply put, ‘feminism’ is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.” It’s such a clear way to put it. That’s the thing is we’re not asking for more, we don’t want to take the hero role, we just need you dial it back a little bit. And it serves dads as well. The other thing I was going to say is when the “narcissistic patriarchal authority,” the hero of his own story— I was thinking this shows up also when you live somewhere, when you have to move somewhere for Dad’s job or a dad really wants to live in a certain state or whatever, I think that’s where this can show up as well. So as a test for the listeners, ask yourself:  Are you living where you live because YOU wanted to, because your PARTNER wanted to, or because you BOTH wanted to? Hopefully many of you will say it’s because you BOTH wanted to and you actually had a say in that. I also talk to a lot of people who have moved for their husband’s job and even logistically and practically I understand that. If that’s the bend to everything and somebody’s somewhere that they don’t want to be, that’s a problem and that’s part of what you’re saying is the problem, too. 

Jordan: Yeah, and also it’s what’s at the core of— you know, to put it even closer to home, example of, it’s not as big as where you move if you think about— in YOUR book, Brandy, you talked a lot about the way the dad can just sort of assume there’s a babysitter there because mom’s the built-in babysitter, right? 

Brandy: Oh yeah! Yeah. 

Jordan: That’s this assumption that my story— I’m moving through my story and obviously everybody else there is just there to catch the things that are falling so the story can go forward, instead of recognizing that mom also has a story and her story needs someone to catch the pieces as well. I’m not even saying we should stop that, I actually just think we should equally catch each others’ objects that are falling, and doing it for each other all the time, Mom and Dad. 

Brandy: Ok so this interview is over because that’s it, that is literally the crux of all of it. It’s just an equal catching of each others’ things. That should be wedding vows or something. 

Jordan: {Laughs}

Brandy: Although, you had me second guessing weddings because you had a quote in your book that was basically like, “Weddings—” and I can’t remember if you were quoting somebody else or whatnot, I think you were— but it was basically like, “Weddings are basically a girl getting unmarried from her dad and now she’s marrying another man who’s probably going to be authoritative over her and then her mom tries to look as young as she can at the ceremony.” {Laughs} 

Jordan: Yes. {Laughs}

Brandy: That sounds great!

Jordan: I think one of the things that you’re bringing up, which I think is really important to the whole book, is that at the core we have to acknowledge— and I go through a lot of the history in Father Figure about this— that the cis-hetero nuclear family serves dad. It doesn’t serve anyone else. It’s not in anyone else’s best interest. It serves Dad. Now I’m not saying we should get rid of it, I live in a family that’s pretty “ordinary nuclear family.” I live with my partner, Amanda, we have my kids and her kids so there’s four kids around here at half-time custody and I’m not trying to say, “Hey let’s get rid of monogamous cis-hetero relationships.”

Brandy: Sure. Yeah. Right. 

Jordan: We want to live like that. But that means we have to reevaluate what that looks like by acknowledging that the institution in its origin and in most of its conventions is not equal. Therefore we have to reinvent it for our personal families in ways that acknowledge other peoples’ needs. 

Brandy: Yes. Yes!

Jordan: So absolutely I think we have to acknowledge that the wedding is full of really weird, sexist conventions like the giving away of the bride. It’s just weird and kind of gross but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon it, that means we have to reinvent it.

Brandy: Yes. I had at my wedding, I had both of my parents walk me down the aisle and I couldn’t have told you at the time because I wasn’t “woke” in my ways yet but I just somehow intuitively felt like I don’t feel like my dad should have authority over me. I don’t feel like— and even in the bigger sense— is it kind of weird to have your parents walk you down? You’re a grown woman and then you’re like, “But these people are relinquishing me but I’ve been relinquished for quite a while anyway.” I had both of my parents walk me down because that part always just feels a little bit odd to me. But your framing of it, I was like, “Oh God, weddings are a problem,” and then I have to pull back. Like you said, not all of it is problematic but I thought that was a very interesting take on it, for sure. 

Jordan: Yeah, and I think we all sort of know this on some intuitive level which is why when we all heard that Mike Pence calls his wife “Mother” everybody was like, “That’s a little weird.” {Laughs}

Brandy: {Snickers} Mooother… {Laughs}

Jordan: Right? It’s almost like we intuitively get that the way of thinking about motherhood and fatherhood has some inherent inequalities built in. It doesn’t mean we’re all ready to figure out how to do it but I’m hoping that Father Figure helps people go, “How do I reflect on the ways that I’m doing this so that I can make it work for me?”

Brandy: Yes. Yeah.

Jordan: That’s what I want. I’m not trying to tell anybody to change what they— well, I AM telling them to change some things but I’m not trying to say your whole life is— you’re a super villain, you live in an evil lair— I’m trying to say you need to spruce up your lair. {Laughs}

Brandy: Yeah. Yes. Exactly. I loved this part. Will you tell us more about “responsive fathering” and what that is? 

Jordan: Yeah, sure. The first thing I’ll say is that although I do use the term “responsive fathering” in the book it should really be “responsive parenting” because there’s no reason it needs to be gendered but the book was written about dads so in this case I chose a gender category, but I think everybody needs to do it and it gets to what we were just saying. It is this idea of recognizing that the story is not yours, father doesn’t always know best, you’re not the hero, and therefore you’re really listening deeply to the people around you and responding to them and trying to figure out what they need. It’s a level of listening with intention, to go, “What does this child, what does this spouse, what does this family need at this moment and how do I provide it?” Instead of going, “This family (as we said earlier) is a nest for me to come home after work and lie on the sofa and watch TV and drink a beer.” You’re an active creator of the family. You don’t get to behave like a child and be cared for in it. How do I think about what they need from me at this moment in order to make their journey as positive as it possibly can— or maybe not positive because I have teenagers so often it’s negative as they learn a lesson. {Laughs}

Brandy: It’s not positive, yeah. {Laughs}

Jordan: But still, what do they need at this moment in order to have the best possible outcomes and to achieve maturity and development? That’s what it means to me to respond rather than with authority, which is often this idea that Dad is the king of the house and the rest of the house exists to serve Dad. 

Brandy: Right, ok so walk me through a scenario in which, let’s say— let’s talk about grades. Let’s say somehow the parents get wind of—where they look on their app because now we have to know our kids grades every fucking second of the day, which is nothing our parents ever had to do— side note. So let’s say they log onto the thing and they’re like, “Oh wow, these grades aren’t what I’d like them to be.” How does the conversation with a responsive dad go to the child? 

Jordan: The first thing I think the responsive dad needs to do is think about why they react the way they do. Often when we see that our kids have bad grades or they get in trouble at school our first response is embarrassment, right? We go, “Oh I’ve done such a bad job, why am I a bad father?” and then we get mad at them for making us feel this shame and guilt about our inability to make them “A” students and we respond with this anger because we have shame. Rather than going, “Wow, this kid is struggling. How do I think about what I need to do to make it easy for them to succeed? What can I do to make them”—I don’t mean do it FOR them, of course. But I mean if it’s bad grades, then you might have to go, “Wow, this kid’s really disorganized. This kid keeps thinking they can play video games all day and then do their homework at 11 o’clock at night. This kid keeps thinking they can put everything off to the last minute so I’m going to have to micromanage them for a little while till I see they can better organize their schoolwork.” That’s much more responsive than, “I’m going to punish you until you get it right because it makes me angry that you didn’t prove that I’m so good at being a dad that I made you smart and high achieving.” Now, of course I can’t play this podcast for my kids now because they’re going to go, “Well, when are you going to start doing that at home, Jordan?” {Laughs}

Brandy: {Laughs} I’ll give a version where this part has been edited out so that you can have them listen to it. 

Jordan: It’s important for me to say that, though. It’s easy for me to say that but there are certainly moments when I still respond in problematic ways and I say this often in the book which is, I often go to sleep and go, “Oh crap, I really fucked it up today. I did not do it the right way.” And that doesn’t mean I caused terrible trauma— I don’t think I’ve ever caused trauma for my kids, but there are definitely days when I go, “That was not the right way to handle that.”

Brandy: Yeah. We all— yeah. That’s a commonality of parenting.

Jordan: Pretty much everyday. 

Brandy: Yeah, I was going to say. That’s pretty much everyday. And it’s the rare day where you’re like, “I think I did it today! I think today was the day!” and it’s fleeting and it won’t be tomorrow. But what I wanted to say too, about the responsive fathering and that grades thing, I think mom’s fall into that as well and so I think there are some moms— I mean that’s such a validating piece is to stop for a second and check on, “What is coming up for me and why am I feeling embarrassment?” It’s kind of like doing our own work, unpacking why this matters to us, and it’s a hard place when you get to the shame place.

Jordan: And by the way, I should say “advanced feminist fathering” is actually explaining— I don’t know if there’s such a thing as “advanced feminist fathering”— {Laughs}

Brandy: This is like the boss level! {Laughs}

Jordan: Right! The boss level— would be actually even sharing everything that we just said with the kids. It’s really powerful to say to your kids in the morning, “You know what, I realize I was responding from a place of my shame and I DO have shame and I AM embarrassed that you didn’t get good grades, and some of that’s your fault. But my shame is not your fault. That doesn’t mean you did an ok thing, but it DOES mean that I shouldn’t have reacted with that anger and what I’m going to do is help you do this better so that I don’t have these problematic reactions that don’t serve either of us.” That’s a good thing to say to the kids. 

Brandy: Right.

Jordan: But you know, I’ve had moments with my kids during the pandemic where I found myself reacting. I was so stressed (especially as I was getting to the deadline of the book) where the reaction to their behaviors were totally out of proportion with the sin. My discipline screaming— I would scream about something ridiculous like, “You didn’t put your one spoon in the dishwasher! You put everything else in but not that!” And I’d scream, “How could you make me put it in the dishwasher!— ” It’s completely out of proportion and what I had to do was I started to apologize to my kids. To go, “Yeah, you’re still wrong. You should have put your spoon in the dishwasher. I’m not saying you were right, I’m just saying I shouldn’t have been screaming about it. {Laughs} I still should’ve told you you were wrong, just calmly and supportively instead of angrily and assertively.”

Brandy: Right! Yes, totally! One of the things I wanted to say to you is, the way you wake up your kids—in your book you talk about how you flick on the lights! How do people do that to their children?! I’m such a person who loves sleep so this is—when I go in to wake my kids up, I like, sit next to them and slowly rub their backs— it’s like, the yummiest, it’s so yummy— and then sometimes with both of them get in and we snuggle. And then my husband is the same way, like lights on. Flip! This thing is done! And I’m like, this is the worst! This is torture! So did somebody do this to you? Who hurt you? {Laughs}

Jordan: I don’t know if it’s torture, part of it is— and I certainly don’t do that on a weekend, although there have been days when I have done it. Usually on the weekend I’m like, “Everybody up now! I’ve made waffles and bacon and fried chicken and it’s all down here on the table and you’d be an idiot to not jump out of bed and eat this!” {Laughs}

Brandy: Ok but how is that not “you’re the hero of the story?” Because everybody else’s story is they’re the tired warrior and you’re like, “But I made waffles!”

Jordan: Yeah, That’s a good point. That’s a good point. 

Brandy: Sorry. I had no intention of calling you out on this. 

Jordan: No, no, no. That’s awesome!

Brandy: I just love sleeping in. I just love sleeping in and anybody who gets in the way is a problem. {Laughs}

Jordan: Yeah, I don’t know. I definitely— I’ll bet you there is some trauma from when I was a— I shouldn’t say trauma, that’s way too serious. There’s some old pain, let’s just put it that way from being woken up to go to school and the expectation that I had to be ready to walk out the door. There was no patience for not being ready and I think for my own kids there was a point when they were tweens when I just sort of got frustrated that it was my job to tell them to wake up seventeen times instead of once. 

Brandy: Totally. No, I get that. 

Jordan: But I’m certainly not— there’s plenty of days when I let them sleep all day.

Brandy: Yeah, the best!

Jordan: But it is our jobs as parents— that’s an important thing. In the responsive parenting concept it can so quickly become this idea that we’re supposed to let go of our job as the leaders. It is still our job to create the boundaries and the rules and to teach them good habits and to tell them which feelings are valid and which ones are invalid so they know how to make sense of that. So often I think when you hear this idea of being responsive, which is really important, we mistakenly think our job is to always allow THEM the authority, right? Which is not at all what I’m calling for. I’m calling for an acknowledgement but I am still the dad. I still get to decide bedtime, I still get to decide all the things about their lives because they’re children and if they were capable of deciding themselves they wouldn’t need me at all.

Brandy: Exactly. That’s right. On one of my last podcasts with the parenting expert who was hilarious, Meghan Leahy from Washington Post, she was like, “Kids are like drunk people. You don’t put the drunk people in charge – you give them too much power!” and I’m like, “Yes, that’s exactly right!”

Jordan: Exactly. And what responsive parenting involves is making sure that when you’re doing that for them, you’re doing it for THEM and not because of your own story. I’m all for give your kids rules, make the rules, maybe decide when they wake up, but make sure it’s not about me being lawful chef and it’s more about me giving them awesome breakfast.

Brandy: True. So there was a whole part— I wanted to ask you about this too—about dads and daughters. You had a quote that said, “Being a feminist dad requires confronting the sordid, uncomfortable history of daddy/daughter relationships and abandoning the fallacies of ‘locker room gender essentialism’.” Will you explain to us what “locker room gender essentialism” is?

Jordan: Yeah, so that’s a term— ”gender essentialism” is a pretty common term— I added the “locker room” in front of it and the reason I added the locker room in front of it was because well, let me start with gender essentialism to make this clear. Gender essentialism basically means this idea that genitals or the anotomical sex dictates pshychology or behaviors or any kind of personality traits. There’s no evidence anywhere that that’s true. There’s lots of people that do bad science that gives evidence that that’s true. {Laughs} You’ll find a million articles trying to prove women are one way and men are another but if you really look at the science, it doesn’t hold up. I just added the locker room in front of it because I realized while writing this book that so many things that I had come to take for granted with this whole “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” nonsense were things that I learned from middle-schoolers in the locker room. 

Brandy: Right.

Jordan: They’d sit in the locker room and they’d be like, “girls like to be dominated” and I believed that for like twenty— and not that particular thing— but for like twenty years I believed all these things that were just said to me by dumb middle-schoolers that became my idea of what gender relationships meant, and they’re absurd. None of them hold up. I mean there are certainly things that the science, when you look at, for example, there’s no male brain, there’s no female brain, although there are some traits when you do a full statistical analysis, they’re more likely to show up in those who identify as females than those who don’t, but that doesn’t mean they DON’T show up in the other places and there’s way more things that are equal than anything else. They equally show up in both groups and one way that one author put it is that genders, when it comes to at least to the neuroscience, gender is really a mosaic, there’s a bunch of things that might be more likely to show up in one or the other but that doesn’t mean that they don’t show up in any gender. Plus, the bottom line, which is that there really is no gender binary and there really isn’t even an anatomical binary of sex. Those are just useful ways of categorizing things but they don’t hold up to scrutiny, either one. It’s hard because we’re even starting to talk about it in binary ways that are problematic.

Brandy: I know. Yeah. One of the things you talk about in the book is being super inclusive. All the language around that and the thinking around that is changing and trying to be on top of that is a very important thing, and we realize in so much of how we do things, how the binary keeps us in a box and isn’t actually what’s being experienced out there by people.

Jordan: Yeah, that’s right. And every time we try to— what often happens is these binaries get imagined, invented, talked about in culture, and they might be useful at the beginning. Certainly there are lots of traditional, religious cultures where it’s a useful thing when they’re organizing their societies to maybe divide according to some kind of gender binary, but in the end what that does is create expectations for people about what’s normal.

Brandy: Yes.

Jordan: That becomes really hard. The more we buy into that the more we start saying, “There’s right ways to be a man, there’s right ways to be a woman.” One, that’s really marginalizing for anyone who’s gender nonconforming because they’re like, “Wait I don’t fit into the right categories,” so we don’t want to do that. But even closer to home, because I’m sure you have some people listening who are like, “I don’t know how to make sense of gender nonconforming.” We all know people like that and I’m not saying it’s fine, everyone should work on it but I also acknowledge that it’s not an easy thing because it’s a different thing than we’ve been used to. Also just to bring it closer to home, every time you tell a story of what you think it means to be a good woman in any way you’re basically telling your daughter that she either measures up or doesn’t measure up to this image of what it means to be a girl. 

Brandy: Yes. yeah.

Jordan: That’s what’s really at the heart of the body image issues. That’s what’s at the heart of all the fear about when people get on Instagram. They start to want their lives to be prettier and more spectacular and they feel insecure. All that sense of inferiority and insecurity is because of the stories we tell them about what it means to be “normal.” There is no normal.

Brandy: Yes. Right. Exactly.

Jordan: I was never the athlete, my brothers were. And for many years that made me feel like I wasn’t masculine enough and it wasn’t until much later when I went, “Wait, huh? That doesn’t make any sense.” 

Brandy: Yeah, there’s not one right way. We do that with so many things. In regards to dads and daughters, you have this quote that I thought was striking, “You need to keep this distinction in mind if you want to be a Feminist Dad. You must recognize that it’s easy for a father to believe that his daughter deserves equality while still clinging to many of the sexist assumptions of locker room gender essentialism. Likewise when it comes to misogynistic power structures, a father may want his daughter to feel free and empowered but he still polices her behavior in ways that maintain his own narcissistic patriarchal authority.”

Jordan: That’s absolutely true. Part of the reason I wrote this was because I absolutely understood from talking to lots of dads that they— I’m sure a few exist but I’ve never talked to any dad who’s like, “I want my daughter to know that girls don’t matter.” Right? They’re usually like, “I want to raise a strong, empowered girl who will be professional or do whatever she wants.” They have all the buzz words of feminist empowerment in their way of thinking about how they want their daughters to behave but they don’t understand is that so many of the things that they do on a daily basis send another message. A stupid example I once heard— a dad of a daughter actually tell the older brother that he threw like a girl in front of the daughter!

Brandy: Oh gosh.

Jordan: In front of your own daughter you would say that? Maybe you might say that alone and you shouldn’t but at least— I couldn’t even believe you would say it in front of your daughter. And that’s a stupid example. The book is full of much more subtle examples. Things we don’t even realize we’re doing on a day to day basis. Then another thing I wanted to point out is that many men think because they care about their daughters, they’re automatically feminists when they don’t really care about any other women.

Brandy: Yes. 

Jordan: One of the examples— it’s in the footnotes, not in the book. I took it from an author, Kate Manne who wrote a great book called Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny which pointed out that if you really were to look at Donald Trump, for example, he does hire a lot of women, he does obviously care about his daughter and think that SHE’S competent, he just doesn’t think any other women are competent. He believes some are fine, he still wants to maintain male dominance but he’s not necessarily sexist. He doesn’t believe there’s NO strong women, he just believes men should always be in charge. That was sort of what I was getting at is that you might be all for your daughter getting a higher, super position but that doesn’t mean you want all the women to be in positions of authority and so you really haven’t become feminist at all because of that. 

Brandy: Yes and your example– to go back to your “stupid” example about saying “you throw like a girl,” it’s a stupid example and it’s also so stupid because it’s so common. They go together. I remember with my son with soccer, this was his first soccer team that he was playing on and one of the co-coaches, there were two men and one of them who happened to be a policemen with I think five or six daughters and another one on the way and one boy who was on the soccer team said, “You guys are out there kicking like girls! You’re stronger!” like, doubling down. I’m sitting there with my daughter, who was maybe two at the time, and I’m sitting on the sidelines watching and you better believe there was an email that was written that night that was like, “You cannot talk to our men like this.” It just boggles my mind— exactly what you’re talking about— this guy has six daughters. His life is full of women that he loves and yet he’s going to say that right in front of them. I think all of us have a story like this. This is not a rare thing. This is the common thing and hopefully it’s being phased out. Even though I sound very sceptical and pessimistic about some of these things I totally believe that this next generation is so much better at all of this stuff. And it’s partially because some of us parents— I don’t want to take all the credit for it because they’re also amazing in their own way— but because we’re having these conversations that our parents weren’t even considering having. I’m happy to think about, “What do soccer games look like when our kids are parents?” Maybe there won’t even be girls and boys soccer, maybe there will just be soccer.

Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. I write a lot about in Father Figure, a lot of other places too, where that happens where we do these inadvertent things like saying things like, “That waitress would be pretty if she smiled more,” which is totally innocent on one level but is sending this message to the family about the idea that the waitress is there for Dad’s gaze and therefore men’s gaze and it’s all really problematic. I write a lot about something that I’ve been sitting with a lot which is this question— I call “broism” in the book which is when we are trying to bond with our sons especially as they become teenagers we fall into this misogynistic, almost locker room talk way of being, whether it’s about sex, whether it’s about anything. Again I have a thirteen and a fifteen year-old and my step-kids are eleven and fourteen (I think I got all their ages right). Whatever, close enough. 

 Brandy: {Laughs} Close enough.

Jordan: You can imagine. I have four teenagers in the house and three of them are boys so yeah, there’s a lot of penis jokes because that’s what fourteen year-old boys like to make, is penis jokes. So how do I— on the one hand, I want to bond with them and make them laugh but also not create the impression— make sure it’s not the misogynist version. So I just try to make sure we also make an equal number of menstruation jokes with my step-daughter at the table. 

Brandy: {Laughs} Amazing.

Jordan: Because I’m not trying to say, “No, we can’t have the foul humor,” of course you’re going to have it. I actually want to model a way to do that foul humor better because I think if I go, “Hey that’s bad, don’t do it” then they’re going to get it still from all their friends without any parental voice in their head going, “Hey think about this.” I can tell it works because I hear them sometimes when they’re on their video games making jokes just to screw with other people, like someone will call one of my sons a “homo” and he’ll be like, “Well you’re a “hetero,” that’s worse!” {Laughs}

Brandy: {Laughs} Yeah, seriously. You said something about your kids which just made me smile because we’re speaking the same language here, but you said, “Sometimes my younger son asks me why I can’t just be normal like all the other dads. He tells me I overthink things, he teases me saying that one day he’ll have to go to psycho-therapy to talk about how I always pressured him to be divergent. He’ll cry to his shrink about the trauma and anxiety associated with not being allowed to conform to ordinary, familiar measures of academic or social success. ‘My dad was nuts! I’d ask him to help with my math homework and he’d start ranting and raving about implicit gender bias in the word problems.’” Oh my gosh, yes. I’m the same way. We’re reading these stories in second grade math and I’m like, “So why do they have the girl doing this in the story?” So thank you for saying that and I think our kids would be great friends and have someone to commiserate with. 

Jordan: {Laughs}

Brandy: The other day my son had asked me if he could play Grand Theft Auto. He’s fourteen and I was like, “You know, I know that game was super fun and when it came out I know I remember it being awesome. There’s so much problematic stuff in that though. There’s so many storylines especially as it relates to women,” and he’s like, “Mom. You know me. We have these conversations. I don’t buy into that stuff. Come on, it’s me, it’s me. Come on, it’s me.” And I was like, “True, I guess if I’ve set up that we’re going to talk about it, then maybe it’s ok.” So I did let him play it and after that day I was like, “So what did you see that was totally problematic?” and we were talking about all of that. 

Jordan: That’s great. That’s great. {Laughs}

Brandy: But it’s the same way, where I laugh that when my kids are older, when we parent as an overthinking way of trying to get it right in this way, there’s probably going to be some ways that we’ve overcorrected that they’re going to be on a shrink’s couch for different reasons than we are. And that’s ok! I think that’s part of parenting. It just is!

Jordan: {Laughs} Yeah, I also want to point out that that’s absolutely going to happen. There’s a place where I talk about this in Father Figure. So often when I DO do all this stuff and deconstruct gender bias, any kind of bias— there should be a book about every single kind of bias. This is just the one I chose to write. I couldn’t do them all, that would have been four-thousand pages– I’m correcting that stuff all the time. I know when we have parties and all my relatives are around and they hear me say that, they sort of look at me like, “Why don’t you just let them be? Oh my God. Why are you taking everything so seriously? Why can’t you just let them have fun? They like it.” I just want to make sure people get that I don’t understand how we think we’re killing naivety by reinforcing things that kill people’s freedom. {Laughs}

Brandy: Yes! Yes!

Jordan: I’ll have people go, “Why can’t you just let them be princesses and not deconstruct it?” Because the princess concept is invented in order to destroy their sense of autonomy. That’s fine if they want to dress up but they’ve got to have the lecture at the same time. {Laughs}

Brandy: Right! Because then they know, “You can enjoy it but to not know what you’re doing”— I’m sure there are parents listening to this like, “These two are crazy. These two just need to go off on an island together”—

Jordan: Well who’s crazier, the one who’s constantly going, “It’s ok for you to live in a sexist structure or the one going, ‘It’s not!’?”

Brandy: Thank you! Yes, thank you for that! {Claps} Thank you for sticking up for us.

Jordan: {Laughs}

Brandy: Before we finish, I spoke about this in the beginning. You have a quote that was, “When the patriarchal inclination to sort is too strong, it becomes an ego fallacy.” Will you tell me about that and the baby food jar metaphor, which I thought was so great?

Jordan: We’ll start with the baby food jar metaphor which is really about my own father. Literally in the basement when I was growing up, there was a shelf that had to have had like 300 baby food jars on it, and in each one were screws and nuts and tacks and bolts, all perfectly sorted so he could find anything he needed. He’d be like, “Oh, we need a masonry nail?” and he could go down and find it. I don’t think it was labeled but certainly he could find all of it. He would bring up a jar, like every single one. That’s great when you need screws but we tend to do that to so many other parts of our lives and it’s also part of what fits into the father archetype which is problematic, which is this notion that we are always sorting, partitioning, organizing, creating which we know is not true because fathers can’t even organize playdates, mom’s have to do it all. So they’re certainly not organizing everything. {Laughs} 

Brandy: Right, right. 

Jordan: Still, we think of it as something we’re supposed to do and the way I use this as a metaphor, when we’re sorting and partitioning like that, what we’re doing is trying to make things fit our way of understanding the world. If we want to put this into the gender conversation and the larger question of gender binaries, yeah, gender binaries are a really convenient way to think about how to organize our lives. “Men are this way, women are that way.” That’s really convenient, it makes sense in a very simplistic way but what that means is that we walk down the street and try to make everything fit into those two categories, everything doesn’t so therefore, we’re bullying them or coercing them into categories that aren’t real. Part of what I’m saying when I talk about responsive fathering, part of what I’m saying when I say let go of narcissistic patriarchal authority is, “Stop trying to sort the world into the baby jars that you already have. Instead look at the baby jars they want to be in.” A lot of us will look at our kids and go, “Well are they nerds or are they jocks?” We don’t really do that but that’s sort of a simple concept of when you’re trying to go, “Do they fit into a kind of personality trait that I imagined before I even knew this human?” 

Brandy: Yes, yeah. 

Jordan: That’s not good for them as individuals and that is often where we end up with problematic gender categories, race categories. We walk down the street, maybe we see someone and based on the way they look we might think they fit in the category of “criminal” or “violent”. That’s because of OUR categories, that has nothing to do with THEM. Because the truth is, if I were a violent criminal, I’d be doing everything I could to NOT look like the thing people— {Laughs} You’re going to get caught right away! {Laughs}

Brandy: Exactly. Right. {Laughs} Maybe don’t bring your axe if you’re an axe murderer.

Jordan: That’s really the lesson to dads is, stop trying to sort the world into YOUR categories. Stop trying to make it fit. Sort your nails and screws and bolts. I wish I could do it. I’ve spent all weekend trying to find one screw and so many times I thought, “I could call my dad and he’d probably be able to find it in fifteen seconds.” I almost drove the twenty-five minutes to my dad’s house because I could literally walk in with a nut and he’d be like, “Let me go get the jar.” {Laughs}

Brandy: {Laughs}

Jordan: Which is great, but not when it leads to partisanship. That’s part of what we’re in in American right now is this stupid partisanship where we sort everyone into baby food jars. “Oh, you’re against vaccines? Then you must have all these other ideas. You’re for masks? Then you must be this whole person.” There’s plenty of people who are for masks and hate AOC. {Laughs}

Brandy: Yeah. Right, the nuance. 

Jordan: There is no “they”. There’s nobody who fits into every category. 

Brandy: Yeah, that’s so true. I have to ask you this because I’m just so curious. This is something that’s come up a lot lately in life. What’s your take— and this’ll be the last thing I ask— I could ask you questions for days. What’s your take on “cancel culture?” I’m so interested in your specific point of view because I feel like you’re going to tell us that the Greeks already had cancel culture or something because whenever we feel like we’re the only generation going through something, you’re like, “The Romans already did that and here’s how they survived it.” {Laughs} What’s your take on cancel culture right now? 

Jordan: {Laughs} I’m not going to go to the Greeks because I don’t even have to go that far back. Cancel culture is absurd. I don’t mean that cancel culture itself is absurd, I mean the fact that there is cancel culture happening right now is absurd. It’s just not true. One, my kids will sometimes bring it up so I’ve had this conversation with them a million times. First of all, the people who are whining about cancel culture still have platforms where they’re whining about cancel culture, so they weren’t cancelled. {Laughs}

Brandy: You’re right, yes.

Jordan: My son was like, “Well Kevin Hart got cancelled.” I’m like, “No, Kevin Hart still has a special on Netflix where he’s complaining about getting cancelled, so believe me, he’s not cancelled.” {Laughs}

Brandy: Yeah, he wasn’t cancelled, I watched his Netflix special not that long ago.

Jordan: Right, he just got criticized. That’s a totally different thing and he came out of it fine. But the bottom line is, and what I tell my kids all the time is cancel culture— everybody but white men have been going through cancel culture for YEARS. Literally so many women in the workplace, if they didn’t sleep with their boss, were cancelled. They lost their job, they lost their career! Literally. African Americans, if they didn’t behave the right way at the job, just lost it and lost their career and suddenly, white men are like, “Wait, if I don’t say the right sensitive thing I might get in trouble?” Well, only if you’re not smart enough to figure out how to apologize for it, how to think about it, how to reflect on it. Nobody gets cancelled immediately. The people that get cancelled are the people that go, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Or they did something so terrible like pedophelia or sexual abuse. Are you trying to say you shouldn’t lose your job if you’re a rapist and you’ve raped someone at work? You SHOULD lose your job— {Laughs}

Brandy: Right. That’s appropriate. That’s consequences.

Jordan: That’s consequences for your actions. I think it’s a hard time because we have to learn. I have a lot of comedian friends who will go— I asked a good comedian friend Maz Jobrani about this and he basically said, “Bottom line is you have to be funny.” We’re still allowed to make jokes about gender and race and things like that but they have to actually be funny and not offensive. It’s ok to make a joke where you acknowledge that our cultural categories have weirdness in them and we can laugh about it but don’t do one that is violently painful to parts of the population. You can’t make a joke where you say gay people are evil. You can make a joke where you joke about something that might be somewhat stereotypical and that people would laugh at but no one would find offensive.

Brandy: Yes! I hate that I even have to even ask you this but I do. How do we get our male partners to read this book or do we even try to do that? Because if we leave it up to them it’s probably not going to happen and you really should have put some sexy woman on the cover because then you would have attracted the men who need it. 

Jordan: {Laughs}

Brandy: I know you had some back and forth with cover design but I really feel like you should have doubled-down on a giant pair of boobs or something and then they open it and they’re like, “Wait a minute! But this is compelling.” So what are we supposed to do? 

Jordan: I was thinking— there’s a point when we were finishing up the book and the cover and I was like, “What we should do is get someone really hot to write a blurb on the back that says ‘this is the sexiest book I’ve ever read’.” {Laughs}

Brandy: See? Exactly. You need to get to the people who need it by all means necessary! {Laughs}

Jordan: One of the things I’m doing is, on my website FeministDadBook.com, we’ve put together Father’s Day bundles because the book comes out a few weeks before Father’s Day where we’re selling all kinds of— some serious gifts, some funny gifts that come with signed copies of the book. For example, we have a barbeque apron that’s made from recycled beer filters that says “Feminist Dad” across the front and that would come with a signed book. We have bumper stickers that I call “feminist toxic masculinity” where it says things like, “Stop being a pussy and start fighting the patriarchy!” {Laughs}

Brandy: Oh my god, this is amazing! I love that you have an apron— wait a minute—there’s like, beer bottles— this book doesn’t fall into gender stereotypes, but you guys do tend to love beer and also things that are recyclable. {Laughs} I love that! It’s SO good! 

Jordan: We also have stickers we’re putting together right now, bumper stickers for moms that say— it starts with, “My son is an honor student” but you can just cross off “son” and “honor student” and it says, “My husband’s a radical feminist.” {Laughs}

Brandy: Oh my god, thank you! Yes! So basically how we get this into the hands of men is we have to gift it to them. {Laughs}

Jordan: Well, I hope so, yeah. Seriously, it’s FeministDadBook.com. We’ve put together a bunch of different price point bundles that you can give as Father’s Day gifts. Also, because my partner Amanda was like, “I never know what to get you for birthdays or Father’s Day. We should just put this together for people.” It’s got fun stuff in it. Stuff I think they’ll laugh at, they’ll enjoy. I think most dads would find a feminist apron that they wear while grilling to be kind of funny and they would enjoy it. That’s one way to do it. And I think we’re getting to the point of— at some point I read a study, even before I started writing this book, that men are more likely to listen to rhetoric around gender and gender equality if it comes from other men. That’s completely wrong and sexist that that’s true, but it is true. They don’t imagine—  I have nothing to gain by being a feminist. I don’t know if I’m losing privilege but I’m certainly not gaining privilege.

Brandy: {Laughs} Right. You’re not gaining invites to Superbowl parties and super awesome other cool masculine parties.

Jordan: Right. Men tend to go, “There’s no ulterior motive here, he’s just saying something true.” That’s part of why I wrote the book and so, yeah, I absolutely encourage you to gift it. Most men are going to enjoy this book because it’s not judgmental. This is not a, “Here’s what’s wrong with you.” This is, “I get how hard this is and here’s some answers.” 

Brandy: That’s what I loved about it. Like I said, the parts where you talk about your own struggle and your own experience about it I feel like is very relatable for guys to read it and go, “Yeah, I’ve been there too, ok, and this is how this guy is thinking about it.” I think it’s a perfect read and I think it makes a great gift because sometimes it IS hard to find the right thing and I love that you guys put these gift packages together. In a sense it’s a gift for moms because then we don’t have to do all the making magic for yet another person on a special day, so thank you for that. 

Jordan: I wish I could explain to all the husbands also, honestly, if you just read this and come home at dinner and be like, “I found this part interesting,” you’re going to make your wife so happy. {Laughs}

Brandy: Oh my god. Yes. I don’t want to relate this to sex, but this is the kind of foreplay that us modern women really are looking for which is— {Laughs}

Jordan: I was going to say it but I’m glad you did instead of me because it would’ve sounded sexist if I was like, “You’ll get laid.” {Laughs}

Brandy: But it’s true! Sometimes these things are true. {Laughs} Remind us, when does your book come out? 

Jordan: May 11th and if you go to FeministDadBook.com, you can preorder it, you can preorder signed copies, you can preorder it as part of a gift package. May 11th, FeministDadBook.com.

Brandy: Awesome. Thank you, Jordan, so much for taking the time and coming on here again. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you and thank you for trying to get your people in line here and by people, I mean men. I am usually talking to women who are doing this work and it’s so nice to have a guy putting himself out there and getting his hands dirty with it, so thank you so much.

Jordan: Yeah, my pleasure. I hope it makes a huge difference and I hope we can get many more men to “man-up” to feminism. 

Brandy: A quick plug for my book (which as an indie author I gotta do). If you’re enjoying this podcast, you will likely enjoy my book, Adult Conversation: A Novel. It’s a darkly comedic story about a frazzled modern mother and her therapist who go on a Thelma-and-Louise-style road trip to Vegas, looking for pieces of themselves that motherhood and marriage swallowed up while they are also tested and tempted to make life-altering choices. Yes, there are strippers, there’s weed, it’s Vegas. One Amazon reviewer said, “I hate most books about mom stuff. My kids are twenty and fifteen and mostly I just thank god my little kid parenting days are over. So I only read this because I was told it was funny and that there’d be swearing. Yes on both counts. I love a well-placed F-word and Brandy Ferner delivers. I laughed out loud in several spots and I’ll never hear ‘Hot Cross Buns’ again without chortling. And wouldn’t you know it, the story gave me the feels when I remembered the loneliness and desperation of mothering young children. There was no one like this around saying these things to me back then. That I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t a bad mom, that it was ok to feel frustrated and exhausted and not filled with sunflowers and jelly beans with the joy of motherhood. So yeah. This book is rad.”

Brandy: So just a quick thank you to everyone who has written a review for my book. Thank you so much. It is really one of the biggest things you can do for an author aside from buying their book. And as I go through these to bring some on the podcast— I only click on the five-star ones because I’m not going to weed through people who didn’t like my book– but thank you because I’m seeing all these names (some I recognize, some I have no idea who these people are) and I just thank you so much for taking a moment to write about how my book moved you. 

Brandy: As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.