I have no qualms about labeling myself as a feminist. Neither does my husband. Hmmm, perhaps that is one of the reasons we
get along so well. We do not think
feminism is anything other than what it is—a belief in equality.
Our approach is both philosophical and
practical in nature. Using common-sense
methods unites us in our goal of raising our two young sons (7 and 2 year
olds) as feminists.
When my oldest was just 2, his favorite
color was pink. He really, really wanted
a pink shirt. I had a hard time finding
something for him without ruffles, which I searched for mainly because as a culture we insist on
really genderizing our kiddos. But finally, I found something. Even though his babysitter expressed some
concern that he was wearing a "girl's color," our son, even at that young age,
knew to say, "Girls can't own a color!"
2. No means no
My 2-year-old is what some like to refer to as "all boy." We don't use that phrase ourselves, but let's
just say he matches the stereotype of rough and tumble. Sometimes, though, he is too rough. When he is, we
let him know what is acceptable and what isn't. It is never acceptable, even for a toddler, to use size or physical
strength to get their way, simply because they can.
3. Watch Daddy
See Daddy change that diaper? See
Daddy fold the laundry? See Daddy cook
dinner? My two boys have a front row
seat for watching what equity in a relationship looks like. There are no chores off limits to those with a
penis. Running a home is work, just like
when Daddy goes to his office or Mommy types on her keyboard. Work is work and it needs to get done. We all chip in to keep our family
4. Encourage empathy
One certain way to help raise feminists is to
teach our sons what it might be like to be a girl, and vice versa. How? Through
empathy—trying to imagine what other people think and feel. What is it like for a girl to be told she
must always be sugar and spice and everything nice? And that boys are made of snails and puppy
dog tails? What do boys and girls have
5. Befriend a girl
One of our oldest son's best friends is a beautiful little girl who no
one would confuse with a princess. Hell,
she dressed up as a bucket of toxic waste for Halloween. We are so grateful our boy is learning that
girls can play rough on the playground and be full of kind gestures, too. We are all allowed to be multi-dimensional.
6. Be a gentleman
This does not mean "ladies first," but encourages our sons to be
considerate human beings. Hold the door
not just for ladies, but for whomever is coming behind you. Be kind and mannerly not just to be chivalrous,
but because it is the right thing to do.
7. Use your words
We are teaching our sons about their penis and testicles. Girls have vaginas. End of story. Leave the shame and odd pet names out of it.
There are lots and lots of wonderful books
written from the perspective of girls, and they are not to be missed because
the main protagonist wears a dress. I
want my boys to be as thrilled with the Little House series as I was, because
pioneer living is simply fascinating.
9. Difference is OK
It is OK for boys and girls to be
different. Being equal does not require
sameness. Girls can be different from
boys, and boys can be different from girls, and one is not better than the other. Also? Don't overstate the differences. Dolls are for everyone and math is, too.
Our youngest son is sometimes stingy with the kisses and hugs. He gifts them to us on occasion and oh, how
special they are. We have come to
respect this about him and never force affection or intimacy he is
uncomfortable with. His body is his, and
we can't demand kisses and hugs just because we want them. Consent must be respected for the young
toddler just as it is for older folks, too.