"That’s the most important thing to build out: giving her confidence in herself and self-reliance... to feel like she can pursue opportunities."
MICHAEL ON RAISING HIS DAUGHTER (5) AND SON (2 MOS.)
BOSTON, MASS. | USA
Feminism in our family
We’re not particularly activists. For us, it’s mostly about making sure we’re conscious of gender issues and equality. To advocate for girls’ and women's rights, really advocate for their rights and opportunities. It’s also about being aware of gender bias and try to raise our kids to have the right expectations and right skills to succeed even though it might not automatically be in her favor. To me, it means being mindful about and conscious of gender, especially of how girls and women are portrayed. Try to be constructive as we can.
Being mindful means noticing the day-to-day of toys and circumstances. One thing that totally blew me way was when I gave my old LEGOs to my daughter. She loves building LEGOs and her first comment was “Where are all the girls?.” I realized that after growing up 15 years as a LEGO maniac, I had one girl figurine. It just never occurred to me where all the girls were, so it’s awesome that she notices, but it also made me realize that I had to pay more attention. Now we’ve been collecting female figures, which she’s loving.
Looking out for these little gender things, one of the things we do is when we read books for her is I often swap the genders of the characters. Unfortunately, about 90% of the books we own, the protagonists are male. It’s just to reset that balance in her head, so when she looks at the world, she’s got the right expectations. Create the world that looks more like her.
Self confidence first
My wife and I want to make sure our daughter has really good self-confidence. It’s the main thing we’ve centered on. That’s the most important thing to build out: giving her confidence in herself and self-reliance. We think that’s gonna be the most important thing for her to avoid the negative peer influences that girls are subject to and to feel like she can pursue opportunities.
We’re trying to be role models ourselves in how we balance our lives. We run a pretty balanced household. We’re also trying to teach her to be resilient, persistent, and keep trying. Get good at things so that she’s ultimately confident in herself if ever she’s faced in a challenging or awkward situation.
The thing I always hesitate about and makes me cringe a bit is when a lot praise is focused on appearance and I don’t think boys get much of that. I’m pretty sure that’s a standard. Pretty common pattern where girls are always getting complimented on their looks. I try to make it a point to compliment on her choosing stuff that’s interesting to wear or stuff that she likes to wear rather than "oh, aren’t you so pretty today?" She’s gonna wear nail polish. So I’ll just compliment her on how well she did it or her choice of colors. Things like that. Instead of "oh your nails are pretty now." Trying to reinforce that there are other things that are praiseworthy. It’s not her job to be a pretty person. It’s up to her if she wants to be pretty but she doesn’t have to.
We make her be a part of whatever we do. If I’m fixing up something in the house, she loves helping me build furniture and do other projects. We actually built a slide for her in the house. Any fun thing to do with any kid. Boy or girl. That’s mostly what I try to do is get her to feel like she can do these kinds of things. I try to not to look for girly or boy projects, but more like what would be fun to actually play? What is the piece that she can do so that she can generally learn that she can do stuff.
People are different. Over time we’re going to be good at different things. It’s a little bit artificial and cognitively dissonant to set the expectation that everyone is going to be equal at everything all the time. I think in aggregate, sure, but individuals vary. Thinking about things from a very individual point of view is still very useful.