"So, while I realize not succumbing to confining gender stereotypes society inflicts upon us isn’t changing much now, it will make a huge difference in the kind of people our kids will become."
Lindsey on raising her son (1)
California | USA
Labeling myself a feminist
I have always had positive associations with feminism, mostly because of my mom and sister. Even still, though, the word held “radical” connotations for me growing up. So, while I no longer associate feminism with being radical as an adult, I understand why many still do. That’s why as a parent, I've chosen to talk about it as often as I can in order to normalize gender equality for my son.
Feminist parenting, ever evolving
I've always known that I would raise my kids as feminists, and in as much of a gender-neutral environment as I can create for them. It wasn't until I had my son, though, that I realized there's no one way to do that. Our world and our society, and my son for that matter, is changing rapidly. So, practically speaking, I write a new definition for feminist parenting every day. I’ve learned that as feminists raising feminists we must be ever vigilant, to live in the moment and to adapt to the environment and situations we’re presented with.
I’ve also developed a general rule of thumb for parenting decisions I make, that I think every feminist parent should live by. I’ll ask myself whether or not I would say or do something of significance with or to the opposite sex child. If my gut reaction is to say “no”, then I avoid it. Or, at the very least, I’ll explore and question my reasons why. For example, I caught myself calling my son “stud man” the other day and it immediately felt wrong. I asked myself if I would call Nolan that if he was a girl and since the answer was “no” I stopped. Instead, I use gender neutral pet names with him- things like “angel” or “babe” which I would feel comfortable calling both a boy and a girl.
Another example of this is the toys we expose our children to. Had Nolan been a girl, I would have been sure to surround her with trucks and blocks and other more traditionally “masculine” toys, but what about more traditionally “feminine” toys for boys? So, I bought Nolan a few dolls that he’ll often play with in public. Watching people’s faces as they see Nolan and the doll, and then try to reconcile his gender is fascinating. I’ve even had a few folks ask if Nolan is a boy or girl.
As Gloria Steinem so brilliantly said, “We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters”. This is a guiding principle for us as parents now.
It’s also very important to us to surround Nolan with powerful women. Normalizing feminism is important, but normalizing strong, independent and powerful women is paramount. We do this with the books we read and public figures we talk about; by bringing him to female doctors, and by ensuring the women in his life embody these characteristics themselves. Nolan must hear his grandmother talk about how successful her tenure at Deloitte has been, and he needs to see how passionate, entrepreneurial and aspirational I am.
Teaching Nolan emotional literacy is also paramount. He should feel comfortable and confident expressing his feelings. If he does, he’ll soon understand how powerful our emotions can be.
Before we had Nolan, I would always say how badly I wanted to have a girl. Because, interestingly enough, I thought it would be harder. I welcomed the challenge of being able to raise an unapologetically powerful girl in a society that still isn’t conducive for empowered women. In the months before Nolan was born and surely soon after, I learned how equally challenging raising an emotionally literate feminist boy would be. It’s also equally important. I’m happy to say that knowing we’re raising an ally and feminist relieves all of the guilt that comes with raising a white male of privilege. So, while I realize not succumbing to confining gender stereotypes society inflicts upon us isn’t changing much now, it will make a huge difference in the kind of people our kids will become. Their tolerance and activism will inspire and educate others, and soon enough the positive impact of the parenting choices we make will be far reaching.
It wasn’t until I had a child that I realized how few feminists raising feminists I knew. I created Fempal because I didn’t have access to a group of people who care about the future of gender equality as much as I do. Fempal is an online community where we swap war stories, share information, give advice and offer support. I hope you’ll join!