"My dad and I have this expression... How to think, not what to think. I want them to fundamentally keep questioning what they take for granted."
KATE ON RAISING DAUGHTER (4) AND SON (2)
MELBOURNE | AUSTRALIA
Journey to Feminism
I'm an only child and it was always just me. I never really felt there was anything that I couldn't do as a girl. My parents very much raised me to be like the strong girl. However, there were definitely outside environmental forces that broke down some of my confidence. I had some teething problems that led to being bullied and things like that.
Every generation of parents, we always just do the best that we can. I was born in the early nineties and from what I’ve read, parenting in the nineties was a race-blind type of parenting. I had to unlearn a lot of stuff in terms of the privileges I’ve had growing up as a white person.
I started to get more aware of feminism in high school. There are two instances that stand out during my journey to feminism. One is when I was the only girl who took the Physics class in high school. Unfortunately, I only ended up doing it for one year. I dropped out of the second year of physics course because I was the only girl and I kept getting stuff thrown at me in class. That was a real point for me. I kept thinking, Why is this happening? Why is my teacher not stopping any of this? Another one was in a drama class. A teacher asked some of the students to move some props. And the teacher said, “Can I please have some strong boys to come and move this set?” I just thought that was weird so I went over and just moved the thing.
It probably wasn't until I was in my first year of university that I really identified and labeled myself as a feminist.
How to think, not what to think.
I was pregnant with my first child, Eleanor, when I was 21 and had her at 22. I was in my third year of university and she just came along to every activity with me. I was on the board of directors of my student union. She came to my board meetings, to rallies, and to marches. I was never under any doubt that she would grow up as a feminist and she would really benefit from having that label throughout her life in a way that I didn't really.
The second time around with Rupert, I was actually so terrified when we found out that we were having a male because I felt like I knew how to raise a strong, confident girl, but how do I raise a boy in this world? And I remember that I was so anxious about it. I spoke to my best friend about it and she just said, ”Just raise him exactly the same way that you have with Ellie.”
I fundamentally think that the way to improve the world as a whole is to raise feminist children. My dad and I have this expression, which I know is a famous expression, but I really like the quote. How to think, not what to think. I want them to fundamentally keep questioning what they take for granted.
Fun and Creativity
I wouldn't say that we restrict anything in our household. My daughter watches Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig and all that kind of stuff. I like to sit with her when she’s watching these shows and question things when there are moments that I feel that need to be addressed. For example, there’s an episode of Peppa Pig where she's not allowing her brother to have a tea party with her because she says that tea parties are for girls. And I'll just say, oh Ellie, what do you think about that? Do you think the tea parties are just for girls? And she's like, no, daddy has tea parties with me and he's a boy. So I make sure to raise these types of questions.
With makeup, I just frame it as fun. It’s creative and fun thing to do. If I'm putting some lipstick on and she wants to put some on her lips, I'll help her do it. We paint our nails together sometimes. It's just about emphasizing the fun and creative aspect and never saying stuff like ‘cause it makes me pretty.
Future Feminists is a community for all kids making the world a better place; and the grown-ups who love them. One of the key things about Future Feminists was to get teachers and parents talking, bridging that gap between the feminist parent and teacher community. I've spoken to Liz Kleinrock on my podcast. She gave me some really useful tips on how parents could be more involved with their child's education and ways to talk to their teachers. One of the main things I really want to do is empower parents to be able to go to their kid's teacher and raise their concerns around social issues.
There is a growing movement of strong girls’ clubs and I love it and it has been so vital. I have absolutely no problems knowing that I will just roll naturally into the role model of what it is to be a confident woman to Eleanor. I have no problems with that. With my son, I worry about him more because there isn’t much of a playbook to raise a feminist boy. That’s one of the reasons for the The Kind Boys' Club initiative.