Does it seem like there are more and more horrible things happening to women? Or do you think that we are just becoming more aware of them and that attitudes are slowly changing? Voices that may have gone unheard in the past are being listened to? Eyes are finally being opened to existing horrors? We are making progress and with that progress comes the inevitable push back from those who feel something is being stolen from them? I think it might be the latter. I hope it’s the latter.
I have been thinking about this change in community attitudes. How it is so slow to unfurl. I have been wondering where certain attitudes come from. And how I can raise boys who respect women and treat them as equals. What small changes I can make? What language can I use to ensure my boys don’t feel entitled to be considered more than their female counterparts.
I don’t use “girl” or “woman” as an insult. I do not say “you are crying/acting/anything like a girl.” And if my husband does, he gets the look. You know the one.
We watch women and men play sport. I live in a fairly sports obsessed household. The school kid pretty much sleeps, eats and breathes soccer. And he is just as happy to watch women play as men. Here are some things he does not say:
- The men are more entertaining to watch
- The men work harder and are more skilful
- I think it’s perfectly reasonable that female athletes earn a fraction of what men do
And if we keep a balanced approach to watching sport, I hope he never will.
I am not going to belittle their friendships with girls (any more). I admit, I was guilty of being all cute when my eldest made his first girl friend at school. We had them married off and teased a little bit. But I think it’s important that boys are able to see girls in the light of friendship. How can they be expected to work together as colleagues and equals in later life if we continually try to put the romantic box around every female/male relationship? I know it’s all in fun, but I do think modelling behaviour is important and just wonder if this particular behaviour sends the right message.
We have an equal partnership in our household. My husband has always done his fair share of the housework and cooking. It’s how our relationship started out and it’s how it continues. And when my boys go out into the world, they will do so having seen their Dad entirely capable of looking after himself.
We don’t talk about what “boys are good at” and “girls are good at”. Small boys and girls do act differently. There is no sense in pretending that there isn’t a difference. Most of the girls in Master I’s class are definitely more mature than the boys. We know that, in general, girls use more language earlier. We know that, in general, boys find it harder to sit still and concentrate. So of course, on average, girls are going to find the early years at school easier than boys. Which can lead to boys feeling bad about themselves in comparison. But assigning that feeling to gender difference is dangerous ground that we are going to avoid.
Things aren’t gendered. My littlest quite likes to play with dolls. My eldest is partial to the odd bit of nail polish. At their age, I don’t think this has anything to do with anything aside from them having fun and expressing themselves. So we don’t make a deal of it.
We talk about kindness, fairness, justice and equality. We don’t always talk about those things in the context of gender equality. But we talk about them as important things to treasure and to consider in our interactions with others. I firmly believe that kindness is the bedrock of bringing up decent human beings.
I am happy with my role in our family. My husband works full time and I freelance part-time and look after the boys when he’s not home. This suits us, our personalities and our skills. There are plenty of times I have felt like I have betrayed the sisterhood with this choice. That with my education and background I should be climbing the corporate ladder and forging the way for women in senior management positions. That I am not setting the best example to my children. But what’s best for our family has to come before ideals that made sense in my twenties. And I am gradually becoming okay with this choice from a feminist perspective. Reducing the important work of child-rearing into insignificance next to paid work does nothing for the cause of equality. So I won’t be party to that reduction.
I want my boys to grow into men who love women. Who respect women and who will stand up for them and with them. Who understand justice and equality and will protect both. Who don’t feel threatened by equal rights. Men who will call themselves feminists with pride.
Are you raising feminists?
How do you do it?