Why I'm Raising My Son To Be A Feminist
In the current political climate there is a lot of talk about women's rights and the audacity of men to make decisions about what women can and cannot do with their bodies. All of this talk has gotten me thinking about how my son is raised. As an unapologetic feminist I have always had the intention of raising him to respect women's place in society as equal to men's, to see the importance of women in our global structure and to contribute to the fight for equality in his own way. But recently I have felt especially passionate about it and have really broadened my perspective as to what raising my son as a feminist means.
Let's start with the definition of feminism:
The advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
Contrary to popular belief, feminism isn't about hating men. Feminism IS about equality. We have come a long way, but we aren't there yet and we need strong women AND men to stand for and fight for equality. I will do my damnedest to make sure that my son feels empowered and proud to be a voice for equality for women.
But, I must ask...Why aren't there more male feminists? Why is it so taboo for a man to be a feminist? My theory is that the problem lies at the root of how we are raising our boys. The miseducation of masculinity and the importance of male emotional security may be the biggest culprit. After all, the real oppressor to women is not men in general, but men who have been misguided about what it means to be real men; associating things like being emotional with being weak, and in turn associating being emotional with being female. Of emotion = weak and emotion = female then the natural conclusion is that females are the weaker sex. This is a problem.
So I will raise my son to know that he is allowed to be emotional and that doesn't make him less of a man. I will raise him to know that he doesn't have to puff up his chest and fit into a stereotype of masculinity. That really strong men are vulnerable because vulnerability takes courage. That there is never a good enough reason to put someone else down just to raise yourself up. That every human being on this earth, including him deserves to be treated fairly and equally. That he doesn't need to feel threatened by strong women, but empowered and inspired. That being a nurturer does not make you less powerful. I will do my best to keep him from hearing phrases like..."grow some balls" insinuating that you are stronger if you have balls. Let's get real here...kick a man in the balls, then kick a woman in the vagina and you tell me which is stronger. I try to keep him from hearing phrases like "don't be such a girl", but when he does I'm quick to explain to him, even at four, that unfortunately that person must not understand how awesome girls are. Then we talk about all the awesome girls we know. I've realized that it's not just my job to make sure that he respects women, but that he respects himself enough to not be threatened by anyone that is unlike him, women included.
I have to believe that boys who grow up feeling confident, loved, respected, trusted and allowed to safely express themselves don’t need to seek hyper-masculine security blankets to confirm who they are. They don’t need to harass or exert authority over women to prove their worthiness. They don't feel threatened by equality, but instead embrace it as an integral part of society. My hope is that boys raised this way will become leaders who are true to themselves, their strengths and aware of their ability to affect change, that they don't feel the need to conform to the toxic masculine stereotypes of the past.
So I will raise my son to be a proud feminist, not because I hate men, but because I believe in equality and because I believe that we have the power to raise a generation of men that defines masculinity differently. A generation that is proud to stand up for the rights of ALL men, women and children. I believe that children, by nature, understand and accept equality because they haven't yet been jaded by inequality. Therefore, we have a responsibility, as parents to cultivate this and to raise girls and boys to become adults that understand that gender equality and feminism isn't controversial or political, it's just common sense.
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