I have often been asked if I am a feminist. I believe not only am I one, but my husband is too!
What it means is that he believes in equality and treats women with the respect they deserve. We share responsibilities at home. We are raising our son together and divide work related to this. It’s not necessary he always drives when we step out. It’s also not essential I need to be only one who handles the kitchen. We have a 7-year-old son and if he is anything like his father he will imbibe these qualities naturally.
Be that as it may, I still intend to raise a feminist son who not only believes in equal rights and opportunities for women but also models it in his behavior and attitude.
I often hear about raising daughters to be feminists but why should it be any different for sons as well. I feel it will be truly equal only if we balance it out. Men and women are two sides of the same coin and we can’t change one without the other. Here are some things to think about.
1. Treat women with respect but as equals. There was a time when my son thought only men could be super heroes as his exposure was limited. I ensured he watched super girl, Incredibles etc. where women had super powers too. While buying toys, there was a general tendency to gender stereotype them as Lego for boys and dolls for girls or even blue things for boys and pink for girls. I try and take him away from these ideas and reiterate that there is no difference between him and his sisters (cousins who are very close to him) in what they can play, see or do.
2. It’s okay to express emotions. I have heard the oft-repeated statement “boys don’t cry” and have seen many parents around me even scold boys for “crying like a girl”. These statements reflect incorrect notions about both boys and girls and do them injustice. I encourage my son to express his true emotions even if it means crying sometimes. To associate natural emotions with a specific gender is a disservice we ourselves do to the cause of feminism. Expressing your emptions is not a sign of weakness but strength and gender has nothing to do with it.
3. Strengthen emotional intelligence. Schools are great is developing our children in academics and extra-curricular activities. Mental intelligence and physical evolution garner a lot of attention. Then suddenly as adults, we are told to reflect on our emotional quotient but unfortunately are not equipped with the mindset to deal with it. It is therefore, important for schools and parents to impart emotional learning around self-control, confidence, self- esteem, empathy, and relationship development and management. These have a bearing on what sort of adults our children will grow into and how they handle the opposite sex.
In my house, there are no rigidly defined gender roles. My son sees his father and me do every task. He sees us speak; treat each other respectfully and lovingly. He sees us handling our emotions and resolving conflict in a mature way. These are daily teaching him the power of EI or EQ. Hopefully, he will integrate these actions into his attitude and mindset and reflect it his behavior.
I consider it a win when my son notices inequality and questions it. When he asks why a particular woman has not learnt how to drive a car. Or why his naanu cannot make his own tea.
For us parents who have always taken “Feminist” as a tag of pride, this is the icing on the cake and a promise for a more equal future.
It ultimately comes down to mindset. Mere sloganeering on being feminist will achieve limited aims. Raising our children and exposing them in day-to-day life to actions that reinforce equal rights, equal opportunity, equal respect and non-discrimination is the right way forward.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this and tips on raising our children to be feminists.