Never was there a word more likely to insight controversy than the F-word. No not that F-word, I’m talking about feminism. Mention the fact that you’re a feminist and some people will automatically assume that means you’re anti-male. But it isn’t about burning your bra or wanting to live in a man-free bubble, feminism is about equality. Just ask Emma Watson.
And of course Emma Watson isn’t the only celebrity to be flying the feminism flag. Though normally fiercely private about her family life, pop star Adele recently opened up about motherhood and her decision to raise her little boy as a feminist in training.
“I’m raising him to respect women,” she told OK! Magazine.”
When asked to go into more detail on how she plans on teaching her son to embrace a feministic mindset, the 28-year-old singer’s response was simply that she was letting four-year-old Angelo see his mum for the empowered woman she is.
“He knows I’m a powerful force,” she said.
“He feels it at home, let alone when he comes to work with me. And he comes everywhere with me anyway!”
Without wanting to come over all Carrie Bradshaw, Adele’s powerful parenting vow got me thinking. As the mum of boy/girl twins I’m constantly trying to reinforce the idea to my daughter that “girls can be/do anything”, but what about my son?
In assuming that my little boy doesn’t need to hear the same equality message I’ve been peddling to his sister am I being somewhat negligent as a parent?
It seems I’m not the only one who’s failed in educating my son about feminist values. According to a recent poll by the Fawcett Society only four per cent of men would define themselves as feminists. And while more positively, the survey also revealed that 86 per cent of men wanted equality for the women in their lives, it is proof of the confusion that still exists surrounding the term feminist.
As feminist icon Gloria Steinem famously said: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
So like Adele, I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to help instil some feminist values into both my daughter, and my son. It won’t be easy, particularly when misogyny and gender inequality are still such a present force in our culture, but I’m determined to try. And I’m not alone. Here’s how seven other mothers of boys are making it happen too.
“I’m raising my boys to respect women in every way”
Jenny* is mum to two boys aged six and two.
“I’m trying to raise my boys to respect women in every way – their views, their abilities and achievements, their bodies. The recent US election opened my eyes even more to how important it is to guide my boys to ensure they respect women.
I want to raise emotionally healthy boys who will see their future partner (whether female or not) as an equal partner. Celebrating their achievements and sharing in mutual joy. I recently read a fiction novel where a character referred to his wife as “her indoors.” It was a phrase I hadn’t heard before, but it didn’t take much effort to infer its meaning. I was seriously left with my mouth open in shock that people actually still use such outdated phrases.
I’ve always let the boys play with whatever toys they were drawn to be it trucks, swords and superheroes or play kitchens, pushchairs and fairy costumes. Limiting children, whatever their gender, in any way limits their ability to become their full self. Perhaps I’m raising the next big chef, a stay at home dad or a costume designer. I’ll be proud of them no matter what.
Our job as parents is to give our children the best possible chance in life – I honestly believe raising them to accept and respect everyone (women and different ethnicities alike) will help give them that chance. A diverse team will always bring more to the table. Ensuring that they see the value women bring to that table (i.e. through their ability to approach problems in different ways) will hopefully instill in my boys that it’s better and more productive to include women, and to value their contributions. And to support the initiatives that keep them at that table – maternity leave, flexible working, health care, etc.
Finally, I will be raising my boys to respect a woman’s body. To understand that no, means NO.”
“We need to stop labelling girls as ‘bossy’ and boys as ‘leaders'”
Sarah* is mum to a seven year old daughter and a four year old son.
“We need to rethink how we talk about girls and boys and the gender labels we automatically attach to them. That means showing respect for qualities and behaviours that are non gender specific ie no more labelling girls as bossy and boys as leaders. It needs to start at home and at school.
Feminism is about happier, integrated supported valued lives for all – with a determination to tackle head on the explicit and implicit manifestation of this not working to learn and champion improvement. But its not just about boys, the challenge is both male and female.”
“It’s a case of respecting each other as human beings”
Claire*, is mum to a seven year old daughter and three year old son.
“In my mind boys and girls are equal but we are all different as human beings. It is now more acceptable for boys to show their emotions and actually considered ‘cute’ and ‘sensitive’ and thankfully we now live in a world where men and women do have far more equal opportunities in the big wide world.
I look at my son and I want him to grow into that tall, strong, intelligent, independent man. But I want my daughter to become a strong, intelligent and independent woman. I would like to think that I will always drum into them both that they both have the same opportunities in the same world out there and as a human being you are capable of WHATEVER you put your mind to.
I think it’s important that they both have strong male and female role models and I will always make sure that my son knows how to treat and respect girls / women but it’s also important that my daughter knows how to treat and respect boys and men. Surely it’s a case of respecting each other as human beings?!”
“We need to teach both sexes about feminism”
Sam*, is mum to two boys, one aged eight and the other six
“I think it goes without saying that it is important to bring up our sons to be men who do their fair share of housework and childcare, and to treat girls and women with respect. But perhaps more importantly we need to bring up our daughters to have enough self-confidence that they won’t become doormats and domestic drudges. We need to teach our girls to aim high, to believe in themselves, and to take their dreams seriously. It is hard to teach what you don’t practice however. Our girls won’t believe us if we tell them to do things we aren’t doing for ourselves. So the best way to ensure the next generation of women are not overworked and underpaid is to refuse to accept such privations in our own lives. Yes, bring up your boys to be feminists. But don’t model victimhood for your daughters. Put the duster down at the end of a hard day’s work and put your feet up: children are better off with a happy mum in a grubby home than in a pristine house with a grumpy run-ragged mother who is killing herself trying to do it all.”
“I try to kill negative boy/girl stereotypes.”
Rachel* is mum to two daughters aged eight and three and a son aged six.
“As a parent of both sexes, I try to kill any negative boy/girl stereotypes when they come up. When we have playdates I’ve heard girls tell my son ‘you’re a boy, you can’t do X or play with Y’. And the message seems to have got through to my eldest daughter as she usually sticks up for my son and says ‘but not playing with it makes him sad.’ I guess it’s taught them to move beyond ‘gender’ and to the centre of the person.
We have a joke that there is no ‘slave’ living in the home, so housework isn’t seen as a ‘woman’ thing. We also split kids activities between me and my husband and have a rule that neither parent relaxes until all jobs are done , which sets a good example, no skivvy wife in our house! I want the children to be competent at household management as well as high achieving. It only takes a minute to show them how the washing machine works.
Whenever there’s a history project at school come from school, I also try to research what inspiring women and children were achieving at the same time and point out that yes Martin Luther King was impressive, but so too was Maya Angelou.”
“All children should be viewed equally”
Nicola* is mum to an eight year old daughter and six year old boy/girl twins
“The thing I’m conscious about is that our generation needs to take the, frankly quite patronising, concept of ‘girls ‘can’ do any job’ much further. Of course Women ‘can’ do any job but when they get in to a role (particularly male dominated ones) they are still judged more harshly or expected to ‘over perform’ to justify their position. Furthermore it seems they are still judged by criteria set by men as important. That’s why raising sons as feminists is important. I’m trying (and probably failing!) to raise my son (and daughters) to know that individuals should be valued equally. Everybody is different and that’s a good thing and that no one is more entitled in any place or role than another.
I want my son to understand that being ‘strong’ is no more important than any other skill required to do jobs such as being a police officer/fire fighter etc and I’m conscious that all language I use is gender neutral. I also discourage all the children from using the word ‘tomboy’ for girls who may like football or more physical type activities or whatever. My view is it suggests that the girl is wanting to enter in to ‘boy’s world’, activities which boys are ‘entitled’ to enjoy whereas those sports/activities shouldn’t be seen as such in the first place.”
“We need to teach our sons that its ok to cry”
Lucy* is mum to a six-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter
“I’m trying to teach my son that it’s ok to show his feelings and to cry if he wants to as I believe telling boys to ‘man-up’ when they’re upset sends out the wrong message. The other day I was watching him play football when one of his team mates fell over injured. He burst into tears and his dad rushed over to chastise him for “crying like a girl.” I wondered about saying something to him, but I didn’t have to because another dad walked over and said “come on mate it is 2017!” So though, we’ve still got a long way to go, at least there is some evidence that things are changing.”
Will you raise your children to be feminists? Let us know @YahooStyleUK