Shush Gordon! Not THAT F word.
Today I’m thinking about Feminism, and how we can better raise our children to become Fearless Feisty Feminists
The question of how we do this effectively has often occupied my thoughts, but recent events have caused me to give it serious head space.
My fear is that this man (who I refuse to namecheck on my blog) acts like it’s OK, it’s normal, it’s BIG to treat women as commodities, things to use and abuse as he sees fit, things that do not deserve respect, things to be discarded when they are no longer of use, a sub-human species without opinion, voice, or feeling.
It strikes me that rather than teach our girls how not to make themselves vulnerable, what not to wear, how not to conduct themselves lest their behaviour be misconstrued as a ‘come-on’, we need to teach our boys how to respect girls.
In other words, we need to teach our boys how to be feminists.
Photo Today’s Parent
“Why has the word [feminism] become such an uncomfortable one? It is not the word that is important; it’s the idea and the ambition behind it.” said Emma Watson in her 2014 #HeForShe campaign speech at the UN headquarters in New York.
Emma, who was appointed a UN goodwill ambassador for women, campaigns for women’s issues around the world.
Her speech (which you can catch here) has been watched over 1.5 million times on Youtube.
Emma called on men to champion women’s issues and also highlighted the problems men can develop because of the pressures to be stereotypically masculine.
Joanna Shroeder, in her article 18 Ways to Raise Feminist Boys, recommends starting at the very beginning (always a good idea, and Julie Andrews agrees too!)
- ENCOURAGE HIM TO UNDERSTAND A FULL RANGE OF EMOTIONS. Too often, men aren’t allowed to be sad, hurt, or fearful. This expectation is really bad for our boys, setting them up for higher rates of suicide and other mental health issues. So hug and snuggle your son, and let him cry when he needs to.
- BUY HIM DOLLS. Sit down with your son and dress, cradle, and feed the dolls together. This is especially important for dads. It’s okay if dolls aren’t your son’s first toy of choice — their presence and your enthusiasm teach him that you believe nurturing is a natural and healthy part of being a boy.
- PLAY HOUSE WITH HIM. And let him play all sorts of roles. Ask him if he’d like to be the mommy, and you’ll be the child. Let him decide what happens in the action, and never make him feel bad for wanting to play the sister, grandmother, or any other traditionally female role.
- LET HIM WEAR ALL THE COLOURS. Debunk the myth that there is such a thing as a “boy colour.” All colours are for boys and girls, and if you explain it simply, he’ll see how silly the traditional rules are.
- ARRANGE PLAYDATES WITH GIRLS. Make playing with girls a normal part of your son’s life. After all, he will be in a future workforce full of women and will probably have a woman for a boss, too. He needs to know that girls are his equals and not just romantic partners.
- SHOW HIM DIVERSE IMAGES OF FAMILIES. Seek out books and media that shows all sorts of families, from same-sex parents to adoptive families to single-parent homes to Mum, Dad and 2.4 kids. Emphasise love as the central connecting factor that makes a family.
World Family organic dolls available from Natures Purest
Meg Kehoe in her blog post 8 Things to Teach Your Child About Feminism, because starting them early matters suggests we should:
Let them know feminism means equality…
“From the get-go you should teach your children the true definition of feminism. And, for those who need a little clarification, feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”
And we should choose Our words wisely…
“Phrases like “boys don’t cry,” “that’s not very ladylike,” and “you _____ like a girl,” are all phrases that can pigeonhole children. Choose your words carefully when speaking to children, and remember that kids learn from what they see.”
“The idea of being a feminist: so many women have come to this idea of it being anti-male and not able to connect with the opposite sex, but what feminism is about is equality and human rights. For me that is just an essential part of my identity.”—Lena Dunham
“A feminist is anyone who recognises the equality and full humanity of women and men.” ―Gloria Steinem
So how do we raise our girls…
“I raise up my voice — not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” ― Malala Yousafzai – watch her Nobel Prize acceptance speech here.
“You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilisation in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'” — taken from a wonderful blog post by the lexicographer Erin McKean
it *IS OK* to wear *pretty things*, to like pink if you like pink, to choose a dress and heels one day, jeans, hoody and trainers the next.
The fabulous novelist, essayist, and totally one of my heroes, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the new face of No7 Make-up. She has written extensively on feminism. Her essay, (do read it, please) which she posted on her Facebook page is a most extraordinary and wonderful piece of feminist writing.
In a statement about the No7 beauty campaign, Chimamanda says, “I love make-up and its wonderful possibilities for temporary transformation. And I also love my face after I wash it all off (…) There is something exquisitely enjoyable about seeing yourself with a self-made new look. And for me that look is deeply personal. It isn’t about what is in fashion or what the rules are supposed to be. It’s about what I like. What makes me want to smile when I look in the mirror. What makes me feel slightly better on a dull day. What makes me comfortable.”
It’s that confidence in THEIR OWN beauty that we want to instil in our girls. That same confidence that enables Chimamanda to say:
“Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.”
“I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.” —Hillary Clinton
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Fourth Women’s Conference in Beijing, China. Listen to/read the full speech on the American Rhetoric website.
And here’s Emma Watson again – “In 1997, Hillary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights. Sadly, many of the things that she wanted to change are still true today.”
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights”
“Let this conference be our – and the world’s – call to action. Let us heed that call so we can create a world in which every woman is treated with respect and dignity, every boy and girl is loved and cared for equally, and every family has the hope of a strong and stable future. That is the work before you. That is the work before all of us who have a vision of the world we want to see — for our children and our grandchildren.”
And to end with another of my heroes,
the United States’ First Lady, Michelle Obama.
In the incredible speech she made in response to the ‘locker-room revelations’ from the current Republican candidate, she says,
“The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.”
Do share your stories with us. Tell us how you have raised/are raising your own little feminists. Did you/do you think it’s an important issue? Why do you think, so many years after the ‘sexual revolution’, and the ‘women’s liberation movement’, we are still having to have these conversations?
Give us Female Heroes, not Girly Superheroines!
Responding to the swathe of leggy legends either present and correct or imminently due on printed pages and screens both big and small, Julie Burchill writes in Porter Magazine (issue 17)
“Superheroines embody the notion that the only reason a man ever put a woman on a pedestal was to get a better look at her bum.”