I never even realized that I am a feminist until the social uproar against inequality began (anew, for my generation; it has obviously been happening for a very long time before I became aware of it). Though I grew up my entire life thinking that I just wasn't like a lot of girls, it was never a source of angst for me. I never wore pink, and my make-up routine was virtually nonexistent. I was more concerned about my intellect than my off-brand jeans, and was taught from a very young age how to take care of myself. Yes, I was different but that was something that I was proud of.
When I found out I was pregnant with boys (both times), I was admittedly relieved. I was raised mostly by my dad after my mother passed away, and even before that I wasn't exactly what one would call "girly." Yes, calling someone girly now, or not considering her as such, might offend some people, but it really never bothered me. Honestly, it still doesn't because I now understand that ribbons and bows didn't make me a woman. What makes me a woman is my strength and individuality; it's my respect for both myself and for others; it's my desire to be recognized for my ideals and talents rather than my looks.
I have never been intimidated by men or felt less equal than those around me to the degree that it made me deeply angry or traumatized, and I've been lucky in that. And so, so many women haven't been lucky to, like me, merely be the victim of the casual, everyday sexism that, while not even remotely acceptable, is so damn common at this point that a lot of us barely feel it. That's upsetting to me on a completely other level: Being so used to the conditions and mindsets that diminish and disadvantage and harm women that we don't even notice them anymore is a damn good way to make sure they continue.
For all of these reasons, it's incredibly important that I raise my sons to be feminists too.
For the sake of the future women that my sons encounter throughout their lives, I intend to set a feminist example for them. They need to know that women are an equally valuable part of society, and understand that treating them as such is going to benefit not just them, but everyone.
I Want Them To Respect Women
Women deserve the same respect as men in every aspect of life. I want them to respect their bodies, their goals and ambitions, and their opinions. It's important that they respect everyone, but I especially want them to understand how important it is to not define their ideas and expectations of others based on gender alone.
I Want Them To Consider Everyone Their Equals
Feminism isn't just about equality for women. It's about equality for everyone, and by teaching my sons this, I hope to aid, in some small part, in the repairing the worst conditions in our society that our history has created. They will grow up knowing that it doesn't matter what race, ethnicity, or gender someone is because all humans deserve equal opportunities and treatment. Being born with certain identities — gender, race, body type, physical ability — doesn't somehow place someone on a pedestal, and everyone should be treated equally until they've proved they aren't worthy of such.
They Need To Support The Endeavors Of Women
Whether it's their best friend, a family member, or their partners, the women in my sons lives deserve unconditional support in all of their endeavors. They deserve to be seen and treated a full human beings, which sounds obvious, but is definitely not how things are currently. (We're more like 78% of a full human right now.)
I want it to be an unquestionable, automatic truth for my sons that women can be CEOs and military captains and professional athletes and contractors, and women can drive race cars and run for president if they so choose. Women can also be nurses or stay-at-home moms, and that doesn't make them "soft" or "bad feminists" — basically, women are people and they can do anything. It's not that complicated actually. Their ambitions deserve respect and their goals deserve support.
The World Doesn't Need Any More Donald Trumps
[Insert disgust, eye rolls, and incessant political rants here.]
We All Look Different, And That's OK
I hope that my sons will appreciate human bodies in all of their variations and different ways of looking and functioning. Bodies are very cool, and weird, and kinda gross, and endlessly interesting. I hope that my kids will respect a woman's anatomy for its strength and capabilities. I hope they realize that no two people look exactly alike, and that treating someone differently based on their looks alone is never an acceptable thing. There are so many different ways to define beauty, and I hope that they learn them all.
I Want Them To Make Good Partners And Be Amazing Friends
Men and women are capable of being friends without having a romantic or sexual relationship. I hope that they treat the women that are their friends with the same respect and reverence as they do their partners.
I Don't Want Them To Be Intimidated By Strong Women
I don't want my sons to be intimidated by strong women like so many men (and women) are. I don't want my sons to think that women who manage to make it to positions of power did so based on what they look like or who they slept with. I just hope that the generation I'm helping to raise will be better than that. I hope that they recognize that women with power have worked equally as hard, if not harder, than any man to get it.
It's OK To Express Emotions
Feminism isn't just about the strength and advancement of women. It's about gaining an added understanding and respect of everyone. It's about dismantling the notions what "what girls do" and "what boys do" and, in the process, opening up everyone to an infinitely expanded range of ways to be who they authentically are, without being weighed down by limiting, preconceived ideas about who they should be and do and like. The saying that "boys don't cry" is so tired and absurd. Of course boys cry. Men cry too. Everyone cries sometimes and that's OK. Being able to express one's emotions is a strength, not a weakness.
Misogyny Is A Tired Concept
I don't care how or why this concept even came about, but it's my job to make sure that my boys learn about this only from the history books.
It's Not OK To Treat Women Like Objects
Women were not put on this earth for the simple entertainment and use of men. It's not OK to objectify the female form, and treating a woman's body like it's a piece of property — even in contexts where a woman is granting you access to her body, you're renting; you never own — is never acceptable.
Women hold the sole ownership of their bodies and my sons need to respect that. When the time comes for sexual exploration, I just want them to keep in mind that sex is a consensual thing, and that both participants' physical and emotional boundaries should be regarded appropriately.