Any mother worthy of the title wants to be there for her children. I like to think that most mothers will, ultimately, stand by their children. But I know that's not always the case. And while the moniker "feminist" isn't some sort of virtue guard that keeps a parent from screwing up, I think there are important ways feminist moms have their kids' backs that, perhaps, others don't.
A lot of this ultimately boils down to the idea that feminists are, by nature, roundly suspicious of a number of societal norms. Not all societal norms, mind you. I mean, pretty much all the feminist I know are decidedly anti-puppy kicking and murder. I'm more talking about the societal norms that can't be explained by anything other than the sentence, "Well that's just the way it is," or those that hinge on the concept of shame in some way or another.
Now a lot of people, good people, have more of a "go with the flow" attitude about these aforementioned cultural norms. "Things are a certain way," they figure, "and society has held together more or less, so there must be a good reason for it all, right?" So when a child bumps against those norms, a lot of parents will take society's side. "Boys don't wear dresses." "Girls have to cover up their legs so that people don't get 'the wrong idea.'" "Don't rock the boat."
It's not always malevolent or villainous. Very often, these are acts of love (if misguided love), born of a desire to teach their child to fit in, learn respect for authority, and, in theory, be happy. This also isn't to say that feminist moms back their kids up in doing whatever the hell they want. We have boundaries just like everyone else. But we will have our children's back in some of these important moments:
You can talk about dress codes as being about "respect" and "teaching kids about appropriate attire for a professional setting" all you want, but the truth of the matter is that these rules disproportionately pertain to feminine clothing and therefore disproportionately affect girls. This sends a whole lot of crappy messages to kids: female bodies are, in and of themselves, inappropriate in ways male bodies are not; girls are responsible for not "distracting" the boys (and boys aren't responsible at all); and a boy's education is more important than a girl's. And don't even get my started on the dress codes that dictate that boys must not wear feminine clothing.
The day my daughter's school calls me to let me know she's in trouble for wearing leggings or a halter top is the day I show up to my daughter's school wearing exactly the same to argue about why such rules are wrong-minded and chauvinistic.
Son wants to do ballet? Daughter wants to join the wrestling team? Cool! Feminist moms aren't going to tell their children "no," or even fretfully and passive aggressively try to dissuade them over time, from engaging in a safe activity they've shown an interest in. Kids can play how they want to play and pursue the interests of their choice, whether or not the choice is a typical or "traditional" one.
And, once again, anyone who has a problem with that will find no quarter in trying to appeal to mom.
Look, I understand that when someone you love, someone you thought you knew so intimately, informs you that you've been getting a fundamental aspect of their identity wrong, it can be tough. But you know what's tougher? Being trans, so maybe making a trans person's coming out and transition about your feelings isn't the way to go.
So if a feminist mom's child tells her, "Actually, mom, I know you see me as your daughter, but I'm actually your son and I'd like it if you used male pronouns," a feminist mom will respect her child's truth and honor it. That's not to say someone who identifies as a feminist is always going to "get it right" or won't be challenged, but she's going to learn and grow in support of her child (and always have their back).
"I see little Spencer is playing with Barbies" a concerned family member might say. "Don't you think you should take them away? Or at least discourage them? That's a girl toy!"
"No such thing!" a feminist mom will declare. She will then either take out an old school boom box and start blaring something by Bikini Kill or "Flawless," or begin a power point presentation gender as a social construct.
Some adults believe children owe them affection. Feminists moms do not. Intimacy is never something someone can demand of you — not a husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, random dude on the subway, or even Aunt Carmella — and a feminist mom will go to bat for you if anyone says otherwise. This can be awkward and uncomfortable and may even result in some hurt feelings, but the stakes are too high to let this get in the way. Because there are two vital lessons here: only you get to say what you do with your body, and your mom is someone who will stand up for your right to assert that.
Healthy eating? Regular exercise? Sure! These are good things that make kids healthy and strong. But they will be done for their own sake— not to get "skinny" or "bikini ready" or for any other aesthetic purpose.
If a kid grows up and decides they want their body to look a certain way through diet and/or exercise and/or plastic surgery, fine. That's their choice. This seed, however, will never be planted by a feminist mom. She has no time for body shaming.
Straight, gay, bi, ace, or pansexual (or anything in between), a feminist mom is like a honey badger: she doesn't give a sh*t. Her child's attraction (or lack thereof) is none of her damn business.
Feminist moms are well aware that what's right is not always popular. By encouraging their kids to stand up for their beliefs, they are aware this may sometimes put them at odds with the powers that be (schools, coaches, friends, other parents, etc). But a feminist mom will help her child navigate that line between following the rules, questioning them, and deciding when it is necessary or appropriate to break them. Because they know that, yeah, a lot of rules are complete bullsh*t, and they want to encourage their kids to spot and shovel bullsh*t as a general life skill.
Because it's a perfectly normal, natural, healthy urge. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Besides, feminist moms know that those in glass houses should not throw stones.
She may tell her child that it's a private activity, though. So please stop playing with your vulva in the living room, dear.
In case you couldn't tell, this is sort of the general theme of the list, but I think this bears mentioning in and of itself, because it's important.
As brilliant gender muse, RuPaul says, "You're born naked and the rest is drag." So much of what we consider to be the natural order of things is actually just systems upon systems of oppression intentionally designed to keep certain people down (like... pretty much everyone who isn't an able-bodied cis, heterosexual white dude of a certain socioeconomic standing). Feminist moms want to dismantle this idea, starting with unburdening (or, better yet, working to never burden) their children with these stupid ideas insofar as it is possible.
In short, feminist moms want their children to know that when they struggle against society, they've always got someone in their corner.
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