True story: I am someone who once thought feminism had outlived its usefulness after, like, 1969; I declared, "Can't we all just be humanists?!" I thought feminism was completely unnecessary. Women's Studies, all-girls schools, and all-women's colleges? "Only making things worse, and things really aren't bad enough to justify those things anymore." I know. I know, guys. But I was a freshman in high school. And considering I've written countless articles at this point on feminist parenting and motherhood, I think it's safe to definitively declare that I've seen the light and changed my ways. Now, as a mother, it's all well and good to be a feminist in order to raise feminist kids. But if you're parenting with a partner, it's pretty essential to get them on board, too.
You can go on about encouraging your son to play with dolls if he likes it and give your daughter STEM-based gifts, and go on about the wage gap and unfair dress codes...but if you have a partner who undermines that, you're not going to get too far. At least, not nearly as far as you could if you were both on the same page. So whether your partner calls himself a feminist or not, you're going to have lots of conversations about...feministy things...in order to promote equality under your roof.
Note: I am a woman married to a man. So, for the purposes of this article (and in order not to speak to a relationship/parenting model I know nothing about), that is the perspective I'm writing from. I am very grateful that my particular man is a self-identified feminist. For the most part, our conversations aren't so different from those of most other parents, but some of them might veer into the "feminist specific."
[Any Number Of Intellectual Discussions And Debates]
We want to set an example for our kids about engaging in intelligent and sociopolitically relevant topics. So we go ahead and talk about the election, an article we read in The New Yorker, or the virtues and pitfalls or a proposed piece of legislation within earshot of our wee ones. Go ahead and feel free to engage in spirited debate as well — It's important for kids to learn how to disagree while remaining respectful and thoughtful.
"How Are We Going To Divvy Up The Housework?"
It's all about the equitable division of labor and feminist couples know this. Look, we don't literally count out the chores to make sure everything is perfectly equal at all times — that's not especially practical, especially when one parent stays home — but it's something feminist parents are aware of and work to keep at the forefront of their minds lest they slip into unfair patterns.
"This Is What I Need From You."
Neither of us is going to be passive-aggressive or meek about what we need from the other person. We know parenthood is a team sport, and since it's expected that either one of you is willing to step up and do anything required if needs be (not to say that you don't have your areas of expertise), we are going to clearly and unreservedly communicate that when the time comes. And it will come...
"How Can I Help?"
This whole ~team effort~ thing goes both ways. My husband and I extol the benefits of "frequent check-ins." Yes, we expect one another to just say what they need when they need it, but sometimes you get caught up in your own crap and it doesn't even strike you to ask for help. Feminist parents take initiative!
"Do You Think This Show Does Enough To Subvert Gender Stereotypes?"
Being a feminist in an un-feminist world means a lot of things, and chief among them is that you're frequently fretting and questioning. So when your kid watches a cartoon and the female character leaps behind the male character for protection, you don't just think, "Oh, that character is scared." You think, "What message is this sending my kids about women, bravery, and a man's role as de facto protector." And it turns into a big long discussion with your partner. To the untrained eye, we're insufferable nitpickers, but we know better! We're like Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix, metaphorically defeating Agent Smith, aka, THE PATRIARCHY.
...OK, maybe we're a little insufferable.
"How Come I Can Never Find Pink Clothes In The Boy's Section?"
Because, damnit, our son's favorite color is pink! He doesn't want the ruffly pink clothes found in the girl's section. He wants traditionally nondescript "boy clothes," but pink. This is not hard to so, guys. Jeez.
"My Kingdom For A Girl's Garment That Isn't Pink!"
The opposite end of the spectrum. It's like we're swimming in a sea of Pepto Bismol. Your feminist partner can rant about that with you.
"So, I Was Listening To NPR The Other Day..."
Because let's be honest: Stereotypes exist for a reason and if you describe yourself as a "feminist couple" you almost certainly listen to your local NPR station.
"Help Me Write This Strongly Worded Letter."
We call things out individually (sexism, racism, ableism...a lot of -isms), but as a couple, we know it's important to do together for the benefit of our children, who will see both parents on a united front and therefore recognize how important these issues are. We're not mean about it; we're just assertive. It's great when you're half of the couple because it's like, "Rawr! We're in this together." I'd imagine it's less fun to be on the receiving end.
"I'm Worried We're Not Being Mindful Enough About..."
To be a feminist is to constantly feel like we're never quite doing as much as we could. Or at the very least, it means questioning if there's more we could be doing, or taking a different approach to ensure that our children are as untainted by sexist norms as humanly possible. Fortunately, feminist moms and their feminist partners can brainstorm with — and reassure — one another.
"OMG Will You Listen To This Bullshit?!"
Because there's so much of it out there and so you need to rant about it with someone who gets it.
"How Are We Going To Address [Issue] With Them?"
We want our children to go out into the world with eyes wide open. So planning out how any number of subjects will be introduced, addressed, and/or taught with your partner is essential. Over the years, these conversations will take up a lot of time and mental energy between feminist parents...and it's actually pretty cool.