As an unapologetically outspoken feminist, I knew the kind of environment I was going to be raising my son in. He was going to see an equal devision of labor in our home and he was going to have the opportunity to play with dolls and jewelry and whatever else that tickled his fancy. My son would watch his dad cook and he would never hear the words "don't cry" or "boys will be boys." However, the feminism environment I've raised my son in doesn't take away from the moments my son has proved children are natural feminists. Here I was, worried about cultivating a home that would help my son believe in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes, when he just innately believes it all on his own. I didn't have to "raise a feminist son," I just had to make sure I didn't screw it up.
Of course, my son doesn't understand that he's a natural feminist, or that he has feminist tendencies, or what the word "feminist" even means. After all, feminist — just like any other label our society has used to differentiate and/or understand people — is a construct, and construct is a pretty heavy-handed word for a 2-year-old toddler to understand. However, when I watch my son play with a pink toy puppy and not once stop to question why he likes a "girl toy," or even realizes that our culture has created "girl toys" and "boy toys," I know that what my son fails to see is only aiding him. When I watch as he plays with both toddler boys and toddler girls on the playground, because he doesn't see the need to divide people based on sex, I know that my son doesn't automatically see or identity people based on gender. When and/or if that day comes, it will be because he has learned to. It will be because our society has created gender as a way to describe certain people, then attached likes, actions, capabilities and expectations to those descriptions. It'll be because what my son knows and understands naturally, is being chiseled away by sexism and gender stereotypes and the ever-present patriarchy. Ugh.
However, for now I can take solace in the fact that my son is a natural feminist, as I imagine all children are. I can look at how he acts naturally, and realize that feminism is the norm, and the idea that all genders aren't created equal is an unnatural way of thinking. I swear, parents learn more from their children than children learn from their parents.
When My Son Plays With My Jewelry...
My son is obsessed with my jewelry, so trying to keep him away from my necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings is a constant, uphill and usually futile battle. He loves to wear one particular necklace (which hangs down to around his knees), walking around and/or just sitting and playing with his action figures.
It's adorable and not once — not a single, solitary time — does my son think that necklaces or bracelets make him "less of a boy" or are "inappropriate" for him to wear. He seems something stimulating, he investigates it, he decides if it's worth his time, and then he either adds it or deletes it from his "possible toy" list I'm sure he has stored in the forefront of his brain. Not once does he think to gender items because, well, that's stupid. So stupid, in fact, that even a 2-year-old toddler knows not to do it. Whoa.
...And Wants To Wear A Pink Tutu...
My partner and I are thrilled to let our son pick out his own clothes (sometimes and usually depending on the weather) and watch him make his own decisions in a controlled way that doesn't involve him testing the laws of gravity. So, we've started allowing him to "plan" his outfits, which is to say he grabs whatever he wants to wear and we wrangle his little toddler body into them.
He picks clothes that have arbitrarily been designated as "girl clothes," which is to say he likes pink things and shirts with hearts on them and pants that are purple. It doesn't cross his mind that these are "girl clothes" and that he should be focused on "boy clothes" because, to a toddler (and a feminist) clothes are clothes and anyone can wear whatever the hell they want.
...And Doesn't Think It's "Odd" Or "Strange"
My son was wearing a necklace and playing with a pink puppy at his grandmother's house, when his grandmother stopped him to say that he shouldn't play with "girl things." The look he gave his grandmother is the same look I had on my face, right before I corrected my partner's mom and told her that my son can play with whatever he wants to play with (that isn't dangerous), because toys are toys and not "boy toys" and "girl toys."
To my son, the concept that he can't play with something he likes just because he's a boy was so strange, I could see his brain fail to comprehend that ridiculous notion. His reaction was so naturally and unapologetically feminist, I decided right then and there that the kid would be getting not one, but two chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
When My Son Says He Loves To Cook
I'd like to think the devision of labor and responsibilities my partner and I have established in our own home, contributes to the reason why my son is obsessed with his mini toy kitchen and says he "loves to cook." Because, in our family, I don't cook just because "I'm the girl." In fact, my partner does the majority of the cooking. After all, he's home with our son during the day, then at school full-time at night. He can have dinner ready for us to eat together, before I take over caring for our son while he's in class. It's the perfect devision of responsibilities, and in no-way does gender or sexist gender stereotypes play into that decision making process.
As a result, my son watches his dad cook more than he watched me attempt to navigate the kitchen. He loves being part of the cooking process and "taste testing" and yelling, "Tastes good!" when his father asks him how he's doing. It's just one of the many reminders that when fathers (hell, all parents) are involved, the kid benefits substantially.
When My Son Said He Wanted To Be A Mom When He Grew Up
My son doesn't understand the unnecessary and gender-specific pressures women feel when they decide to procreate, that men just aren't subjected to after they make the same life decision. My son doesn't know that what is expected of me, as a mother, is far and beyond what's expected of my partner, as a father.
So it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that my son wants to be a mom. It doesn't occur to him that he can't or that he shouldn't because, to him, gender isn't this arbitrary construct that divides people and/or tells people what they should want to be/want to do/want to like/actually like. In fact, to my son gender isn't even a thing. Like, at all.
So when my son looks at me, all he sees is a human being that takes care of another human being and provides food and love and comfort and works and plays games and is just as capable as the other human being who provides him with much of the same. So far, I have to say I'm a fan of my son's line of sight.
When My Son Says He Thinks Mom Is Strong...
I can count on one hand the number of times the word "strong" has been used to describe me. Sure, people have said I'm emotionally strong — as in "brave" when I say something that women aren't supposed to say, like their opinions and thoughts and feelings and stuff — but I'm never described as physically strong. I am, though (because you try carrying a toddler on your back everywhere you go), I'm just never praised for my physicality the way the men in my life are.
That is, of course, unless it's my son handing out the compliments. He sees his mother as strong and capable; something women innately are yet are rarely if ever praised for, because being physically strong isn't "feminine."
... And Can "Lift A Car Over Her Head"
OK, well, I can't do that. This is something my son has actually said, though, and I won't lie: it made me feel pretty great.
To my son, I have the same powers as Thor, gender stereotypes be damned.
When My Son Plays With Both Boys And Girls
My son doesn't give a you-know-what about a kid's gender when he's at the playground and looking for someone to swing with or chase or go down the slide next. All he cares about is that someone is nice, willing to share their toys, and can dish out the occasional hug (as my son is pretty affectionate these days).
He doesn't tell a little girl she can't play on the monkey bars because she doesn't have the same upper body strength as a boy, and he doesn't put himself (or anyone else) into categories based on gender. It's so eye-opening to watch children play, and realize that gender truly is something our society has constructed. We've created these labels, and then we adhere to them as if they aren't a fabricated construction. It's unreal if you really stop and think about it, and especially if you watch children play together and realize that being a boy or a girl doesn't make a damn bit of difference.
When My Son Cries, And Needs Comfort Just Like Anyone Else
When my son falls, he cries. When he doesn't get his way or is upset, he cries. When he's scared or unsure or just overwhelmed, he cries. Hell, my son cries when he's tried. Never does he stop himself and say, "Well, being sad or upset is a pretty normal part of being a human being, but I'm a boy so I need to suck it up." Instead, he allows himself to feel a wide range of emotions that every human being has and feels.
I hope my son doesn't lose that. I hope that he continues to experience all that life has to offer, including the really sh*tty parts that we end up learning from.
When My Son Doesn't Think His Gender Defines What He Can Or Cannot Do
My son doesn't look at a doll and say, "Well, I can't play with that. I mean, I want to, but that's a girl toy and only girls can play with it and my parents said I was a boy when I was born, so too bad, so sad." Nope. It just doesn't happen. He plays with whatever it is he wants to play with and makes friends with whoever seems nice and approachable, and gender in no way keeps him from being his 2-year-old toddler self. It's awesome.
When My Son Doesn't Think Someone Else's Gender Defines What They Can Or Cannot Do
My son doesn't look at his mother and say, "Mom, you can't change that tire," just because mom is a woman. Instead, my son has watched his mother change a tire and hasn't thought twice about it. Why? Well, because the idea that a woman can't change a tire is about as played out as gender constructs themselves, and my son knows I'm able bodied enough to handle that side-of-the-road situation.
With every ounce of my being, I hope to all the damn gods that my son continues to think like a feminist. I hope he doesn't allow the thoughts and opinions of others that don't believe in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes, to change his way outlook.
I definitely hope he always believes I am strong enough to life a car over my head, because that's just rad.