In some circles, "feminism" is a cringe-worthy and dreadful word. So I guess people within those circles would be pretty horrified to know that feminism is one of the key principles I hope to instill in my daughter. And even though she's only 4, her father and I have already engaged her in feminist discussions. But to those who may currently be mid-pearlclutch, there are things raising your daughter to be a feminist does not mean, because, honestly, it's not all that scary.
And, to be clear, I don't think most people really give a you-know-what about my feminism, or the idea that I'm raising my daughter with those ideals. Most people are all about it. "Girl power!" "Yay baby girl! You're going to rule the world!" and "The future is female!" More still are just sort of "whatever" about it, and that's fine by me, too (though I'll always try to make a feminist convert, I'm not going to lie). But even among the supporters and the "meh" people are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to raise your child to be a feminist.
In other words, raising my daughter to believe in "the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes" isn't a big deal. In fact, it should be considered the norm when it comes to how we raise our children. But if you're still unconvinced, or somehow afraid of feminism, here are some things you really don't have to worry in regards to my parenting:
She'll Be A Misandronist
Are we not past this? What a completely ridiculous idea, and what sad commentary that equality looks like subjugation to the people who believe this. (Honestly, what does that say about the way they view the status quo?) Men are people and, just like all other people, some of them suck and some of them are amazing and all of them deserve a basic level of respect.
Feminists aren't a malevolent cabal of secretly loathing men and plotting ways to destroy them. I really don't know how else to convince people of this fact other than to give my sincere assurance.
We'll Favor Her Over Her Brother
OMG, are you kidding? That's horrifying! Not only is feminism not about hating men it's not about favoring women, either. Repeat after me: "Feminism is about equality." I love both my children equally.
OK, yeah, sure, sometimes one of them is acting like a jerk and I'll quietly think to myself, "Child-who-is-not-acting-like-a-jerk-right-now, you are currently my favorite," but that switches up on the regular and is mostly just a joke to get me through a difficult parenting moment.
She Can't Be Girly
I am a super femme-y feminist. I travel with no fewer than 10 lipsticks with me at all times. When given the choice I'll almost always wear a dress. I cannot count the number of floral prints hanging in my home. Ain't nothing wrong with being "girly" and our daughter will certainly not be discouraged from expressing her femininity for the sake of feminism... because there's no contradiction. It's not gender roles that we have a problem with, it's prescribed, rigid gender roles.
She Can't Date
I mean, she's 4 so at the moment this is a non-issue because, you know, 4. But as she gets older she's certainly not going to be banned from dating because... feminism? That's not how feminism works. It's not some manifesto against romance and/or sex.
She Can't Like Princesses
Of course she can like princesses! While I will admit that feminists are more likely than others to be skeptical of princesses and the messages they send (not without reason) this feminist is all about princesses. Because, in my view, they are not in and of themselves damaging. A princess is a person and she can do all the cool, fun, exciting, or stupid stuff any other person does... she's just going to be more likely to be wearing a fabulous dress while doing it. Yeah, princesses have been used as a tool of the patriarchy in order to send girls a very narrow view of what they should aspire to, but I'm totally down with taking back out princesses.
Also, my daughter insists I call her "Spaghetti Princess" and, like, I don't know what that means at all but I'm so all about it.
She Has To Do "Boy Stuff"
There's this bizarre idea out there that feminism is about allowing women to "become men" (whatever the hell that means) or at the very least present themselves as men which... nah. Certainly she doesn't have to abstain from anything she wants to do just because it's seen as a traditionally male activity or expression of identity. She recently got to pick out a new pair of shoes and she went with Batman flip flops, for example, and it was a complete non-issue.
However, we also don't make her wear sports jerseys and work with power tools because, "WE'RE HERE TO SUBVERT YOUR GENDER NORMS! BLAH!" She can do what she wants.
Everything Will Be A Rebellion
There will be a lot of rebellion and questioning the status quo if things work out the way we hope. However, it's not like she's being trained to pick fights for the sake of causing a ruckus. This isn't about, as my grandfather likes to put it, "Being different to be different." This is about not letting oppressive systems getting in the way of your rights or pursuit of happiness.
She'll Only Like Weak Men
When people say this, they're usually thinking of "weak men" as "men not committed to toxic expressions of masculinity." So, if you think of "weak" men as men who are willing to express an emotion other than anger and are secure enough in their masculinity and sense of self to align himself with strong women, then, sure, she's only going to like "weak" men.
But is there anything weaker than a guy who is afraid of wearing pink? Or a guy who is so obsessed with appearing powerful that he feels the need to exert dominance over everyone in his world?
She'll Be Pushed Into A High-Powered Career
Again, it's not about making her do anything in particular, it's about letting her know that the option is available to her. We absolutely want her to know that she can dedicate herself entirely or primarily to her career when she gets older and that the scope of that career is limitless... but it's not like we're going to be disappointed if she's not running a Fortune 500 company by the time she's 24.
She'll Be Disrespectful
This comes down to what you mean by "respect." Is she going to treat all people with dignity? She'd better. Will she show compassion and kindness? I hope so. Will she channel anger in constructive ways that put a premium on justice and reconciliation? She'll certainly be taught to.
But is she blindly going to accept authority figures simply because they are socially placed above her on a hierarchy? Oh hell no.
We'll Make Her A Tool Of Our Agenda
I've never understood this accusation, but I get it a lot, either personally or generally. "Why push your political agenda on your kids? Why not let them decide what they believe themselves?"
Well, because I'm a parent and it's literally my job to guide their moral development as I see fit. Like... do you say this to parents who take their kids to church? Or who otherwise provide some sort of moral compass? We're all affirming and decrying various social mores in our kids, and parenting is nothing if not instilling your children with qualities and beliefs that you believe will make them, and the world, better off.