Something people tend to learn very quickly about both me and my husband is that we are staunch feminists. Generally speaking, people understand why we're all "Ra ra feminism!" too, especially in regard to our daughter, but we sometimes get unusual looks when we talk about how feminism is a pillar in our son's life. People have some weird ideas about feminism, so here are some things raising your son feminist doesn't mean, because I feel like I have to set the record straight.
For example, feminism isn't about hating men or thinking women are superior. It's not incompatible with being male, masculinity, or loving men. Feminism isn't about ensuring that women beat men at the finish line, either. Instead, it's about ensuring we all begin at the same starting line (at the same time, with the same resources) whenever possible. And here's the best part: this is good for everyone. As activist Marsha P. Johnson said in a 1992 interview, "You never completely have your rights - one person - until you all have your rights." We're in this together, and we'll all benefit, at the very least in the long-run.
So, with that in mind, allow me dispel a few misconceptions about what raising our son to be a feminist does not, in any way shape or form, imply:
We Wanted Or Want Him To Be A Girl
Yeah, that's a big enormous "nope." First of all, we are well aware as parents (and two reasonably intelligent people with a grasp on biology and gender theory) that there is no level on which we have control over our child's sex or gender. Their sex is a coin toss and their gender is its own thing entirely. So if feminism were just about making little girls (one way or the other) we wouldn't have gone about it so cavalierly. Feminists don't hate little boys (or men).
He Shouldn't Be Traditionally Masculine
Feminists aren't opposed to or disdainful of masculinity.
"Then why do you talk about toxic masculinity?!" some bro asks angrily, because of course he does.
Dude, I'm literally modifying "masculinity" with "toxic" in order to differentiate it from plain, old masculinity. Like, if I said "I hate vanilla ice cream" does that mean I hate all ice cream? Or does it mean I hate one particular type?
When we talk about "toxic masculinity" we're talking about a particular form of male performance and power that hurts everyone, regardless of gender. So while I will do everything in my power to keep my son from contributing to toxic masculinity, traditionally "masculine" qualities/modes of gender expression, etc. are completely fine.
We Won't Raise Him To Be A Leader
On the contrary! We need leaders of all genders! And we need those leaders to understand the importance of building power structures that are inclusive, accessible, and fair. Yes, we need more women and genderqueer folks in positions of power, but that doesn't mean cisgender men have or will become obsolete in the work of building a better world. So not only will my son not be dissuaded from developing leadership skills because he's being raised as a feminist, but he will be actively encouraged to do so for that very reason.
We Will Make Him Feel Guilty About Being Male
Ugh, seriously guys, that's just not a thing. Please stop. I don't want you to feel guilty because you're a dude. I want you to understand that it comes along with a certain set of perks and that you should use that privilege for good.
His Father Doesn't Have A Strong Role To Play In His Life
Again: to the contrary. My son will learn a lot about what it means to be a good man from his father. My husband will serve as a model for what it means to be positively masculine in a world where toxic masculinity (see! there's a difference!) is all too commonly mistaken for "the only way to be a man."
Also, seriously people: you really think a pair of feminists aren't going to be super conscientious about evenly distributing parenting responsibilities? Come on now.
He Has To Do "Girly" Things
Nah. Look, we're going to present him with options regardless of gender. So his costume box has a knight in shining armor costume right alongside a princess dress and he can pick whatever he wants. He will be offered ballet lessons as well as karate and little league. We're not going to limit him, but if he winds up not being super into "girl" things (and, incidentally, our son gravitates more towards "boy stuff") that's totally fine. It's the opportunities that are far more important than choices he makes.
We Want Him To Be Gay
*blinks uncontrollably for about 45 seconds*
How... how does that... even...?
OK, moving on.
If He Does Like "Girly" Things It's Because We Pushed It On Him
Sort of the other side of the "if he doesn't like girl things it's fine" coin — if he does discover he likes fashion design or pink or tea parties, it's not because we had any particular investment in him doing these things or not. We just provided the opportunity and let him go for what he liked.
We're Going To Teach Him That Men Are Scum
Feminists. Don't. Hate. Men.
He's Going To Be Weak
This is something some people have been weirdly concerned about when I tell them we want our son to be a feminist. "Yeah, but you don't want him to be... you know... a wimpy sissy kid."
Wow. Just wow.
I honestly don't really know what to say to that accusation except that if your strength relies on keeping other people weak and subservient, I don't know how you can even begin to consider that true strength.