As far as I'm concerned, there's been nothing like motherhood to bring my feminist views into sharp focus. I have had some of the best conversations about what it means to raise a child with other feminist moms. And hey, the things moms say to their friends can have a huge impact on how they end up parenting.
I've had so many interesting, enlightening conversations about these issues with my mom friends. In fact, an ongoing conversation I've had with one good friend in particular about the issue of pink versions of toys being marketed to young girls, has helped me change my attitude toward those types of toys in general. While I still believe that there's a large amount of gender stereotyping that society imposes on children from the moment they're born, I've come to realize that kids are born with certain predispositions as well. For example, my friend's daughter happens to love pink, girly things, but it hasn't stopped her from enjoying playing in sand, going camping, and getting dirty. Her love of pink has also attracted her to certain Lego sets, a toy that she'd never been interested in before. Without those conversations I had with her mom, I would continue to have drawn my own conclusions about her Lego toys.
And that's what awesome about having these conversations with mom friends. You really can learn a lot from each other. Here are some of the issues commonly mulled over by groups of feminist moms:
The Gendering Of Clothing And Toys
This drives me crazy. Why does a car (or Lego, or a doctor kit...) need to be pink for a girl to like it? Why are there girls' sections and boys' sections in stores, and they look so completely different? My son loves to play with dolls and trains. And guess what? So does my daughter. Yeah, pretty much gonna need to talk to my other feminist mom friends about this.
Problematic Things Their Teachers Say To Them
Because no one should excuse a boy pushing a girl with the words, "Oh, it's because he likes you!" Just because they told us that when we were young, doesn't mean it's OK, and it doesn't mean we should perpetuate the behavior by excusing it. Feminist mom friends are (sadly) never without complaint when it comes to the ways in which our kids are still being taught little things that reinforce outdated, sexist, or even rape culture mindsets.
Our Kids' Body Image
As they become self-aware, and begin to compare themselves to others, and words like "shorter" and "bigger" and "pretty" start to become part of their vocabulary. Our conversations about how to handle their feelings as their body image develops are so important.
The Issue Of Our Kids Being Pushed Toward Gendered Activities
Girls can play hockey and boys can do ballet, and oh my god, is it ever frustrating when people assume that it's the boys who will do hockey and the girls who will do ballet. Our feminist mom friends get that, and sometimes we need to talk to someone who gets it.
The Sexualizaton Of Our Favorite Childhood Toys
When did all our childhood toys get rebooted with slimmer waists, bigger eyes and eyelashes, and prettier hair? Why is this OK?
Lamenting The Gendered Clothing Kids Stores Offer
Seriously, if I have to look at one more sparkly pink shirt coupled with lace or frills, I may throw up. Oh, but not before I have to deal with all of these trucks and dinosaurs on my son's clothes.
Dear god, Barbie. Most of us grew up with her, and many of us have sworn her off, due in part to her unattainably "ideal" body. That doesn't mean she hasn't already shown up in our kids' lives, though. Barbie will outlast the apocalypse. You can see it in her eyes.
Dealing With The Question Of Makeup
Lately, my 4-year-old daughter has been obsessed with makeup. She got a little set of "little girl makeup" from a well-intentioned, though misguided, family member and I got blindsided with talking about the issue, because she loved it, of course. It was my mom squad that talked me down off the ledge, so to speak, and give me advice on how to deal with the situation.
All The Casually Sexist Things Random Adults Say To Our Kids
Like the time when I put my daughter's old baby leggings (mostly white, but with pink and purple hearts) on my new son, and someone suggested that I should get more "boyish" leggings for him. Because why?
Food & Booze
I mean, we're still human. We talk about food roughly 90% of the time and the rest of this stuff like 10% of the time.
Once feminists have kids to be concerned with, we become even less passive in our activism and social or civic engagement, because we want to make sure our kids live in a society that values equality, respect, and diversity.
How Our Own Body Image Can Affect Our Children
Being aware of the language we use around our kids, so they don't grow up thinking that their mom, whom they think is so amazing, doesn't love herself. The profound affect our words have on them is something we need to remind each other of constantly.