I didn't want to project any preconceived notions onto my kids about their identity before they were even born, which is why my husband and I didn't find out the sex of the babies during both my pregnancies. Boy or girl, they should be given the same kind of unconditional love right out of the gate. And once they were born, my feminist beliefs after giving birth only went deeper.
Now that I'm a mom, I fight harder for things that I think are right. Like, I can take someone being rude to me, but not to my kids. And that goes for my feminist principles too: Where I once might have noticed minor transgressions by others, stemming from systemic male entitlement (hello, manspreading), I am now acutely attuned to any kind of behavior or attitude towards women that could possibly send the message to my kids that someone's gender determines their treatment.
I can't protect my son and daughter from others' actions most of the time, but I can instill in them the feminist values I believe just make us solid human beings. The way I define feminism is the same way I expect my kids to act: with the belief that identifying as either a girl or a boy should offer no greater privilege than the other, and that it doesn't determine anything else about you.
The lens through which I viewed the injustices of the world sharpened when I became a parent. If I thought I was a feminist pre-kids, I'm even more so now that I have two of them. Here are some ways having children fired up my feminist mojo:
Having To Use Vacation Days For Your Maternity Leave
While companies with 50 or more employees are required to grant you up to 12 weeks of leave after a baby enters your life, under FMLA, they are not obligated to pay any of us during that time. Even if you welcomed a new human who depends on you for their every need, they won't hold your job (or an equivalent position) after 12 weeks. And no, maternity leave is not a vacation, so I shouldn’t have to treat it as such.
When Nobody Buys Your Baby Boy A Doll
Or buys your daughter some Hot Wheels. Kids like what they like, but only if they are given the opportunity to play with it in the first place. I have a daughter who's a roller coaster-loving speed freak and a son who insists on tucking in five stuffed animals with him at bedtime.
Noticing Antiquated Gender Stereotypes In Classic Children’s Books
Amelia Bedelia can retire now.
You Become Hyper-vigilant About How You Are Treated
I’m pretty shy, but since having kids, I speak up more and let someone know when they’re being rude by interrupting or dismissing what I say. It’s important for my kids to see me hold my own in conversation and not get stepped on just because I’m short and speak quietly. They need to see that women deserve to take up as much space and own as much airtime as any other person on the planet.
Realizing You Have To Shop For 'Star Wars' Swag For Your Daughter In The Boys Section
My third grade daughter loves Star Wars as much as her kindergarten brother, yet the selection of Star Wars stuff is limited in the “Girls” clothing section. Luckily, stores are starting to eliminate gender-specific sections. Wookiee t-shirts for everyone!
You Really Drive Home The Idea Of “Keeping Your Hands To Yourself”
Yes, I’m telling them that so they learn they can’t just hurt people out of anger; They have to use their words and learn to process their emotions safely. But reiterating the idea of being hands off is also laying the groundwork down for the notion of consent. When they’re 3 years old, they need to learn to ask if their friend wants a hug before they tackle her. So by the time they’re teenagers, it’s a no-brainer that they have to get someone’s permission to be intimate with them.
Losing Count Of The Number Of Times Your Daughter’s Been Called “Daddy’s Girl”
Our kids are still becoming who they are. Please stop labeling them, especially with creepy gendered tropes.
When You Realize That One Day It Might Be Your Child Getting Catcalled
I grew up in New York and developed a Teflon shield against verbal harassment (not that I don't cry a little inside every time it happens). I’ve been told some pretty nasty stuff about what guys I’d pass on the sidewalk would like to do to me. It made me feel gross but I ignored the comments and thought it was a win if nobody followed me. Now I think about someone talking like that to my daughter and I go insane.
You Want Your Kids To Live In A World That Truly Supports The “Be Anything You Want To Be” Dream
When I was growing up in the '80s and '90s, our second-wave feminist moms were telling us we could be anything we wanted to be when we grew up, that the traditional roles for women had evolved. And it was true; I could pursue any career I wanted to, and I did. But while the girls were getting pumped to be anything they could be, the message to the boys hadn’t changed. Nobody was enlightening them with the fact that they would need to assume more domestic responsibility for women to gain professional parity. That changes now: I tell both my son and my daughter that if they choose work and family, they can’t settle for anyone who isn’t on board with sharing the household chores. And my husband and I try to be role models in that respect. Yes, I still pack the lunches and purchase the school supplies, but their father does the laundry and most of the cooking, and we both work full time.
When People Assume You’re Leaving Your Job To Spend More Time With Your Child
I left a job I had been at for close to seven years when my second kid was a toddler. People thought I wanted to step off the career path. Uh, no — I wanted a better job.
You Don’t Put Too Much Thought Into Beachwear
As someone who’s struggled with body image and self-esteem, it would take some major mental gymnastics to get myself into bathing suit without hating how I looked. Since having kids, I dress for ease and mobility. I have no time to be self-conscious; I’m too busy playing with them. So my new swimsuit attitude has nothing to do with how I look, but how much fun I can have without picking a wet suit wedgie out of my butt every five minutes.
You Want To Correct Preschool Teachers Who Use Gendered Names For Community Helpers
I believe the proper terms are "mail carrier," not "mailman"; "firefighter," not "fireman"; and "police officer," not "policeman." (Although the Arepa Lady in my neighborhood will forever be revered as the Arepa Lady.)
You Find Yourself Speechless When Your Son Asks Why There Aren’t More “Boy Teachers”
Can we fix this please? We need more women in tech, and more men in elementary education.
You Curate Their Netflix Queue To Feature Female Protagonists
I don’t have a huge amount of success with this. Just because a show has a female lead, doesn’t mean it’s any good. But if they’re going to watch crappy TV, I make sure it’s equal-opportunistically crappy.