6 Things Feminist Moms Won't Force Their Children To Do

by M. Esther Sherman

Whether you’re a feminist from birth or your journey toward feminism was a winding path with many detours ("I just think we're living in an era that's beyond feminism, ya know? Like, it was important for our moms, but we have gender equality now so who really need to be burning bras?" – many of us at age 16, being complete idiots), there are things feminist moms do differently than the non-feminist moms out there. In the same way that your genetic make-up impacts your child’s appearance and behaviors, your ideologies will impact the way you parent. Sure, all the facets of your identity will influence how you raise your kids, but the fact is, being a feminist pretty much colors how you view every situation, how you respond to every new task or piece of information; it completely informs not only how you view the world, but how you teach your kids to view the world. Being a feminist changes everything about how you parent.

I wasn’t always a self-identified feminist, but I definitely was by the time I became a mom. I remember the exact moment when I admitted precisely how much my feminist beliefs impact my parenting. My daughter was maybe two or three years old and was introduced to someone new, an older gentleman who was an acquaintance of the family. He extended his hand and my darling girl huddled behind my leg. She nestled into me tight as could be and shook her head “no.” One of the other adults attempted to force my child to shake the man’s hand, scolded her for being rude. Every fiber in my body revolted against the idea of forcing a child to shake someone’s hand. Whether it was perceived as rude mattered precisely not at all in comparison to telling my child she wasn’t in charge of who could have physical contact with her. That was the moment I realized there are things feminist moms won’t force their kids to do. And these are just a few:

Physical Contact

I don’t care if it’s demanding a hug when a child doesn’t want one or insisting on a handshake out of politeness, feminist moms don’t force their children to have unwanted physical contact. While I'm a huge fan of the "keep your hands to yourself" philosophy, I think that should be the end of specific demands. When children are young, we can teach them they and they alone are responsible for their bodies. Period. In fact, telling kids to "keep their hands to themselves" is ultimately about recognizing and respecting the fact that they don't have the right to enter into someone's personal space in an unwanted way — so why do so many parents have a hard time carrying that principle over to other messages of bodily autonomy? Why teach our kids to respect other people's bodies, but then not treat theirs with the same amount of respect?

These are things feminist moms don't get, and requiring physical contact between their kids and any other person — including themselves — is just a thing they don't do. And who knows, maybe they'll be so grateful, you'll get even more hugs.

Open Doors For Girls

Girls are just as capable of opening a door as boys. We know exactly how handles on doors work and most doors are cleverly designed to swing open with little to no effort whatsoever. Some women can even open doors with a cup of coffee in one hand and a baby in the other (FYI: totally nice of you to open the door for said woman). I may not have figured out world peace or espresso machines but opening a door? I can do that. It's not that feminist moms aren't all about teaching our kids how to be casually considerate of other people in the world — we are! But we teach them to hold the door for “other people” and adopt a policy of blanket kindness regardless of gender.

Adhere To The "Don't Hit Girls" Philosophy

I promise I'm not condoning violence but I will not force my child not to hit girls. Why not? It's the same as the opening doors thing: This should not be gender-specific instruction. I don’t think my child should be hitting anyone. I understand the principle behind it but how nice would it be if we just didn’t physically assault each other? (OK, that’s only possible if I get coffee every morning. Mommy's going to end up hitting someone in traffic if she runs out of coffee. Forcing your child to make coffee every morning doesn't violate any feminist beliefs, does it?)

Adhere To Gender-Specific Fashion

Nope. Won’t do it. My daughter has recently discovered ties and polo shirts (admittedly, after happily becoming Draco Malfoy for Halloween) and she loves it. Do I object to my child chopping off her hair and dressing in so called “boy” clothing? Nope. To paraphrase Shakespeare (a big reason for cross-dressing in the Elizabethan era), I carest not. Clothes are clothes, and frankly, as long as my kid isn't trying to wear something that's going to result in frostbite, there's a better-than-good chance that I'm onboard.

Pick A Halloween Costume Based On Gender

Isn’t the point of Halloween to dress up as someone else? I hope more parents will encourage their children to have heroes of different genders, role models who embody character traits rather than physical attributes. There are a million gross implications to telling a little boy that he can't dress as a butterfly, or a girl that she can't dress up as Spiderman — Halloween could arguably be the first of many times that kids start to receive the message that their gender is an inescapable limitation on the possibilities for what they can do and be in life — and feminist moms not only refuse to do it, they honestly don't understand how we created these arbitrary gender lines in the first place. Like, there are actual male butterflies, guys. It's a thing. What gives?

Hide Who They Are

Whether it's limiting activities to gender categories, dictating relationship behavior based on I Love Lucy reruns, or declaring certain hairstyles untenable, feminist moms do everything in our power not to do it. When it comes to taste, style, sports, books, or fields of study in school, we want our children to be themselves regardless of whether or not it fits a stereotype or a social norm. And guess what? Feminist moms aren't the only moms who want our children to flaunt their amazing, complex, unique personalities — it's an all moms thing. So maybe feminist and non-feminist moms aren't that different. (But I'm still gonna force my little to make coffee. That's for realz on the chore wheel, and I'm not sorry.)

Images: Allison Gore/Romper; Giphy(6)