8 Ways Dads Can (And Should) Help Their Sons Grow Up To Be Feminists
For feminist parents, raising a future feminist is important. We want our children to continue the change that has slowly but surely (and over a very long period of time) transformed a predominantly patriarchal society, and that means raising sons and daughters who believe in gender equality. This parenting goal is (or at least would be in a perfect world) held by both parents, which means that it's not just "the mom's" responsibility to raise a feminist son.
According to a recent poll, only 16% of men identify as a feminist. Oddly enough, 82% of the men surveyed believe that all genders should be treated equally. Obviously, there is a disconnect between what feminism actually means, and what people — mostly men — perceive it to mean. This can change with education, positive male examples, and feminist parents who can teach their children that being a feminist doesn't mean you hate men and want to see them suffer, but rather just means that you value all genders equally, and believe in the social, political, and economical uniformity of all.
Male partners, in particular, have a unique opportunity to teach their sons how to be feminists, by the examples that they set. It won't take much for your son to look at the interactions between you and your partner, or just the words and actions of your partner alone, and realize that being a feminist isn't just the right thing to do, it's the only thing to do.
So, with that in mind, here are eight ways your partner can help your son become a feminist.
Treating You As An Equal, In Visible Ways, In Front Of Your Son
Your son is going to learn most by observing you and your partner. While children do learn from listening to you and following your specific instructions, they learn most by watching and mimicking the words and actions of their parents and/or caretakers. So, the whole "do as I say, not as I do" form of parenting is as unrealistic as it is unhealthy.
If your partner treats you as an equal member of the family — not a secondary, less-capable individual — your son will learn that all genders are (and should be treated) as equals. This can be as simple as never downplaying your abilities, showing you respect, refusing to consider you incapable of a specific thought or action because of your gender, etc. You know, just doing the opposite of whatever Donald Trump would probably do.
Doing An Equal Amount Of Parenting
If your partner is an active and equal participant in parenting, your son is going to learn about gender equality when it comes to taking care of kids. If he feeds the baby, changes the baby, watches the baby, cooks, cleans and is an engaged parent (which he should be doing anyway because, you know, he's a parent) your son won't grow up thinking that parenthood is "just a mom thing."
Never Saying He's "Babysitting"
It will help if your partner doesn't consider himself an inept parent, incapable of successfully caring for a child just because he's a man. There's no need to downplay a dad's capabilities, or casually make fun of him as if he's lacking some "parenting gene" that would help him dress his child appropriately. Guys, there is no parenting gene. And if we are to raise a feminist generation, we need to stop talking to dads like they're natural failures just because of their gender.
Identifying Effortlessly And Proudly As A Feminist
Seems simple enough, but it's a big one. If your partner wants to raise a feminist son, it's imperative that he proudly and openly identify as a feminist himself. Although feminism is slowly becoming a more common, more culturally accepted form of self-identification, it is still attached to a stereotype that can leave many men hesitant to attach themselves to the label. The next generation needs to know that being a feminist doesn't mean that you're a man-hating narcissist — it just means that you believe in gender equality. Your partner can help by proudly, and emphatically, leading my example.
Not Slut-Shaming Other Women
While men are just as sexual as women, it seems that, in our culture, women are generally the only ones who routinely pay a social price for it. A feminist partner will have none of this "damned if you do, damned if you don't," socially accepted hypocrisy when it comes to how he views/talks about women and sexuality, and he definitely won't slut-shame a woman in front of your son. Because, the truth is, slut-shaming has nothing to do with sexuality, and everything to do with "the belief that men get to assert themselves, and women do not."
Refusing To Hold Your Son To Specific Gender Stereotypes
A feminist parent isn't going to force his or her son into fulfilling outdated and unnecessary gender stereotypes. So, if your partner wants to help raise a feminist son, he won't bat an eye when your son wants to wear pink, and he won't tell your son that he shouldn't cry "because he's a man." He won't tell him that dolls are for girls and toy trucks are for boys, and he certainly won't say "boys will be boys" when your son acts inappropriately.
Not Being Afraid To Talk About Sex
Sexuality is an important, healthy, and natural part of the human existence, yet many parents feel uncomfortable broaching the topic with their children. Most feminist parents are sex-positive, and in doing so, are able to destroy stereotypes regarding sex and sexuality. Many of those stereotypes, or misinformation in general (i.e., abstinence-only education) work to further gender inequality in an otherwise progressive nation.
In fact, a new study published in the International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health suggests that comprehensive sex education (that includes discussions on gender and relationships) doesn't only decrease rates of pregnancy and STIs significantly, but creates healthier, more gender-equal relationships between young adults.
Being Body Positive
Whether it's being inclusive of all body types, or encouraging your son to love and accept his own body, a feminist dad is going to promote body positivity. He'll be body positive himself, regardless of whether or not he fits the socially accepted ideal of masculinity and "manliness," he'll be positive of your body (always) and he'll be positive of the bodies of others, even strangers. He won't fat-shame, nor idealize one body type of another, and he won't set an unrealistic precedence that your son will constantly be struggling to meet.