Feminism gets a bad rap from the general population. There are those who equate feminism to man-hating, and others who believe feminism means wanting women to have more rights than men. There are also some women who don't identify as feminists because they don't see their own struggles reflected in the traditional feminist movement. But in order to truly make a difference, feminism must be inclusive. So if you are a mom, there is no better time than now to learn how to model inclusive feminism for your daughter.
I've been teaching my daughter about the importance of feminism her entire life. But admittedly, the "feminism" I referred to wasn't always intersectional. Like many, I learned about feminism through the eyes of white suffragettes and the cisgender, middle- to upper-class white women who have historically been the face of the feminist movement.
The loudest fights have been about access to abortion, equal opportunity in the workplace, and equal pay. Issues of discrimination that are exclusive to non-white, non-strait, disabled, and low-income women have been largely ignored. But today, with almost 40 percent of America's female population being women of color, and people of all races identifying as LGBTQ+, I've made it my mission to be an inclusive feminist, and set a good example for my daughter.
Here are some ways you can model inclusive feminism for your own daughters.
1. Fight For Causes That Don't Necessarily Affect You
Even if a particular form of discrimination doesn't directly apply to you, stand with those who are affected and fight alongside them. Speak out against oppressive policies and offer your support. Being an inclusive feminist is about caring about the issues of all women, and teaching your daughter that she can do the same.
2. Be Conscious Of Preferred Gender Pronouns
Pronouns are kind of a big deal, and not just in English class. According to the Gay Straight Alliance For Safe Schools, a preferred gender pronoun (PGP) is the pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual. Central Connecticut State University suggests that asking and correctly using someone's preferred pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity. Set an example for your daughter by respecting PGPs and by never using the word "it" to describe a human being.
3. Avoid Ableist Language
Ableist language means using slang and metaphors related to a disability to insult or describe something as negative. As Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg wrote on Everyday Feminism, "disability metaphors abound in our culture, and they exist almost entirely as pejoratives." Examples include using the words "crazy," "insane," or "retarded" in your everyday speech. Cut those words out of your vocabulary so that your daughter knows they aren't OK.
4. Be Body Positive
Young girls already have such a hard time with self-esteem and body positivity. It doesn't help if they are listening to their mothers and other adults speak negatively about their own bodies or the bodies of others. Avoid saying things like "I look so fat today," or pointing something negative about someone else's physical features. Being an inclusive feminist means that you don't judge or disrespect others based on their looks.
5. Listen And Learn
People who have fewer privileges want the opportunity to discuss the issues that they face. Listen and learn from other women about how they deal with racism, police brutality, genital mutilation, machismo, workplace discrimination and other forms of oppression that may not apply to you. It's hard to climb out of your personal bubble, but make the effort to become conscious of what is happening around the world.