Boys Will Be (Feminist) Boys
I’m in my second trimester with my first and likely only child, and am getting deep into all the planning, prep, and worrying 🙂
In the past, I’ve always imagined myself with a little girl, so I’ve been having to mentally adjust the picture in my head. When I listened to you on the WASH podcast (please do more podcasts!!!) one of the things you talked a bit about was raising feminist boys. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about your approach and how you do this with your kids.
Thanks so much
P.S. I super love the weekly pregnancy calendar!
One of the earliest, first and best things I think we can do for children — boys and girls — is to resist, reject and challenge gender-stereotyping.
(Not that I’m recommending you become That Person who freaks out and goes on a soapbox rampage at your baby shower if you’re gifted blue or pink clothing and toys. Dress ’em in blue/pink/purple/ecru/whatever people give you — it’s all getting barfed on, in the end.)
(Though please feel free to skip the gender reveal party. I am so, so tired of the gender reveal party. You’re revealing the ultrasound’s best guess at your child’s external genitals. No need to set a forest on fire over it!)
No, the real work starts beyond the newborn and baby stages. Let him play with toys designed to encourage nurturing and domestic behaviors — dolls, dollhouses, toy brooms and play kitchens. Expose him to shows and books and movies and games that feature strong female heroines and girls and women as the central protagonist. (Thankfully, this is easier than ever, especially in the superhero world!) If your household is into sports, make sure you’re watching and cheering for women’s soccer/basketball/tennis/Olympians, too. Let him watch some damn princess movies and have pink things in his possession. Because even if princess movies aren’t his jam and his favorite color is blue — he’s going to meet a lot of little girls (and some little boys!) who really, really like princess movies and pink things. This difference of opinion should be a no bigger deal to him than preferring vanilla ice cream to chocolate or Spiderman to Superman or Rainbow Dash to Twilight Sparkle or whatever.
Basically you want to tear down the idea that there are “boy things” and “girl things” and — MOST ESPECIALLY — the subtle and damaging insinuation that one is “lesser” than the other. (And that negative connotation can absolutely go both ways for both feminine and masculine “things.” Neither are cool, in my book.)
Call out coded language — boys don’t cry/man up/boys will be boys/doing such-and-such “like a girl” are all still crazy annoyingly prevalent in both pop culture and from well-meaning relatives. My sons once latched onto the insult “he was crying like a little girl” after hearing it on some TV show, so I simply asked them to think about it. Do little girls really cry differently than little boys? Why do you think it’s a insult to tell a boy he’s doing something “like a girl”? You know, I’m a girl, right? You know, there’s nothing wrong with a boy crying, right? They’ve never used any variant of the “like a girl” thing since.
(And you obviously want to be just as alert to any type of damaging stereotypes he might pick up about ANYONE who is different than he is, be it gender, race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. We might have Wonder Woman and Black Panther but we also have the nightly news, alas. I always wanted to believe that sexism/racism/prejudice/elitist assholery needed to be specifically taught to be learned, but I’ve since realized they can be kinda vaguely absorbed…and then quickly cement if left unchallenged.)
But above all, in order for him to accept the crazy radical ideas that Girls Are People and All People Are Equal, you have to accept HIM, and who HE is. He might buck every expectation you have of parenting a little boy. Or he might be every bit the rough and tumble sports n’ trucks n’ bugs every toy is a weapon pew pew pew boy child of your own internalized stereotypes. Most likely, he’ll manage to surprise you everyday in wonderful ways as you learn a little more about who he is — not just as a boy, but as a wonderful, kind, lovely little human.
Photo source: J.Crew Kids