Raising Boys as an Act of Feminism

Little intro so no one yells at me in the comments: Gender is a social construct, and it is fluid. My children have not yet told us which gender they identify with, but they were born with XY chromosomes. From my understanding, feminism is generally defined in terms of seeking equality between the sexes. I value gender (since it is dictated by self-identification) above sexual organs, and so I’m chatting here about genders more than the biological male/female sexual divide. Finally, I’d like to say that inequality of the sexes/genders is a heavy topic and one that weighs on many parents I know. This post is intended as a light look at this heavy topic.

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I identify as a woman, and I also identify as a “small f feminist.” As in, I believe the world is experienced differently by different genders, and I work in small ways to promote gender equality.

I call myself a small f feminist, but I know that I am small but mighty, because I have the opportunity to pull off one hell of a feminist act… I am the mother of boys, and I am raising men.

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A little backstory on me as a mother and a somewhat terrible person. When I was pregnant with my first, we did not know the sex of the baby until birth. However, in my heart, I wanted a boy for the reason that I believed that the world is easier on men. I wanted the world to be easier, in any way, for my child. I gave birth to a boy. And then, two years later, to another.

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For now, my boys are too young for me to know in exactly which ways their lives might seem easier than their female or non-gender conforming peers. My boys are young, but the convenient thing about feminism and gender inequality is that it’s everywhere. This gives us opportunities to try to flip the male-dominating narrative and pepper-in messages of gender equality here and there.

Small f feminist ways in which we are raising our boys include:

  • We use gender-neutral job titles (firefighter, police officer, garbage collector – the three coolest jobs in the eyes of my kids).
  • We talk, in simple terms, about gender being a choice.
  • We use medical terms for body parts.
  • We offer different types of toys (aka we waste money buying non-truck toys, just to say we tried).
  • We ask them about their feelings and we talk about how things make us feel.
  • We don’t tickle them or touch them playfully unless they say we can. We try to lead by example that no means no, maybe means no, and silence means no. Don’t want to kiss grandma goodbye? Cool, bro, that’s your prerogative.
  • We speak clearly about different types of families. When we talk about our friends who are in homosexual relationships, we talk about them as they talk about themselves – married, in love, dating, etc.
  • We point out instances of inequality, in plain and simple terms, when we see them.  And then we start to sweat as the questions of “why?” pour in.
  • We show affection to each other and to our kids. Less so to the dog cause she’s been super annoying lately. But we try.

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I don’t know if my boys will grow up to be feminists, small f or large. I do think that we are preparing them to, in the very least, notice inequality, and understand that it bears discussion. Their XY chromosomes give them some advantages in this world, and I hope they grow to be aware of those privileges and the power that comes with them.

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I have no academic background in women’s studies. I have no training in social and economic equality. I’ve never actually read an entire book on parenting. As usual, I don’t really know what I’m talking about here.

What I do know, as a woman and as a human being on planet Earth, is that the world needs good men. It seems that awareness of gender inequality is on the rise, but you can’t swing a dick (or an equally important female body part), without hitting an instance of inequality. And for that, the world needs small f feminists.

I married one, and we’re working on two more.

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