On raising boys in the #metoo era

Jan 18 2018 Published by under everyday sexism, parenting

Yesterday I read this article from a mom writing about raising her girls to say "Don’t say that to me. Don’t do that to me. I hate it.". I don't have daughters but I do have two sons and have been thinking about parenting and what we can do to make a more equal society in which hopefully men won't believe they are powerful enough to abuse women or treat them badly without consequences. Obviously, I am not the first to think about this and the internet offers suggestions such as: not giving different chores to boys and girls, and don't use "like a girl" to say something is inferior. And then there was this great last year's New York Times piece on raising feminist sons.

These are the things that I consiously do to make my kids aware of consent and equality:

1. I always ask for consent to touch or kiss them: I always ask "can I give you a kiss" or "can I give you a hug". This may seem a bit ridiculous to some, and it actually started because my oldest often does not want to be touched and is very particular about when he likes to get a hug. But I also believe it makes it more normal to ask for consent in sexual relationships when you're used to asking for consent to touch each other's body. And now it actually really bothers me when people hug my kids without asking or warning them. I also sometimes talk to them about you being the owner of your body and that you have a say in who does something with it.

2. When it comes to equality I find it harder to find the right tone, especially because Dutch TV has a lot of pretty sexist children's shows. There is a channel that in the morning broadcasts shows like Lego Ninjago and Power Rangers and advertises it with:"BOZ - more for boys!".  And then there are numerous shows that have an element of competition and more often than not the competition will be boys versus girls. With obviously all sorts of tiny little remarks that girls are not as good at a whole bunch of things. I always imagine what it would look like if they wouldn't divide the kids by gender but by race and that would of course never happen on TV! So why does is it so normal and accepted when it comes to gender. Either way, I try to talk to them about this and fortunately (or should I say obviously) my husband and I share a very equal load of household tasks to model to our kids that men and women are very equal in what they can do and contribute. I try to model that for example your preference for particular chores (my husband likes cooking better and I like laundry better) should determine the discussion of who does what rather than what gender you have.

3. I let them cry if they need/want crying. I never say things like: "boys don't cry" or anything along those lines. I listen and let them express whatever needs expressing.

What about you? Do you consciously parent your children in what can be considered a feminist way?

3 responses so far

  • Bashir says:

    1. We recently started saying that also. I'm happy with the results, kid feels like he has more of a choice and it normalizes two-way consent as apposed to demands or expectations.

    2. TV shows are tough because it's pretty much everything that is bad. We are proactive in suggesting certain shows that we think are unlikely to be awful. That works pretty well. If I catch something I try to counteract it by talking to him about why it doesn't actually make sense that there are "girl toys". Pushing them to think for themselves it probably your best bet. You're not going to drown out the constant messaging from outside. But you may be able to convince the kids to not blindly accept it.

  • Lindsay says:

    For cartoons, Stephen Universe is a model show for not imposing gender norms on its characters. It's really sweet and funny, too- my kindergarden son and I equally enjoy it.

  • For cartoons there's Nella the Princess Knight and Elena of Avalor. Both are the feisty yet feminine female characters. I have a built in case study with boy/girl twins. I see how they are treated differently 🙁 ... but also, they both play with princess stuff and construction stuff. In fact, we have excavator tea parties.

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