I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I would raise a feminist daughter, one who is able to see her own privilege as well as others’, one who knows she deserves to be taken seriously because she’s a human being with autonomy, one who values her brain and her body, one who will never feel the need to denigrate herself because of her sex. But how do I raise a feminist son?
Many of the principles I want a daughter to learn are applicable to a son. And at the same time, I know he’s going to enter a world where â€œsissyâ€ or â€œfagâ€ are still used as insults, and I want him to enter this world armed with the knowledge that a) that language isn’t okay to use in any context, and b) why it’s not okay to use it. I know that I can play language police in my home almost 24-7, but how am I going to be able to set him up with values and knowledge that will help him filter out what is â€œokayâ€ language in the big world, and what is â€œnot okayâ€ language? I know that there’s a difference between what you hear a stranger say and what you hear from a family member, how am I going to be able to explain that, despite what you heard from a family member, that’s not language that’s allowed? And how can you change the language used by family members?
I hope that I can teach him some pretty basic, non-controversial values: everyone is worthy of respect regardless of their gender/color/religion/sexual orientation, being polite goes a long way, treat others as you would like to be treated, insults are never appropriate. While none of us can claim to live these principles at all times, most of us try to hew as close to them as possible. But what about the world around him, which doesn’t always encourage this behavior? Oh, the world is really good at paying lip service to equality and human decency, but just turn on the news and tell me how close we are to this golden ideal.
Tell me, Persephone readers: how have you worked to raise a feminist son?