10 Ways to Raise Feminist Boys

As a mother of 2 sons, my biggest concern is to ensure that they do not grow up to be misogynistic fools, like the majority of the male population around me. It’s the 21st century, and you would think I would know fewer of them, but apparently not. *sighs*

The world needs feminism. No! No! Don’t roll your eyes at “that” word. I agree, it is possibly one of the most abused, loosely used words today and we have no one but ourselves to blame. All the more reason why we need feminism, I tell you.

Ours being a patriarchal society, it is extremely important that the boys understand, practise and spread the message by being role models. There’s no denying the fact however, that there still are quite a number of women who need to “get” feminism as well.

Now for busting the “Men will be Men” mentality, here’s what I plan to do to ensure that I raise my very own “feminist boys”.

1. Catch them young

Misogyny is a way of life. Sounds harsh? But that is the bitter truth. Misogyny is so deeply ingrained in our everyday dealings, we do not even realise that we are perpetrating patriarchy. To do away with that, begin early. It is never too early to inculcate a gender equitable thought process.

2. Watch your words

More often than not, we oh-so-casually make statements in our day to day lives that further ingrain prejudices in the young minds. “I don’t do the dishes, I am a man!” “How come he is wearing pink?” “You should be brave, be a man!!” Sounds familiar? Yes, about time people stopped saying dumb stuff like that to their kids, or even in their presence. Kids are extremely impressionable and receptive, and you don’t want them to pick up on the not-so-sensible statements we often throw around.

3. It is ok to cry

Boys don’t cry, unless they are human I guess. Crying when in pain, out of frustration or even for joy IS OKAY. If your son does it, don’t stop him, and most definitely don’t tell him he is crying like a girl. He is going to feel so much better, inside and out!

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4. Everyone pitches in

Getting my 3 year old to help me lay the dishes caused a mini riot at my place! Like seriously, what is the big deal? I don’t think he is going to enjoy eating from the containers standing in the kitchen all his life, is he? Get everyone to pitch in to help with work at home, and yes remember, work is never gender specific. So, mix it up and let everyone get a shot at doing it all!

5. Reinforce the idea that girls and boys can do anything they want to

Apparently boys don’t do the gharba! This is what my son learnt at school. *eye rolls* It is mandatory for boys to understand as much as the girls, that everyone can do as they please. Too many girls know that today, and too few boys. Sonny boy has to grow up to accept that women around him can do just about what they want, just like he can.

6. Yes means yes, and no means no

A lot of the issues of violence and oppression stems from the fact that we are unable to comprehend that “no” means “no”, so does “maybe”, and even “not sure.” It is only “yes” that means “Yes.” Don’t let your son believe that he can have his way each time. You are setting him up for failure as a human being. He has to know to take a “no”, and live with it.

7. Expose them to diverse books, toys and cartoons

“How come your son plays with a kitchen set?” Well for one he wanted to buy it and two I am hoping he grows up learning to cook for, and feed himself. If he lets me have a bite now and again, I will not be complaining. Don’t choose toys, books, clothes or cartoons based on gender. Let them take their pick, and enjoy it while it lasts.

8. No Code Words for body anatomy

A penis is a penis! A vagina is a vagina! Do not be afraid to discuss the body in the actual terms. It does away with the intrinsic sense of shame with one’s body and its parts that society tends to thrust upon us. It also ensures that they are aware of what is off limits for strangers and acquaintances.

9. Highlight and discuss issues of female oppression, misogyny

Children are smarter than we make them out to be. Do not force him to turn a blind eye to how patriarchy and misogyny affects women. Talk to him and encourage him to express his views on issues. Debate, discuss and find ways to combat sexism with baby steps.

10. Give him role models to look up to

There are some sane men around, point them and pin them up as role models. It helps to have people of influence as role models, but also try to give him a fair share of people he knows to look up to. It makes him feel that “feminism” is not just big talk or publicity stunts (as the large majority of misinformed individuals make it out to be), but actually something that is a very integral part of society.

It is not easy to raise feminist boys. You may have way too many people setting an example to the contrary. But be strong, talk to friends, and family too on the need to change.

But most importantly try to get your partner to be the best possible example of a feminist! Good luck to you, and to me of course!

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