Five ways to raise feminist kids (And why everyone should)

Published On  October 4, 2016 By

Read that letter from Mary Kom to her sons? It is why we need feminism. Read about boys who are depressed because they are called ‘gay’, ‘faggot’, or shamed for crying, being gentle, or wanting to wear what are considered girl things? It is why we need feminism. There’s no doubt that everyone needs to raise a child that respects everyone irrespective of their gender. Raising a feminist child, however, means your child not only believes in equality but also understands that feminism means standing up for the politics of every kind of marginalised section of society. While that may sound like a lot of theory, what I am about to list down isn’t. These are things I practice so that my children grow up representing choice, compassion, respect, empathy and equality. Because, honestly, children know all of this without anyone teaching them. They are inherently fair and loving, inherently understanding and compassionate of people who are weaker. All you have to do is nurture that.

  1. Model feminist behaviour:

You can preach to them all you want, but unless you model the behaviour you want them to emulate, your kids are not going to learn much. Speak up for yourself when you need to, get rest, love yourself. Speak up for your househelp, for animals, for those of alternate sexualities. So many ways to show that your voice, with the privilege of education, finance and convenience, really goes a long way in fighting unfairness that exists in this world.

  1. Work hard:

The value of hard work is, quite frankly, ignored these days. There’s no point in asking your kid to suddenly put in the hours when she reaches a higher grade in school. Model that behaviour from the beginning. Be it at home or at work, when your child sees you working hard to make a living, s/he believes that slogging isn’t the prerogative of the father alone. Do not devalue house work: this is hard work too. If you are fortunate enough to have full-time help, find something else that s/he can take up responsibility for. When a child sees value in work outside the home as well as inside, s/he grows up to value it and therefore, respect every kind of work that is done.

 

  1. Books, books, books:

When your children are older and can read, leave books around. Books with diversity, where not just a boy is hero of the story and does all the rescuing and fighting and idea-creating. When a girl identifies with characters in books, she believes she too is capable of all the things that her hero does. When a boy sees girl characters in a book doing things that mostly boys do, he naturally and easily accepts that girls and boys are like each other as far as capability is concerned.

  1. Talk to them about ideas:

You’ll be surprised how early kids start to accept heteronormative ideas of what men and women should do. You’ll also be surprised how early they are ready to talk about what men and women can do, do do, and should do. I’ve had basic gender equality conversations with my kids when they were as young as five. Now they’re eight and seven and the conversations are more complex but still easy enough to have at the dinner table.

  1. Be fair in your statements:

Being a feminist doesn’t mean you talk men down. It’s sad that I have to even say it. If a man has done something that is noteworthy, speak positively about it. If a woman has done something noteworthy, do the same. Leave gender out of it: talk about the act, the effort, the achievement. Making statements such as “Boys will be boys,” or “Men are blah blah” creates stereotypes for your kids that are just not true.   

These are basic things you can do (things that I do!) to raise children that are feminist. Consider this a basic starter kit. Feminism is a gift that keeps on giving: the more you learn about it, and everything it envelopes, the more you’ll find your journey as a feminist mother meaningful. To believe that you are sending out into this world (a world of Donald Trumps, Khap Panachayats and fights for abortion rights) a child who believes in feminism is enough for you to keep going.