So feminism. Ahhh, so some will roll their eyes and think of women burning bras, hairy legs and man-hating but it ain’t. The only thing this means is EQUALITY. That’s it. As simple as that. I’m a mum of two little girls, and to be honest I didn’t give feminism much of a thought before I had them, became a Tiger Mum and had a fire was lit inside me! I’m DETERMINED for them not to feel like they aren’t as good as boys or they can’t do certain things. No glass ceiling and all.
Before kids, I think I shied away from the word ‘feminism’, it seemed harsh. Heavy with meaning and implications. But it’s not. It’s not man-bashing, or the belief girls are better, it simply means that girls and boys, women and men are the same. Girls can climb trees, boys can play with doll. End of. But it’s not as simple as that, is it?
The encouraging thing I’ve discovered since having girls is the hard work parents (and society in general) are doing in promoting girl’s rights, and empowering little girls. I’m seeing more mainstream girl’s clothes with less ‘Mummy’s Little Angel’ type-slogans and more ‘Girls Support Girls’ and ‘I Can Change the Future’ (both from Next by the way). I’m thrilled to see more dinosaur clothes for girls (although still have to buy the odd ‘boys’ clothes), although we still have some way to go.
The thing is, we’re so busy trying to empower our girls, I feel we forget about the boys. The messages we give them (or fail to give them) lead them to grow up treating girls differently, as well as viewing themselves differently. We bring up boys to view femininity as something shameful instead of raising them to be a caring children which leads to being caring friends, partners and fathers.
Why is it more OK for girls to dress up as superheroes, in boy’s clothes, do traditional ‘male’ jobs, yet boys who wear ‘girls’ clothes, dress up as Elsa from Frozen, who cry when upset and ask for mummy – are discouraged. For a society to be equal – we need to give boys, as well as girls more choices, and need to change the way we (as parents and role models) react. We need to expand BOTH girls and boy’s views, worlds and attitudes. Emotional intelligence isn’t as encouraged in boys as girls and can be more important than one’s intelligence (IQ) in attaining success in their lives and careers, and is demonstrated in boys often falling behind in school as we discourage traits like empathy and compassion – seeing them as ‘girly’ traits. So here’s my take on trying to help little boys to grow into men who value equality…
1. Let him cry – Little boys cry, GET OVER IT. They are children, irrational little beings without the capacity to rationalise and control their emotional responses. If you keep telling them to stop crying, or make it clear this isn’t acceptable they’ll soon learn this isn’t this reaction you want and you have just stifled the emotional outlet for your little boy. Instead often little boys turn to anger and aggression as an outlet.
2. Role models – Little kids are spooonges. YOU are the most important person in their lives, and as creepy as it sounds, they watch everything you do Get them to help feed the baby, get you wipes and nappies, help take care of a sick friend, visit elderly relatives. Do this with your boy and show him the importance of care.
3. Don’t criticise – let him dress up in dresses and play with make-up. He’s just trying on identities and playing. Experimenting – it means nothing, they won’t magically turn into a girl because they play with a blooming doll for goodness sake (and why is that so bad anyway?)
4. Chores – Don’t clean up after your child. I don’t mean that how it sounds, I mean once your little boy is of a certain age, he CAN help clean, or at least try and help clean up after themselves. Girls tend to be asked to help tidy up their toys more than boys. Teach them to care for their surroundings, their toys and their own person hygiene! It’s NOT their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives JOBS.
5. Actions speak louder than words – Look at gender roles within your household and try to share the load. Is daddy always the one to fix things, change batteries, do the garden and diy, taking little Bobby to football…while mummy takes Betty to ballet and does the hoovering and cooking? I don’t mean each household is as it was in the 50s but I know when my husband and I were first married we had ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ jobs – what was was I thinking? We need to share these jobs.
6. Toys – THEE most annoying thing for me is the toys. It’s not even the toys, it’s the toy COLOUR – WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE PINK OR BLUE?? Do I need to say more? I’m told that in the 50s, 60s, 70s toys were multi-coloured and a lot were wooden – so it surprises me we’ve reverted to such gender stereotypical toys.
7. Teach consent – that no means no. It sounds like common sense but it needs to be taught, and why it’s important in lots of circumstances. Check out http://www.teachconsent.org/ for help if you don’t know where to start.
8. Encourage friendship with girls – Nurturing fun, caring, non-romantic friendships with girls brings down walls. Playing with someone you like, regardless of sex – it’s so healthy and normal and GREAT.
9. Speak up! Encourage your lil lad to speak up when he hears other girls or boys belittling each other because they are a boy or girl, or use language like ‘stop being such a girl’ when crying. And if he does it – tell him not to be afraid to apologise!
10. Teach that beauty comes from INSIDE. Being kind, nice and having a sense of humour is WAY more important than movie star looks. I mean it would be nice and all… 😊 but it’s how we make our small differences to the world that add up.