Raising a Feminist Daughter
My daughter is 10 and my son is 4. Since they were born, I have been working hard to make sure that neither of them grows up conforming to traditional gender roles. I want them to have as many opportunities to be themselves as possible. And what I don’t want, is for them to slip into the trap of acting how they think they should, according to the opinions of others.
Over time, I’ve realized that I have to take extra care to raise each of them differently. Parenting is not genderblind. That means, working on raising my daughter to be more confident, more outspoken and more athletic. Because as she ages, I’m starting to notice that she’s picking up social cues through media and relationships about how she thinks she should act and what she’s capable…or not capable of doing.
She doubts herself more now and second guesses her instincts. She worries about what other people think and makes plans to do things in ways that don’t upset others. I like that she’s becoming more aware, but what I don’t like, is how that awareness is affecting her self-esteem.
That’s why I have to work double-time to make sure that she’s fully prepared to defend her ideas and interests. I have to encourage her to embrace difference and to trust her own instincts.
“Baby, when someone treats you in a way that feels unfair, trust that you’re right to be upset about it. Your feelings are valid.”
I never want my child to feel like the other person’s feelings have more weight than hers, or that she has to pretend to be ok so that other people’s feelings don’t get hurt.
People-pleasing has taken down the self-esteem of so many young girls. Society will make it easy for her to feel shame or guilt…but I don’t want that for her. It’s a slippery slope, and I would rather she stay as far away from it as possible.
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Raising a Feminist Son
On the flip-side, I’m raising a son and I hope with every ounce of my being that he counters the male narrative. I want to raise a son who looks to women as leaders, who listens to others and thinks before he speaks. I want him to be confident enough to never question himself when people call him weak for being compassionate or giving.
I want him to understand that real strength comes from doing what’s right, and that intelligence means listening to others. Know who you are and always act with integrity. These are some of the most important lessons that we can teach him.
This is why identity is such an important topic for every parent. When your child doesn’t know who they are or have a strong sense of identity, that’s when they get lost. That’s when they let people step on them. That’s when they lose confidence and let doubt creep in.
That’s why, although I’ll always try to lead them in one direction or another, I’ll always remain open to letting them discover their own path and be their own person.
And as parents trying our best to raise feminist children, we encourage our kids to question us on our assumptions or expectations often. I know there are things in the back of my mind that need changing. Like defaulting to calling every animal I see a “he,” instead of a she. My daughter corrects me on this often and it’s starting to stick.
I’m proud that she’s more aware than me. That she thinks critically about things that I never knew I could question at her age. And I hope for the same for my son too.
This post was first published in November 2017. It has been republished for our current readers.