Raising a Son Who Fights the Patriarchy: My Mission



When I initially learned I was pregnant I desperately wanted a girl, but quickly changed my tune. No pigtails in the morning! No risk of frequent talks about menstruation! No one who might want to borrow from my closet or makeup collection! And the list goes on. Boys are so much easier, right? 

Not so fast. As I've become more interested in the feminist movement and have witnessed the government's total disregard for women become more prominent, I've realized what a huge responsibility I have as the mom of a future young man. I have to make sure he grows up to respect women's bodies and place in the world. This is something I can't assume that he'll just "pick up" or decide to internalize on his own. This requires deliberate parenting. 

Over the past year or two I've really tried to make specific, age-appropriate, choices that will hopefully lead my son down the right path (as in not being sexist). There are things I can't control, of course, including what happens at his school and even things domestically that occur because my husband's work schedule and whatnot. That being said, I can control what directly concerns me, so I am trying my best to do my part. I also have no clue if what I'm doing is really going to work, since this is the first time I've had to raise a little boy and he does have a mind of his own. The world will continue to change as he grows, but for now here are some things that I've made a conscious choice to do:

1. Domestic Chores- Sawyer has to help with a variety of chores- nothing is off limit because of gender. On a daily and weekly basis he helps clean his toys, fold towels, unload the dishwasher, dust, and feed the dog. He also helps wash the car (when I get around to it) and clean the cupboards.

2. Frank conversation about body parts and personal space- We don't use cute nicknames for body parts and now that he is older I am honest about what is okay to touch and what is not to on other people. He's an affectionate little guy, but I try to remind him that at school high fives are more appropriate than hugs/kisses, for example.

3. Letting him cry- I never, ever say to "act like a boy" or "boys don't cry" (I actually spoke to his old daycare provider about speaking to him like that years ago). I'm working to try to give him the language to talk about his emotions and make him feel that he's in a space that accepts emotion. It's okay to admit to pain, whether because someone upset him or because he fell down. Crying because he's upset about turning the TV off or something along those lines is a different story, though (he can go cry those tears in his room). 

4. Female-positive books- We have several books that promote women, like I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, and The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. When we read them I don't shove the feminist angle down his throat- I want to normalize the fact that women do the same things as men. 

5. Avoiding labels- Sawyer has Moana and Batman sheets, Frozen and superhero toys, and knows that I can pretend to be Batman and he Elsa. I never want him to feel bad about loving to sing "Let it Go" or choosing a Sally stuffed animal at Knott's Berry Farm. He just likes what he likes. And that's how it should be.

6. Being more than a mom- I am honest when I tell him I am going away for the afternoon to see my friends, that I need some time to grade papers, or that I want to go for a run or to read. Being a mom is obviously really important to me, but it doesn't define who I am. I don't want him to grow up expecting women to focus on kids and chores. 

Obviously things will become more complicated as he gets older and develops his own ideas. Eventually I will have to bring in intersectionality more deliberately, as well. As a high school teacher I see the changes kids go through during their teen years and know that simply reading a story book and telling him that "girls can have the same jobs as boys" won't necessarily cut it. And I'm prepared for that- I'm taking this mission seriously. 


3 comments:

  1. It isn't easy, but it is rewarding. My son is now 37. He grew up doing chores, helping around our home and saw a number of strong (and not so strong) role models male and female. In his home, he and his wife share domestic responsibilities. I'm very proud of the man he is.

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  2. Yes to all of this! Good job! As he gets older, too, it's good to confront the statements they hear at school: "he ______s like a girl," "girls can't/don't like _____" or the "girls aren't as good as boys at _____" statements (4th and 5th grade is when it starts becoming more apparent that they see girls as different). We have definitely had some conversations about that.

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  3. The no crying comments from others drive me crazy!! Is listening to a kid cry about something they’re upset about that i think is silly annoying? Of course it is! But I’ve heard things like “oh you’re fine” when he’s clearly hurting or in the non-injury situations “you’re not hurt, so stop crying” And it makes me bananas. Of course when I hear it from family, I counter with my preferred response (That really hurt, huh? I’m sad when i have a boo boo too. OR I’m sorry you’re upset, it’s ok to be upset, but the answer is the same—or that last part will be whatever is appropriate to the situation). Would you ever tell a grownup the only time they are allowed to be upset is when they are physically injured? Sure, just teach the 3 year old to stuff his feelings, because that’s a really great long term plan! UGH!!

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