Raising boys to be feminists
The topic of Toxic Masculinity has been very much in the headlines recently, but as a mother to two boys, I have always felt a responsibility to ensure that they understand what it means to be a feminist. I am extremely conscious of what I teach them now, will determine the kind of men they grow up to be.
Teaching your children about topics such as feminism can seem a daunting task. Be confident that reading this already means you care enough about raising your children to be good humans, if you can commit to keep on educating yourself it will filter down.
Actions sometimes speak louder
We all know that teaching your children anything isn’t just about what you say. Our children are always watching and listening, so having awareness of our behaviour and the things we say (not just to them but to other adults) is one way to filter down into their subconscious (I say this with the caveat that I know this is really hard especially if you are someone who had a very different upbringing and/ or possibly attempting to unravel years of conditioning).
Terms such as ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘you run like a girl’ were most heard growing up (I have a brother). For some people they can be hard phrases to let go of when you have heard them all your life, having been passed down from generation to generation. The phrase I am conscious I have used is ‘you’re okay’. Generally used in a situation where they are upset or hurt. It comes from a meaningful place but it challenges their perception of reality when really they should be allowed to feel what ever they feel in that moment.
Protecting our children from the big players
Advertising and major marketing campaigns aimed at parents and children are one of the outside influences that is the hardest (almost impossible actually) to control. Toy advertising, in particular, still throw out some of the worst gender biased marketing I have ever seen. My response to this at home is to question the adverts in front of the boys, putting a spin on what the objective of the advert is…at the very least it teaches them to be inquisitive about everything.
I remember one particular chat with my eldest son a few years ago when he asked me to explain what equality meant. My response was automatic and came from a very real place. It was one of a number of examples I could have given him, but I think he was pretty clear on it by the time the conversation ended.
I picked one of his female school friends (let's call her Florence). I told him that today, instead of school, he and Florence were both going to have a ‘job’ for the day. They both go to the same place of work, do the same exact same job, work equally as hard as each other and literally nothing about each others day is different. At the end of the day, Florence gets paid £30 and he gets £45.
I delighted at the confused look on his face as I asked ‘Do you think that is fair?’ Children are extremely intuitive, his gut feeling told him that Florence would be upset, frustrated and angry. He couldn't understand why this would be a thing. That's a history lesson for another day son!
You can make a difference
Both our children know that home is a safe place where they can talk about anything, it’s not a perfect science but the offer of an ear or advice without judgement is always there and they are safe in the knowledge that it’s okay to feel hurt, to cry, to be angry even. If they know okay to express their feelings then they are less likely to bottle them up or mask their emotions causing them lash out. This won’t just help them and their mental wellbeing, but later in life this will ultimately impact on the way they treat others. That’s the power we have as parents.
There are some amazing resources that can support your own education, go check out No Mum Is An Island. Jade helps parents understand the ways in which they can do better, she posts a lot of really thought provoking stuff that has certainly caused me to stop and think and she runs amazing workshops for parents that want to upgrade.
In the coming months I am also going to be working a lot more closely with Mindful Mini’s , a young start-up devoted to helping children of all ages & abilities in learning and developing mindfulness which is a fantsatic way to help children process their emotions.
I couldn’t end this blog without a few reading reccomendations from GrumpyKid. We stock some fantastic books that will help reinforce the things you are already doing at home.
Frank’s dad Hank has some pretty outdated views and is always saying, man up, and, don’t cry like a girl. This book teaches children it’s ok to feel sad, and tackles the outdated views that toxic masculinity place on society
Maisy's brother's Ed won't let her play with his toys. He says, 'Dinos are for boys!' But Ed hasn't met T. Rex's much bigger sister. She Rex is a big and burly, multi-coloured girl-dino. And Maisy is about to show her brother that stomping, chomping She Rex is as fierce and as loud as any boy dinosaur. Watch out, Ed - you’re about to discover that dino toys are for girls AND boys
Tells the story of a young girl named Florence, whose passion is sport, despite the scepticism of young Frank, who thinks girls are rubbish at sport. Flo challenges Frank and in doing so, challenges her own preconceptions too!
This engaging and thought-provoking book provides examples of strong, independent male role models from throughout history, all of whom first impacted the world as teenagers or younger.
From Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Jesse Owens, Crazy Horse to Bruce Lee, and Nelson Mandela to Steve Jobs, forty-six movers and shakers who have left their mark are featured, along with profiles of teenagers who are changing the world right now.
A young boy wants to be just like his father, who is big and strong, with a defined blue shadow. However, the boy has an irrepressible pink shadow, and loves ponies, books, princesses, fairies, and things 'not for boys'. With the love and acceptance of his father, he learns that everyone at times, has a shadow they wish was different...and he must embrace his shadow just the way it is. A rhyming story of love and self-acceptance that touches on the subjects of gender identity, equality and diversity.