One way I’m teaching my son not to be sexist is by being honest and vocal about sexist things when I see them. Like all the times we default to the masculine when the feminine is just as valid. For example, if someone says “mailman” I pipe up with, “Or mail woman, we don’t know. Better just to say mail carrier, huh?” I know this works because the other day on a long car trip, my son blurted out of nowhere, “Mom? Why are gingerbread men called gingerbread MEN instead of gingerbread WOMEN??” He gets it.
I’m also open, honest, and frank when explaining the history of misogyny in our culture. We saw a fact about how women didn’t have the right to vote in this country until 1920. I took the time to explain how that meant that only men, just half of all the people in the country, decided what the laws would be for all of us. That wasn’t fair, was it? No, he agreed, it was not.
Then I made it personal: That means that when Grandpa’s mommy was a young adult, she was not allowed to vote. She had no say in who got to be the people who made our laws and no women were allowed to be elected to office. No women got to share their opinions about what our laws should be. Yes, Great-Grandma Hoople who made that blanket that you sleep with. She could not vote until the laws changed.
Pro-tip: Making it personal blows their mind every time.
I think next time I’ll ask him how he thinks the laws about women voting changed if women had no say in making the laws. That will be the perfect springboard for a discussion about protest and civil disobedience!
Teaching our children how not to be sexist is a lifelong series of mini-lessons. Make today be the day when you dole out one of them—the next time gingerbread men are mentioned can be another. Keep feeding your child tidbits until they are strong, equality-fighting, well-nourished adults who are ready to feed even healthier tidbits to their children. It’s as easy as that.
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