Mothers can raise their daughters to be just like them, Gayle Goldin writes, but what about their sons?
By Gayle Goldin
The blogosphere is filled with the voices of feminist moms talking about childrearing. Or, rather, they are talking about raising their girls to be feminists. A couple of those mommies also talk about what it is like to parent a boy who doesn’t fit into the conventional “boy” roles – what do you do when your son wants to wear a tutu? Raise him to understand that he, too, can be anything, wear anything, and love anyone he wants to.
But what about me? I have two sons. My younger one is imaginative, emotionally intuitive, and says “I love you” with a depth of meaning that is amazing. My older son only wears sports team t-shirts, can tell you the ERA of every major league pitcher, and uses as few words as possible to describe how he feels (by which I mean, “I don’t know”). Yup, I am a mother of a “mainstream” boy.
I read through those mommy blogs and think – great that you are raising your girls to be feminists, but really, do you have another choice? What mother doesn’t want her daughter to be strong, self-reliant, comfortable in her own skin, confident in her intelligence, and capable to deal with the inherent gender biases (and over-sexualizing of women) she is likely to face her whole life?
The real challenge is for us – the parents of boys who could live their lives resting on the privilege and power bestowed upon them for being men –to go out of our way to raise our sons to be feminists, too.
So what does that really mean? How do I make sure my sons embody the beliefs I hold dear to my own heart?
As my husband says, we need our children to realize that gender equality isn’t just good for women, but rather, in the long-run it’s in their self-interest, too. A society that is inclusive of everyone allows for more individualism, promotes more freedom of thought, and creates an overall just world.
Take our family leave laws. If we lived in a society where gender equality was a given, we’d have paid leave laws that allowed for employees, regardless of their sex, to take time off to bond with a newborn child, take care of dad when he breaks a hip, or be there holding your wife’s hand while she struggles with chemo.
Talking to a 10 year old about paid leave as a means of discussing equality and fairness doesn’t really work. What does work is challenging myself to continually find the windows of opportunity to discuss what equality and fairness means in their day-to-day lives. So, on Superbowl Sunday I vow to not just pass the wings and talk about the flag on the play, but point out to my sons the far less obvious error: the average salary for an NFL player is $1.9 million; the average salary for an NFL cheerleader? $50 a game.
Originally appeared at WFRI.org.