“I’m glad we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like our sons, but it will never work until we raise our sons more like our daughters.” - Gloria Steinem
When it comes to raising a son, most parents don’t think much of feminism as an important parameter. With changing times, we are raising stronger women but neglecting the fact that men are discouraged from doing things that are considered to be traditionally feminine. This leads to an imbalance in the kind of gender equality we want to teach our children.
Raising a Feminist son
The reasons and benefits of raising your a feminist son are unending. For starters, he learns to look and treat all genders equally and this is exactly what you should be aiming for. As an individual, he will end up being strong and sensitive and learn that the two traits aren’t incompatible. The biggest benefit of having raised your son as a feminist is that because he has been allowed the freedom of choice, he will not judge other people for the choices they make.
To bridge a gap which is so glaring but often overlooked, there are a lot of things parents can and should do to ensure equality in all senses:
Teach him that it is perfectly normal to cry
Girls and boys cry equally when they’re infants but it is often fed to growing boys that it isn’t a sign of manliness to cry or show their emotional side publicly. On the contrary, it is a sign of courage to be able to accept one’s emotions and embrace them and this is exactly what boys need to learn. It is perfectly normal for a boy to cry just like it is for him to express other emotions like anger and happiness. Crying is not a sign of weakness he should learn to respect tears.
Give him the power to choose
Whilst we are opening up newer avenues for girls to venture into activities and hobbies that were considered to be conventionally masculine, we are somehow repressing boys from doing the same. Just like it is perfectly normal for a girl to like action figures and pursue weight-lifting, it is necessary for a parent to understand it is okay for a boy to like pink and play with dolls. Imposing gender based norms on children takes away from their power to choose. Instead, introduce him to an array of new things and let him choose and pursue whatever he wants to.
The meaning of consent needs to be taught early on
The fact that no means ONLY no and nothing otherwise is something your son needs to be taught early in his life. This invaluable teaching is bound to stay with him throughout his life and benefit him in various ways. Explain to him that consent means not touching anyone without their permission. When he is young, start by educating him to respect people’s feelings if they want to be left alone and not let people hug him or pull his cheeks when he doesn’t want them to by politely declining. As he grows older, you can educate him about sex and how to treat his partner in respect to consent.
However, also teach him that he can express his love and other feelings to his parents and siblings through hugs and small words of gratitude from time to time.
Don’t be shy to talk about the body
Some researches show that most children aren’t aware of their genitalia and its uses till they’re 12 years old because their parents make up code-names and don’t talk about such things freely. Break the stereotypes and help your son learn about his body. Explain to him how his body will change as he grows older and if required, give him tips to deal with bodily changes.
Similarly, it is important to let your son know that the body isn’t a mould and every guy doesn’t have to be muscular in order to look good. While it is believed that physical strength is the only parameter to judge boys on, teach him that it is far from the truth and being emotionally strong is equally crucial. It is necessary to teach your son about body-shaming so he doesn’t end up becoming a victim or victimise other people for having conventionally imperfect bodies.
Give him role models and teach him about other genders
It is crucial for him to understand and learn about the other genders as well. Unless he understands what problems each gender faces in terms of societal pressure and repression, your son will cannot empathise or learn to be compassionate. Talk about issues like objectification, rapes and misogyny that exist in the world to educate him and help him form an opinion.
Another very important step you can take to raise your son correctly is by giving him the correct kind of role models. Men like Mark Ruffalo, who penned a letter in support of reproductive rights, John Legend, who supports self-love and body acceptance through his songs, Dalai Lama, who claims to stand for women’s rights, Barack Obama, the president who aimed to equalise pay for all genders and Ian Somerhalder, who spoke against domestic violence are perfect high-profile men who your son can look up to.
Try to raise your son to become a better and more tolerant human being because the world needs more of them!
It maybe interesting to read ; The Day I told my son I am on his side
Written byNiharika Nandi
Niharika Nandi is a media trainee who loves exploring the fields of photography and baking simultaneously. She’s a self-proclaimed professional bathroom singer and believes that caffeine runs through her veins. This adrenaline junkie loves to pen down a million thoughts gushing through her mind at any instant and is very vocal about LGBTQ rights.