Feminism means believing we are all equal. Simple as that. The difficult part consists in that we worry about the world our kids are growing up in and how it will shape the adults they become. In an ideal world, we want our boys to treat women with respect and our girls to feel like they can speak and be heard. But it’s on our hands to help to get there and be better humans.
We want our daughters to be more independent, powerful, assertive, to understand they can aspire to whatever path in life they choose. We encourage our girls to explore business, technology, science, sports, which are typically viewed by society as “male.” But what about the boys? How often do we let our boys know that they can talk about their emotions , know pink is not a representation of a sex, that they can take dance lessons, that crying is natural, that they can be vulnerable, kind, and sensitive?
Raising a feminist son isn’t easy. Telling boys to be sensitive and progressive in a culture that still expects men to be unemotional and, yes, kind of sexist is a big challenge. One of the biggest benefits of instilling acceptance and equality in our sons is that it can help them avoid the toxic masculinity that can debilitate them in the future and bring more problems.
Here are some tips to raise your son to see each other as equals:
No Means No – Teach it Early
Teaching your sons as early as possible to be ‘good men’ is crucial. Learning body autonomy starts at home, and it starts early. What children begin to learn about gender at this young age will shape their worldviews later in life. To raise a feminist son, it’s important to encourage him to ask for permission before showing physical affection. Teach him to respect the word “no,” that when someone tells them to stop doing something, they need to immediately cease their behavior no matter what. Also remember that consent doesn’t apply only to sexual situations; consent is about respecting other people’s boundaries.
Teach Boys What ‘Feminism’ Means and Question Stereotypes
Sure, there may be common differences between guys and girls, but in general, people are the same. The problem is that people often don’t fully understand the term. They believe it is women desiring a world without men but the truth is that feminism doesn’t feel that way. Being a feminist means you believe everyone should coexist equally. No one is less than or more than another. We can coexist, equally empowered. Question and discuss these stereotypes to break taboos and teach the real fight.
Show Body Positivity
Boys shouldn’t be excluded from the necessary body positivity conversation because it affects all kids, starting at a young age. That’s why it’s so important to teach them to have a comfortable relationship with their bodies. Talk to him about how amazing the human body is and celebrate the things it can do. Encourage acceptance of themselves and others, regardless of body shape and size. Teach your son to grow up with a healthy body image, how to be respectful of women’s bodies, and to question beauty standards.
It’s Okay to Cry
Encourage him to understand a full range of emotions. Toxic masculinity teaches that boys don’t cry, that they can’t be vulnerable, sentitive or sad. Raising feminist boys means letting them explore all their emotional experiences. It’s natural and human. If you feel like crying, just do it. Teach him to express his feelings out loud. You’ll be raising an emotionally healthy boy.
Expose Him to Strong Female Characters
Show him women that will get him inspired. There’s tons of strong characters that you can choose for this mission! Listen to music, watch movies, play games and read books where women are not victims, where they have strength and are more than just someone’s spouse, girlfriend or mother. Teach him that woman can be powerful.
The work of parenting is not easy and exhausting, but as soon as you step back, society will step in to tell them that pink is for girls and that boys don’t cry, all over again. That’s why it’s so important to keep teaching our kids to be better humans. Always remember: we can raise our children to be the change we want—and need—to see.
The future is feminist. Let your son be too!