I was reading an article about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s new book and her tips for raising trail-blazing daughters. It has some great tips from Ginsburg herself, who I admire greatly.
While I love reading all of the great content out there about raising the next generation of women leaders, I see it from a different point of view. I do not have daughters; I am the proud momma of two sons. One of my boys is all grown up at 26, and the other is 13. Being a feminist and mom of only boys, I see the issue of feminism and preparing the next generation for it quite differently.
I have always viewed my responsibility as a parent to teach my boys how to love, appreciate and seek out strong women without losing their identity as strong men.
I am as feminist as they get, having not changed my name when married, having always been intensely career-driven and not being able to cook anything that didn’t end in “Boyardee” when I first met my husband. Equality has always been an absolute requirement for me, and I don’t apologize for it. I made it very clear who I was and what I could offer to my husband, and it definitely wasn’t domestic bliss. I was very forthcoming that I didn’t make food but I was excellent at making dinner plans and reservations. Thank goodness he was secure enough to see that I had more to offer than the typical wifely stuff. It’s one of the many things I love about him.
Contrary to popular and misguided beliefs about feminists, my position did not make me seek out men I perceived as weak or unmanly. I have always liked strong men. For example of my favorite traits of what I see as a strong man is being a gentleman opening the door for me.
So, as a feminist mom, my goal has always been to show my boys that a feminist does not mean someone who hates men or wants to overpower them. In my eyes, a feminist is a woman who simply wants to be treated equally in every way. We want equal pay for equal work and we want the opportunities that men have always taken for granted. We want men to be respectful and not assume they have any rights to us or our bodies regardless of the way we dress or seem to them. Again, this doesn’t mean I walk around with everything hanging out. It just means if I do, you don’t get to do squat diddly about it unless I expressly give my consent. Pretty simple.
Here are a few of the things I focus on teaching my boys about loving and respecting feminist women.
Encourage them to be gentlemen.
Everyone loves a gentleman, especially me. Being a feminist doesn’t make me unappreciative of a gentleman. Some feminists may disagree, but I still find a strong man who is gentle and giving to be one of the most admirable qualities. When a door is opened for you, you simply appreciate it. My boys know they should open a door for a lady. It is also a big part of our Hispanic culture, and it’s something I strongly believe they should do.
Teach them that cooking and cleaning is not women’s work.
Not every feminist hates cooking like I do. My boys may fall in love with someone who loves to cook. Heck, I even learned how to cook and can now make some amazingly yummy meals. I learned to cook, even though I don’t particularly enjoy it much, and that’s OK. I also know that many men love to cook too. Again, there is nothing nicer than to have someone cook you a meal, and it doesn’t matter who does it.
When I was a kid I had to learn to do laundry but my brother did not. He was taught to mow the lawn and do “manly” things. I didn’t want to be helpless and always rely on a man for stuff so I had to teach myself how to change a tire and build things. My view is that these skills should be learned by all. My boys know how to do laundry, scrub a toilet and change a tire. The cooking, the cleaning, and the fixing are all basic life skills that we should teach all kids.
Prepare them for all career options.
Loving a feminist may mean that your career or earning potential may not be higher that your partner’s. It can also mean that you and your wife decide that she will stay at home to care for the house, the kids and anything else that needs attention. Or the reverse may be true and you decide that it is best that the husband stays home. Or you may choose to both follow a career path and figure things out along the way. We chose to prepare our boys to follow a career path of their choosing so that when the time comes, they have all choices open to them.
Show them how to debate respectfully.
Our home has been the host of many a debate about feminism among other things. We love to talk about politics, psychology, sociology, current events, pop culture, you name it. Both sons and husband have differing views on what they think feminism is. They are always bringing up all of the different views they encounter and we discuss each of our takes. Sometimes we agree and others we don’t.
For example, our family loves baseball. Naturally, we have talked a lot about whether there will ever be a female major league baseball player. They stand firm that there will never be one. I say that there may some day, but she would have to be a physical anomaly. You see, I realize women and men are built differently. The muscle mass is different. A woman’s body is made for growing and birthing children. That doesn’t mean that it is our sole purpose or should be the goal of every woman. It’s just the reality of how we are built. As of today I haven’t heard of a woman who can pitch a 95 mile-per-hour ball. I may want a woman to be an MLB player, but I am also realistic.
Teach them through your marriage
My husband is a big manly man. In fact, when we were dating he even beat the living crud out of a guy who was threatening me at a club, even though I was ready to scrap it out and probably get a beat down. He doesn’t bow down to my strong will or character. He challenges me as I do him. My boys see this. They don’t see a mom who controls their dad. They don’t see a man “putting his foot down” either. They see two people who are strong and supportive. We have each taken turns supporting each others’ careers and business ventures. They see a mom who now bakes cookies and can build a shelf. They see a dad who can change an alternator and clean a bathtub.
I would be lying if I left out the fact that navigating our roles and figuring out who does what has been a struggle at times, like in any house. However, in our home, it is known that no one person is responsible for handling all domestic duties alone. That has been up to me to teach all my men. I could choose to be angry about having to teach what I see as common sense, but that would be counterproductive, and I want results.
The point here is that a feminist isn’t always a woman who wants to control men and take away their “man card” as many are led to believe. It simply means that we want the opportunity to CHOOSE what we want to do with our lives. It means we want respect without excuses. When men are taught to not be threatened by that and actually appreciate it, great things happen.