Raising a feminist

Well, Donald Trump is president. I don't really know what to say that hasn't already been said by those much smarter and better informed than me. Marching in NYC last weekend was a good way to exorcise some anger, but as MANY have pointed out, marching once with some friends and funny signs does not a revolution make. So, I've signed up for a bunch of email blasts about next steps, I've called my senators, made donations, and am working on a few other ideas.

I've also thought a lot in recent days about how to raise a feminist boy. M is still very young, but he is aware of so much. I don't think it can hurt to teach him certain fundamentals and adjust some things to help him become part of the solution, not part the problem. These are two things I'm going to do right now:

1) Stop apologizing to M for everything. This is my knee-jerk parent reaction: M falls down and while comforting him I say, "I'm sorry you fell." Or when I have to enforce a rule and it upsets my mercurial toddler I say, "I'm sorry, but I can't let you ________ (play with that outlet/stand in that windowsill/run with that sharp object)." I do feel sorry when he falls down, but I can convey that sentiment without actually apologizing. And I don't feel sorry when I have to set a boundary. Of course I don't like upsetting him, but he's a toddler: An errant gust of wind could upset him if he's teething, hungry, tired, in a grown spurt, etc. And it's my job to keep him safe, which means disappointing him when he thinks he can fly (literally; not in the R. Kelly sense), but I won't let him.

I hate how much I apologize for myself, and not only to M. To the rest of the world I say, Sorry I took up so much space. Sorry I needed something totally reasonable. Sorry I'm asking you to do your job. Sorry I'm asking to be compensated fairly for work I do. I don't want M to grow up expecting the women around him to constantly apologize and that if they don't; if they're bold and forceful and, gasp, unapologetic, that they are somehow shrill or aggressive or not "womanly."

2) Stop dressing him in clothes with "brave" or "strong." M doesn't have many items with words on them because we're minimalists with his wardrobe, but I see these clothes everywhere. Also, he can't read, so maybe this is ridiculous, but I don't want him wearing things that tell him who he's supposed to be or what characteristics are most "manly." He doesn't have to be brave or strong. It's okay to be weak and scared sometimes and to reach out when he needs help.

Also, Gap, why? I get that this is a joke because there's a car on the shirt and that's the "machine," but this double entendre isn't funny, it's just gross. I checked and thankfully there isn't an equivalent for girls because people would FREAK OUT about sexualizing girls like that. So why is this okay for boys?

I know there are many more things I can and will change in the coming years as M grows and becomes more aware of the world. I've read a lot of articles about how to raise feminist kids including this one, and this one and a lot of this advice about busting gender stereotypes, supporting his choices, helping him express emotion, and instilling body autonomy is what we already do. As we make other tweaks and changes, I'll keep posting about them and I'd love to hear about what you do as a parent to raise a feminist.

*I wrote a follow-up post about communicating with boys and helping them manage their feelings here. Plus a recipe for healthy banana bread doughnuts!