To raise a feminist son

EQUALITY

To raise a feminist son

It is unfortunate that misogyny is so ingrained in us that we don’t even recognise it as being wrong. We need to play our part in bringing this bias to an end because it stops us from encouraging girls, and even boys, in reaching their true potential. Let us raise our sons to be feminists. Here’s how:

Don’t stick to gender-specific toys or colours: Parents specifically pick out action-based games for boys, and dolls for girls, subtly encouraging boys to be more aggressive and dominant, and girls to be nurturing. When a boy tries to play with dolls, his parents or friends discourage him, tease him, and he quickly learns not to play with them. He also starts thinking of ‘girly’ toys as inferior because of the manner in which he is discouraged to play with them.

The next time your son picks up a doll or kitchen set, don't discourage him. Let him indulge in pretend-play. It will foster a rich imagination, and will teach him to be more nurturing to everyone in his life, be it parents, wife or children. Work at breaking gender stereotypes in every direction, not just when it comes to toys. Don’t laugh at him for liking that pink quilt. Let him have it.

Encourage him to play with girls: During play, boys tend to exclude girls more often than girls exclude boys. This is not inborn. Rather, it is a result of subtle cues imbibed from those around him. Encourage him to have playdates with girls so he grows to think of them as equals. The more time a boy spends with girls, the more respect he will have for them.

No harm if he does something like a girl: A statement like “You cry like a girl” is damaging in a multitude of ways. It makes him think of crying as something to be ashamed of, and simultaneously passes on the belief that behaving like a girl is something to be ashamed of too. Similarly, don’t tell him he does something like a girl and mean it in a derogative way. Doing something like a girl is not an insult.

Make him do chores: Give your children chores, and shuffle them about so your son and daughter get a chance to do everything. Boys and girls should both help in cooking, cleaning, making the beds and contributing in any way required. Cooking is a life-skill. Everyone, irrespective of gender, should know how to cook.

Teach your son that no means no: When you hug, kiss or tickle your son, and he asks you to stop, stop immediately. This will teach him to respect personal boundaries — his own, as well as those of others. Talk to your teenage son about consent. Silence does not equal to consent.

Support each other: While we religiously raise our girls to be supportive wives, we fail to teach our sons to be supportive husbands. Instead, we do the opposite and tease men who pay attention to the wants of their wives by calling them henpecked. This needs to stop. Show your support for each other as a couple, respect each other’s opinion, so your son learns by example.

Revise your definition of a ‘real’ man: A real man is not someone who roughs up a woman, but someone who treats her well. A real man is a gentleman, who stands up to protect the rights of a woman. A real man is someone who doesn’t feel threatened by women. A real man is a feminist.

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