My Lessons On How To Raise A Feminist Son
Something funny happened on International Women’s Day, which was just last week, and it amused me so much that I had to write about it. On the morning of 8th March, as I was driving to drop off my teen son to his school, he was clearly deliberating whether to address his mom as ‘feminine’ or ‘feminist’ and then simply decided to go with the flow. Just before he climbed out of the car, he loudly exclaimed “Happy Women’s Day, Mom!” and had that smirk on his face, which completely gave it away.
He certainly wanted to play it safe, be politically correct and not utter anything out of place to ignite the surging hormones in his peri-menopausal mom. And thankfully it did work this time around. However, his deliberation got me thinking and so a couple of days later, in a very chilled-out tone I casually asked him what he honestly thought his mom is. He squirmed a little as there was no escape route this time and then in a very hurried manner looked at me straight in the eye and said “A mix of both.” I don’t know whether I should’ve celebrated his diplomacy or his clarity of thought, but I am glad he was honest about what he felt and that’s what I consider most important.
Today, there is a lot of unspoken pressure and expectations from mothers of boys to raise them in a specific manner and conform to the golden rules of raising a feminist son.
Today, there is a lot of unspoken pressure and expectations from mothers of boys to raise them in a specific manner and conform to the golden rules of raising a feminist son. While it is imperative that we need to raise both boys and girls to be strong, kind, empathetic and to have courage, there is no set pattern or a user manual to be followed that helps you get the desired outcome. What you sow, is what you reap! What you do, is what you get. And what you demonstrate, is what gets imbibed.
Gender equality begins at home
Am both grateful that both my husband and I were raised by our respective parents in an environment where there weren’t any gender stereotypes. We are simply taking this legacy forward. My son sees both his parents working equally outside and inside our home. He knows that as his mom, I had to opt for a sabbatical when he was born and resumed work when he was 18 months old. But he understands today how much I value my work and so does his father. He also knows I love my ‘me-time’ and that I need my space to do what I wish to. There are no guilt pangs while I am enjoying myself and playing a myriad of roles from a daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend, to a working woman, and this is amply displayed at all times.
He also knows I love my ‘me-time’ and that I need my space to do what I wish to.
What you see is what you get
Feminism is not about hating or bashing men. It is about advocacy, standing up and talking about what you believe is right. As a mom, I consciously steer away from using any kind of labels to address a person, group or a way of thinking. What needs to be communicated is the cause/reason for which you are advocating something and that’s where the strength lies. You don’t need to be anti-men to be pro-women. He also understands that our choices and preferences could be diverse and that’s the beauty of being who we are, irrespective of the gender.
Have open conversations and confrontations
This is an aspect I consistently try to work at, every single day. Be as open with conversations and confrontations, however awkward or challenging it could be. When my son was around nine, I did explain to him in detail about menstruation and our reproductive system. Now that he is 13, my husband and I discuss sex and other supposedly taboo topics with him. There may not always be a smooth flow to these conversations, but the intent in our communication is always clear and straightforward. And this is only going to get more intense from here on. We are ready and hopefully, so is he.
When you explain the ‘why’ and don’t take a stand from the position of power, influence or gender, you hit the nail on its head.
This has been one of my biggest learning as a parent. When you explain the ‘why’ and don’t take a stand from the position of power, influence or gender, you hit the nail on its head. He knows everyone has a right to be respected and that is the only way. Whether it’s a feeble ‘no’ or an aggressive’no’, if it’s not a ‘yes’ then it’s a clear ‘no’ and he needs to stop. There is zero tolerance on any deviations here.
Let your son be your biggest cheerleader
Every time I am back home from a women’s event, spoken at a women’s meet or back from a girl’s night out, I make it a point to tell him all about the event, the speakers, the key takeaways and keep it lurking at the back of his mind. He gets to hear it from the horse’s mouth and eventually I know he is my secret cheerleader, though his teen hormones may be preventing him from openly admitting it. In his own words a feminist is someone ‘who works for the betterment of women’ and so I am going to keep fueling his mind with powerful narratives of both women and men who speak up not only for their rights, but for the rights of others, irrespective of their gender.
While there are miles and miles to go before I sleep on this important conversation with my son, I am reminded of a powerful quote of Maya Angelou, “I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I would be stupid not to be on my own side.”
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
Rachana Gupta is Founder & CEO – Gynoveda, a digital platform that brings Ayurveda & Technology together. The views expressed are the author’s own.