All of us want to be the best parents that we can be. However, there is no one right way to raise a child. We live in a world which hasn’t given up saying that ‘boys will be boys’ and has a lopsided notion of what feminism stands for, amidst all this, it is rather difficult to raise a child and call them feminist. However, for people who believe in equality aka feminism is there any other choice? So how do you do it? Shouldn’t the idea that everybody is equal also begin at home?
Also Read: My Lessons On How To Raise A Feminist Son
Writing off blue and pink is important but bringing up feminist kids is not just that. If we want men and women of tomorrow walking around in the society to believe in equality then we have to dig deeper. We have to check our behaviour as well. We have to call out our own unconscious biases. Yes, we all abide by certain gender/racial stereotypes without even acknowledging their existence. Even as modern free-thinking women, a lot of us do not think there is anything wrong when we say, “I am lucky that my husband can cook, or helps me with housework.” Have we ever stopped to think why must we consider ourselves privileged just because our husbands can fend for themselves in their own house? Is it an achievement that he can find a spoon in the kitchen without turning the place upside down? Or reheat a meal and feed the kid without the refrigerator looking like a war zone?
Likewise, a common thing being said on mommy groups is, “the dad is babysitting today, and I am out.” Well, the father is an equal parent why should he be babysitting then? Isn’t he just parenting? We’ve internalised these roles based on our society’s set expectations about how men and women should behave and present themselves. Are we challenging our own notions and setting the right examples?
Even if kids are unaware of what is paid work and what is unpaid work, they grow up seeing women doing the household work and by default associate these roles to women in the family like their mother, grandmother, aunt, etc. They unquestioningly imbibe these. We are a country where misogyny is normalised. An everyday example of this is how freely jokes about the wife being dumb, temperamental and the spoilsport get circulated. Are we doing enough when we let these sexist rants get classified as hilarious satire? Even if children are not active users of social media, they take in what is happening in their surroundings. They laugh, when they see others laughing, are we calling these behaviours out? Is it not our duty to tell them that there are limits and everything is not just a joke?
If we want our children to listen, trust and respect us then we have to create an environment where they understand it is not okay to make fun of people because of their gender or race. Just like it is important to tell a boy that a girl can play with cars it is important to tell a girl that a boy can wear a pink t-shirt, or carry a Hello Kitty lunchbox if he likes it, it is his choice, not an identity. Similarly, at home are we telling our kids their father can be weak sometimes? He may be unwell, may not feel like taking the wheels every time you have to step out of the house as a family? And that their mother can take on these roles? Are we making a constant effort to point out instances of gender diversity? Are we showing them that anyone can do anything? Are we telling him that he/she can be a good driver like their mother/aunt and not just their father/uncle?
As parents, or adults responsible for children what are we doing to get our message across? It is an important question to ask ourselves. To make a change mainstream we need to start at a ground level, we have to talk about gender diversity through everyday things. We have to teach boys and girls equally to fight stereotypes. We need to tell them that both can have a range of emotions, both can feel angry and vulnerable. And it is okay. Gender equality has to begin at home and family is at the frontline of these changes.
The views expressed are the author’s own.