I am new to feminism in the sense that I have never thought about my beliefs or perspective as being a movement with a label. I have always just considered myself a person who believed in equality and stood up to social injustice. I wanted to make a difference, I still do. Most of my post-secondary schooling is in the field of social work. It was not until the birth of my son did I have what people might call my feminist awakening. I realized that there was in fact a label to what I stood for. There was a name for the injustice I encountered more often than I would like to admit.
As I have embarked more consciously on my feminist journey in the past year I have found myself in an interesting spot. I seem to have become more aware of my perspective and more inclined to act upon on it now that I have a child. Bringing a life into this world was a journey in itself but I now find that I am riding a slippery slope I did not realize was there. I am the mother of a boy which has coincidentally made me a more mindful feminist.
Like any good parent I try to watch what I say or do in front of my child. I want to set the right examples and hope that I am making the right decisions. It is not as easy as some parents make it look, believe me. While parenting my son I have learned more about myself in this past year than I have in all of my twenty-three years on this planet. It was suddenly too easy to see my faults, quirks, insecurities, and societal boundaries embedded in me. I am sure much of what I realized was in part due to the anxiety issues I struggled with more predominantly postpartum or maybe it all just made me more cynical.
I opened my eyes to many things in the short time my son has been here. One of the many issues I have been more aware of recently is the very real problem our society seems to have with gender roles. I am not sure if the reactions or thought processes I had were normal in the sense that the majority of parents with sons have them or I am one of the few. I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with blue clothing and people questioning my child’s gender like it made a difference. Apparently people need to know so they can fit you in a box, even before you are a year old. The problem with boxes is that not everything is perfectly square. In fact, I would wager that most things are not.
There is only so much you can do at home but I will do my best to encourage my child to be true to himself regardless of the messages he will get elsewhere. It is so wrong to place these constraints on children. I am tired of feeling a little guilty when I walk in to the “girl’s section” in the toy department to buy my son something he will enjoy. Why should I? It pains me to know that one day he may be made fun of or told he is wrong for liking the color pink, wanting to cook, or playing with a baby doll if that is what he chooses to do. It bothers me that one day it will not be okay for my son to show that he is hurting but the little girl next door will be consoled and reassured. The last I checked we are all humans and some of the most human qualities are to have feelings, opinions, and choices and to be able to act on them. In my ideal world people would just be people; there would be no glass ceiling, rape, gender roles, or prejudices. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world and that is why I will do what I can in my own home. I do not want my child to grow up feeling like he needs to conform to the limited view of masculinity that we have. Being the parent of a son in a masculine society has made me be more aware of what I say and how I say it, not only to my son but to everyone.
And this is why I have compiled a list of things I will not say to my son:
- “Man up”- This goes right along with sayings like “grow a pair”. Everyone’s feelings are valid and should be acknowledged. Courage does not come from having testicles neither does being a leader. Setting an impossible standard of “masculinity” that every male needs to live up to is plain silly.
- “Don’t cry/ Crying is for ‘pussies’”- Since when does having a vagina mean you are the only one that is allowed to cry or show your emotions? When we are hurting it is a natural reaction to cry. It is a stress reliever and a coping mechanism. Why on earth should that be gender specific? Humans have the ability to do this, humans have feelings, and every feeling is valid.
- “No, that is a girl’s…. “- Whatever. I will not tell my son he cannot do or have anything because it is not for boys. That is just ridiculous, sexes do not own rights to colors, toys, activities, hobbies, or fashion.
- “Boys will be Boys”- I will not give my son an excuse to misbehave. There is no old boys club in my home and I expect my son to respect others no matter where he is. I will encourage my son to be inclusive. Men should not get away with acting inappropriately because of their genitals, neither should women.