Social Justice

Raising The Next Generation of Feminists

father and son at Women's March

This post is co-authored by my very good friend Colleen, who like myself, is working hard to parent our children in a thoughtful manner while trying to find age appropriate ways to teach them the importance of equality. She has two daughters and I have two sons, and we are raising them in a world where there is gender judgement on both sides of the aisle. I want my boys to know that believing in equality and women’s rights does not make them less of a man, while my friend wants her daughters to embrace their strength, intelligence and female empowerment. 

Raising Feminist Sons (Kate)

My husband and I are raising two sons. At this point in their lives, they have no idea that their gender may allow them to go through life unaware of the struggle for equality of so many women. At the same time, I want them to feel secure enough in their masculinity to embrace and fight for equal rights for the women in their lives and country.

Our goal as their parents is to raise them with awareness, understanding and the responsibility to fight against the oppression of their friends, neighbors and fellow citizens. And as parents we don’t want to look back on their lives and ask “Did WE do enough?”

They have brooms and dustpans, a play kitchen and baby dolls because taking care of your home and your children is what men do alongside women. I make a conscious effort to point out when their dad does dishes and laundry and when I am going to work, because in our home we all pitch in.

They have superheroes; Batman and Thor and Spiderman, but they also have Wonder Woman, Black Widow and Batgirl because girls are superheroes too.

They love blue and gray and green but also have pink and purple toys.

We use words like “consent’ and often say “their body their rules” because when they are of dating age, I want these words and terms to be innately understood.

They are obsessed with trains, plains and automobiles, so I make sure to point out police women, female firefighters and construction workers and female pilots, because I don’t want them ever to question that a woman can’t do the same job as they. 

 It will be my job to make sure they learn the names of the incredible women who made this world a better place, as I don’t recall hearing about too many female influences in my schooling,

We are making sure the male influences in their lives are confidently outspoken about the rights of women. Their grandfather, uncles and our male friends all believe women’s rights are human rights and that doesn’t make them any less of a man.

On Jan. 21st we took them to the Women’s March in Los Angeles, to stand in solidarity and raise our voices. And it was beautiful. We have never talked politics with them, as they are too young, so we told the boys we were marching because everyone should be treated equally, and they loved it because it’s true.

I hope, when they look back on images of their young selves at their first march, I want them to remember we were parents of action, not just words. That we didn’t just lecture them on equality but we actively fought against repression. And I hope that influences them to be active members in their schools and communities and fight against inequality and injustice.

little girl supporting Women Run Businesses

Raising Empowered Daughters (Colleen)

When I first heard about the Women’s March on Washington and the sister marches around the country I was super excited to join. Activism, feminism, community, what’s not to love? Especially as a parent of two young girls, three and a half and three months, it felt like an important, even historical, event celebrating a women’s voice.

So when a work commitment came up and my husband was no longer able to join our local march I was at a loss. The event felt monumental but without a second parent support system and crowds expected in 100,000’s I didn’t want an inspiring event to be overshadowed by logistical stress and an inability to translate overwhelming crowds and messages to my kids in real-time.  But I also didn’t want to let the day go by without somehow participating. How could I be a parent and an activist?

Since the march was off the table (this time!) I decided that what was important for me was to reinforce the idea that women are strong and capable leaders. Like everyone else, I’ve been offended by words Trump has used that don’t recognize  women as equals.  I don’t want my girls to ever be spoken to or about in a way that undermines their intelligence and misplace their value.  Since boys vs girls is all the talk at preschool these days focusing on women as leaders felt like the right place to start. 

A quick google search brought up a number of business in our neighborhood owned by women. My daughter and I wrote letters thanking them being strong women role models. I wanted her to see that women leaders are all around us even if they are not currently reflected in the news media.

 The day of the March the three of us, my youngest sleeping in the baby carrier, passed out our notes to our neighbors. It was such a such fun experience! Some places were closed since the entire staff was at the march but the ones that were open were incredibly receptive to saying hello. Only one place was not inline with our political message but still more than happy to have a dialogue about women leaders.  If anything, we met some amazing women that day.

 My girls are too young to fully grasp what makes our current political atmosphere so divisive and we do shield them from some of the more negative speak on both sides. I don’t want them to feel scared or unsafe and at 3 years old our oldest can interpret information in ways we can’t predict.  While asking my kids to understand politics is not a priority right now, I do want them to grow up feeling that they have a powerful voice in country where women are valued and equality is the expectation.  I can’t believe they will be 7 and 4 at the end of this presidential term and I’m sure how we speak to them will change with time but hopefully small steps will lead to engaged citizens that will use their voice to continue to shape our country.

 

Holding Myself Accountable

I was on vacation when I received the news about Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s deaths.  I had put the boys to bed and was trying to quickly skim through the news on my phone before I went to bed when I read that both men were killed.

At first I was confused, thinking I was just mixing up names within one story.  I thought I was just tired and not reading my AP News Feed correctly. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that within two days, two different black men were gunned down by police. And yet I could.

Along with anger, sadness, frustration, I have also felt a sense of fault. And that feeling of fault, fully resonated after seeing a particular image that has not left my thoughts. A woman, a mother, being arrested while protesting in Baton Rouge.

blacklivesmatter

Ieshia Evans left her home and child, to travel to Baton Rouge to protest and fight for her son’s rights. I look at this image and see two men in riot gear, seeming off-balance, as they prepare to arrest her. I see a woman with incredible strength and power.  I see two feet planted firmly on the ground and a spine standing straight, not giving up.  I see a mother. And all the mothers that came before her fighting for the rights and lives of their children.

This image has been hard to look at, because it has caused me to truly look inside myself and wonder what have I been doing to support my fellow citizens. Reading other people’s articles and re-posting other people’s thoughts and experiences isn’t actively participating in the movement. I have had to be honest with myself and acknowledge that I have more often felt, “how can I effect change when the problem seems so big?”

I talk about needing to raise my children in a city because there is more diversity here and yet I live in a mostly white neighborhood and don’t actively seek out ways of participating in the different cultural experiences that live within our city.

It is a hard realization when, I have always thought of myself as someone who fought against racial injustice but really, I have been a bystander, while so many Black Americans fight for their lives.

I see Ieshia Evans, a woman, a mother and I must no longer simply express my anger at where we are as a nation in terms of equality and racism. I need to be a true ally and stand, spine straight with Ieshia and the countless other mothers, and fight for their children, as well as my own. Because it is crucial that my children carry the torch in protecting equality, otherwise how can they be a mindful, participant in their own communities and country? How can they be wholly human?

I watch the way my dear friend’s son, a year older than my boys, is always so kind and sweet to my guys. He has helped push Atlas up the slide when he couldn’t get up on his own, or given encouraging words when one has struggled with something. His kindness is innate. I am always so grateful for the way he treats the boys, being the “bigger” kid. I know that a few years from now, when they are no longer toddlers, the way they react to society and the way society reacts to them will be different. I need to stand by Ieshia’s side so my children will stand by his.

And for my friend, who has never wavered in working to have honest, thoughtful conversations about race and share her experiences, even when the responses have sometimes been unkind.  I am in awe of her and believe she must be exhausted. But she doesn’t stop. I need to stand by her side, as a true ally, friend and fellow mother. To continue to educate myself, my children and add my voice to the rising tide of voices calling for change. #Blacklivesmatter

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