For anyone who isn’t aware, children are our future and in order to create lasting change on our planet, we need to invest in them. It is at home where a child learns everything that they know about the world—language, social interaction, gender roles. Therefore, it is my job, as the parent, to set an example and teach my son right from wrong. I watched this video recently that explains how feminism needs men and men need feminism.
Patriarchy infiltrates every part of our world and it harms men and boys just as much as it does women and girls.
Things cannot change if only half of us are actively working against major issues of gender inequality. I am going to do my part by continuing to speak up against oppression and inequality. It will be challenging, especially as a young black female, but I know that nothing worthwhile is easy. Feminism is necessary to create a better world for everyone, not just women. We need to raise our sons to be feminists to inspire real change in the next generation and kill these myths about feminism.
There are so many reasons I’m choosing to raise my son as a feminist, but for the sake of time, I’ve narrowed it down to what I consider the most important.
1. Being a feminist is not a bad thing.
This stigma surrounding being a feminist has to change. I have noticed that a lot of people seem to think that it’s only for girls striving for girl power, but it’s not. Feminism, in its true meaning, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.
So if you aren’t a feminist, you are essentially saying that you don’t believe that everyone deserves equal opportunities and rights, and well, that makes you an asshole. #sorryNOTsorry. Buzzfeed posted a video raising the question: Can a man be a feminist? I don’t ever want to hear my son utter the words, “No, I’m not a feminist, because I’m not a woman.” The fact that the video was made shows that there is not enough discussion in the media about what feminism truly is.
I want my son to know that being a feminist helps everybody. I want my son to understand that identifying as a feminist does not emasculate him. As Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said, “If you’re a progressive, you really should be a feminist because it’s about equality, it’s about respect, it’s about making the best of the world that we have.”
2. Having emotions is NORMAL.
Society is constantly telling boys to “man up” and “be tough” and that “men don’t cry.” They are expected to be these emotionless robots. When they experience pain and sadness, to avoid being seen as weak and unmanly, they bottle up these emotions instead of seeking help. Studies show that men represent 77.9% of all suicides in the United States. No one knows exactly why men are more likely to take their own lives, but in my personal opinion, I believe that their subconscious need to hide their emotions eventually takes a toll. Girls are typically seen as emotional, docile, and weak. So when a man shows a natural human emotion, they are told, “Don’t be a girl.” I could go on a whole rant about the ignorance behind those words because there is nothing shameful about being a girl.
I want my son to understand that every human being experiences emotions. If someone or something hurts you, it is OK to express what you are feeling. There is nothing wrong with being human, and humans have feelings.
3. Men can be victims of abuse too, and rape culture shouldn’t exist at all.
One rule I will be drilling into my son’s head is that you don’t have to accept shit from anyone. Men and boys can be objectified, raped, emotionally, and physically abused. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, listen to your instincts and get away as fast as you can. If something happens, I want my son to know that he can speak up about it and not be afraid of ridicule.
By teaching him that he has the right to consent, I will be teaching him that when someone says no, it means no. For some reason, people seem to believe that men can’t be sexually harassed by women because the patriarchy says, “Why wouldn’t you want to have sex?” Consent is consent. If one of the involved parties does not want to engage sexually, then that is rape or sexual assault. There was a social experiment done showing the difference in people’s reactions to a man being sexually assaulted versus a woman being sexually assaulted. When the man was being assaulted, people walking by called him a loser and said, “Why not? She’s hot!” When the roles were reversed people jumped in to save the woman. Neither incident is OK. No one likes to be pressured and made to feel uncomfortable. Everyone deserves the right to say no. I will teach my son to understand that respect is key in all relationships.
Rape culture, whether you want to admit it or not, is a real thing. And it’s something that starts with our baby boys. How we raise our sons to view women starts the downward spiral effect of rape culture as explained to near perfection in this video. It is just as important for us to reinforce to our sons how to treat someone respectfully as it is for us to explain to our daughters how to be careful. We need to focus on the root of the issue and not just how to avoid it because no one asks for it.
4. Gender stereotypes hurt everyone.
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are.” –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists
Society is consistently telling us what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. If my son wants to be a pastry chef, a dancer, a fashion designer, or play with dolls, he should be able to without being considered feminine or gay—like being a girl or gay is a bad thing. If he wants to wear the colors pink and purple, he should be able to. We teach them that colors have a gender as soon as they are born; blue is for a boy, and pink is for a girl, and they grow up believing that this is a solid fact.
Colors have no gender. Clothing has no gender. Gender is nothing but a list of made-up rules by the masses. Girls are docile; men are strong. No one wants to hear they “throw like a girl.” Not only does that significantly diminish the confidence of our daughters, but it instills fear in our sons that being anything like a girl is a bad thing. Some even go to extreme lengths to demonstrate their masculinity by becoming physical with others unnecessarily.
I am going to raise my son to focus on his interests and his inner-self and less on his “gender” role in society because no one—and I mean no one—will be telling my son how he should live his life.
I want my son to be happy with himself and love himself fully and never strive to be anything other than what he wants to be. I don’t care what he looks like or what he chooses as a career as long as he is spreading love and positivity through the world. I will raise him to understand that these people in magazines and on television are not the ideal he should aspire to. The ideal is whatever makes him feel good and empowered. Let humans be humans; that is the whole point. If someone is not hurting you physically or emotionally, then let them be who they are so they discover their own powers, in their own way.
This post originally appeared on Thought Catalog.