I'm not a parent, but since I am a feminist, I love witnessing feminist parenting in action. I feel very lucky to personally know several feminist parents (my own mother was actually my first feminist role model), and I'm thrilled that this isn't exactly a new concept. But just because people have been parenting feminist for a while now doesn't mean that they are the norm just yet.
While the fact that feminist parents are still kind of a novelty is definitely a problem, it's encouraging to see any of them at all in our patriarchal society. And fortunately, as our society progresses, we're seeing more and more examples of feminist parents both in Hollywood and in normal life. Seeing public examples like Beyonce, President Obama, and Louis C.K. gives me hope that in the coming generations, this will be the new normal. Because I think I'm correct in saying that the things all feminist parents do should really just be the things all parents do.
If you're a feminist parent, or you were raised by feminist parents, or you want to be a feminist parent one day, then you know there are certain things that they all do — and they do these things whether they're parents of daughters, sons, or both. Here are nine things all feminist parents do.
1. They Maintain An Equal, Respectful Relationship With Their Partner (If They Have One)
The main way feminist parents teach gender equality to their kids is by applying feminist ideals to their own relationship. Feminist parents treat each other with respect, keep the power dynamic of their partnership equal, and don’t feel like they have to rigidly adhere to conventional gender roles.
This doesn’t mean one partner can’t enjoy cooking and cleaning for their family more than the other, and it doesn’t mean both partners have to work full-time. It just means that they are equal partners who respect one another. Because, after all, equality and respect is what feminism is all about.
2. They Assign Chores Equally
Feminist parents don’t assign chores based on gender. Lawns are not strictly for sons to mow, and dishes aren’t strictly for daughters to wash. Everyone is responsible for their own messes, and no one ends up being the maid. Both sons and daughters are taught how to wash a load of whites without ruining them forever and how to fix the toilet. Duties are divided equally, in an unbiased way, and then tackled as a team.
3. They Let Their Kids Make Decisions About Their Own Bodies
Feminist moms and dads know that it’s important to teach their children, especially their daughters, that they have a right to their own body and what happens to it. Of course, this doesn’t mean a feminist parent is going to let their toddler eat Play-Doh or their 12-year-old get a tattoo. But it does mean that they’ll let their child make other decisions about their own body (like cutting their hair or dressing themselves) from an early age. Feminist parents know this keeps their kids from growing into adults who will think it’s acceptable for other people to tell them what they can or can’t do with their own bodies.
4. Toys Are Never Considered Gender-Specific
Feminist parents don’t get too hung up on what kinds of toys their kids like to play with. (As long as they're safe, of course.) If their son wants to play with baby dolls, that's awesome. If their daughter wants a Nerf gun for her birthday, that’s cool, too. And if their sons and daughters switch back and forth between playing with an Easy-Bake Oven and a building set, perfect. Like everything else in life, feminist parents want their children’s playtime to be equal, diverse, and not simply decided for them.
5. Activities Are Never Considered Gender-Specific, Either
Dance class is just as much an option for sons as it is for daughters in feminist parenting. Likewise, contact sports and martial arts are just as encouraged for daughters as they are for sons. And if feminist parents discover that their daughter only wants study ballet, while their son is only interested in football, they’ll support that, too.
Feminist parents don’t regulate their kids' extracurricular activities based on what society deems to be a “normal” activity for a boy or girl to participate in. They know that gender should never be a limitation, and allowing their kids choices regarding the activities they participate in is just one way to teach them about equality and the importance of personally pursuing what makes them happy.
6. They Teach Their Kids To Embrace Diversity
By definition, feminism is about equality. Just as feminist parents know that the struggle for women’s rights is far from over, they also know that racial inequality and discrimination against LGBT individuals are still huge injustices which our society continues to allow. Feminist parents teach their kids not to fear diversity, but to love and accept those who are different from them — and that they should speak up for their right to be seen and treated as equals.
7. They Teach Their Kids To Ask For What They Deserve
Children of feminist parents aren’t afraid to ask for what they deserve. Whether it’s for better treatment from a classmate, a significant other, or a raise at their job, both sons and daughters (but especially daughters) of feminist parents aren’t taught to just “grin and bear it.” Feminist parents know that this lesson in self-worth and confidence is doubly important for young girls to learn in a society that consistently silences women.
8. They Communicate Openly With Their Kids About Sex
Being honest and open about sex and sexuality should never be embarrassing, shameful, or taboo — and feminist parents aren’t afraid to discuss this very important part of life with their kids. Period. Feminist moms and dads don’t repress their children by punishing them for masturbating; they teach them about privacy and hygiene instead. They don’t set different dating rules for their daughters than they do for their sons (or place an unhealthy amount of worth on female virginity), but they do encourage safe sex and the use of birth control.
Feminist parents teach their children about sexual health, sexual preference, and sexual responsibility. Then, they trust their kids to use the wisdom they’ve imparted, rather than monitor their every move or shame them for their sexual choices.
9. They’re Body Positive
Being feminist and being body positive go hand in hand. Feminist parents know that they have to lead by example and make an effort to stay positive about their own bodies if they want to teach their kids to be positive about theirs. Children of feminist parents are taught to love, value, and care for their bodies at all stages, while also celebrating the bodies of others.