Long before I had children, I was barraged with information about what to expect. By the time I actually became a mother, I was well-versed in, well, everything every type of adorable tiny human to ever toddle around might do. What I heard little about — but would have loved to be part of the dialogue — was things feminist kids do. Because what is far more important to me than Ferberizing my babies is knowing that they will pick up the baton of feminism and pass it on when the time comes.
Although the future of feminism has been declared digital, the reality is that the Internet isn't capable of furthering feminist goals on its own. Someone has to take the helm, which is why the future wave of feminists is so important. An incoming generation filled with socially conscious and inclusive minds benefits everyone, not just parents. Although feminist kids are pretty fantastic little beings to live with — it's kind of the fringe benefit of raising offspring who value the people around them and believe in equality for all.
So in the hopes that one day conversations about feminist kids will be just as normal as tips about teaching them to self-soothe or insight into establishing solid sleep habits, here's a look at five things feminist kids do that parents should definitely encourage.
1. They Speak Up for Themselves
At the core of feminism lies in the innate value of each and every person — and this starts with the self. Feminist kids aren't afraid to ask for what they deserve, and they stand up for themselves in the face of verbal or physical violations. My daughter, Marlow, may only be four, but she is opinionated and never shies from speaking her mind. I wouldn't have it any other way, because I know as she gets older that her outspoken nature will translate into being a self-advocate for everything from body positivity to bodily autonomy.
2. They Speak Up for Others
By definition, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. But because men and women don't yet have equal rights and opportunities, we live in a patriarchy which often deprives demographics that aren't male, white, and cisgender of a sense of agency. Are kids aware of this system of subjugation? Not necessarily, but that doesn't mean they aren't already addressing it. The odds are good you've got a feminist kid on your hands if he or she champions for others, speaking out against perceived injustices and speaking up for those who are being bullied or robbed of their own voices.
3. They Refrain from Using Polarizing Language
Discussing gender and sexuality can be particularly tricky as a parent. You don't want to overwhelm your child or confuse them, and you certainly don't want to flub the conversation in a way that hinders your kid's empathy for others as opposed to furthers it. Here's the good news — generally speaking, feminist kids understand that polarizing language is a hard no. When a child has a firm respect for themselves and others, they tend to avoid using terms such as "gay," "sissy," or "slut" to diminish, marginalize, or objectify others due to gender or sexuality differences.
4. They Embrace and Respect Differences
By principle, feminism seeks to overcome issues that arise from inequality — issues such as discrimination, fear, misunderstanding, and even violence. One of the most beautiful things about children is that they are born viewing the world through the lens of feminism, in that they start off accepting everyone as the same. It's only later that the beliefs of the adults around them indoctrinate children to notice other's differences and take action based on them. Feminist kids, though, continue to reject the notion that people's differences are a source of separation. Rather, they celebrate the things that make their friends unique, and they aren't afraid to blur the lines drawn by society when it comes to gender-specific toys and tropes.
5. They Give Due Credit to Mom and Dad, Or Mom and Mom, Or Dad and Dad, or Whatever Parental Arrangement They've Got
Social constructs and stereotypes are a major limiting factor in today's society, and such is often the case when it comes to parenting. Ideologies get recycled that perpetuate the traditional biological determinism that moms are responsible for parenting while dads "bring home the bacon," so to speak. Feminist kids — may we know them, may we raise them, may we love them — don't see this tired distinction. If they have a mom and a dad, they recognize that Dad is a one half of the parenting equation and happily turn to him for roles historically relegated to Mom. Rightly so, feminist kids embrace the plurality of parenting and the parenting power of fathers. Which, in my husband's case, includes everything from mastering Elsa braids to cutting the crust off of PB&Js. And one day? Period talk, too.