As a mother and a feminist, identifying specifically as a feminist parent is second nature to me. There are certain things feminist parents do that simply feel right to me in my walk of motherhood — and the same is true of things feminist parents don't do. It should come as no surprise that feminists have strong viewpoints, as well as that these viewpoints inform the way we raise our babies-slash-budding-feminists. (It's never too early to embrace feminism!)
Of course, there is no one right way to be a parent. As long as you cover the big bases like providing food, shelter, and unconditional love, you're pretty much golden. But, because we're a culture of categorization, there are all kinds of qualifiers out there to describe parents — many of which refer specifically to moms: You've got your PTA Mom, your Granola Mom, your Hot Mess Mom (my other identifier, hollllla), your Glam Mom, your Sporty Mom... you get the picture. And it's not that parents are capable of being only one type; obviously someone can be both a Glam Mom and a Sporty Mom, as well as a zillion other things as well. So it's about time we add Feminist Mom to the roster, isn't it?
Unfortunately, feminism is almost treated as a four-letter word in today's society, so you don't see as many parents embracing the feminist parent banner as, say, the Soccer Mom one. The good news, though, is that there are still plenty of feminist parents out there regardless of what they or anyone else calls them. If you're a mom like me who proudly wears the feminist parent title, you'll likely recognize the following list as some of the things feminist parents don't (or strive not to) do.
1. Feminist Parents Don't Reinforce Gender Norms
Last week when given the option, my 3-year-old son eschewed a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle watch at Target in favor of a pink, sparkly one — and I obviously supported his choice just as much as I would have if he had decided to get his lean, mean, green machine on instead. Gender is a social construct, so feminist parents don't worry when their kids don't conform to gender norms. Rather, we encourage our kids to do what feels right for them, regardless as to whether it ascribes to the gender binary or not.
2. They Don't Hide Their Opinions Around Their Kids
Feminists are passionate individuals — by definition, we're a group of people who are dedicated to fighting for equality. This means we have a lot of opinions about things pertaining to the rights of women and other oppressed groups, including everything from current events to that adult RBG coloring book we're dying to get our hands on. And while I personally choose to tone down my, well, tone (and, let's be honest, certain language) when I rant, feminist parents aren't afraid to express themselves openly around their children. It fosters important dialogue that can only help our children become impassioned orators in turn.
3. They Don't Ban Princess Play
Despite the stereotype of the "femi-nazi" (which is ridic, btw), feminist parents don't ban their children from playing with princesses that propagate a sexist narrative. Sure, we may steer our kids gently toward toys and characters that are strong and empowered, but we aren't going to crush our kids' fun if they really dig Cinderella. We just try to contextualize the conversation surrounding such characters.
4. Feminist Parents Don't Rely on Gendered Communication
Do I tell my 5-year-old daughter she is pretty? Yes, I do. There's nothing wrong with that. But I also make sure I emphasize how smart and funny and brave she is, too. And, to that end, I also tell my son he is pretty (I mean, he is after all). Feminist parents strive to strike a balance when it comes to paying our kids compliments, and not fall prey to the gendered communication — i.e. girls are pretty, boys are handsome; girls are beautiful, boys are brave — society has conditioned us to use when interacting with our children. Furthermore, encouraging the belief that all bodies are good bodies from an early age helps kids grow up with positive views about body image, as well.
5. Feminist Parents Don't Use Pet Names for Private Parts
It's a vagina, people, not Lord Voldemort — saying its name out loud doesn't mean it is going to take a break from drinking unicorn blood to haunt your kid's every waking moment. Feminist parents realize that using euphemisms like "hoo-ha" and "pee-pee" for our private parts buys into the idea that there is something inherently wrong or naughty about these parts of our anatomy. Since there most certainly isn't, though, we just call 'em what they are.
6. Feminist Parents Don't Shy Away from Questions about the Body
Just as feminist parents aren't afraid to call genitals by their proper names, we don't dodge the tougher stuff regarding the body either. If our kids are curious about sex, we have an honest conversation about it. Why? Because we know it is a natural act and it is healthy to do so. If our kids are curious about their own bodies or the feelings they are having about other bodies outside of — or inside of — their own sex, we do our best to navigate those waters as well.
7. Feminist Parents Don't Treat Feminism Like a 4-Letter Word
If you're a feminist, you already know it can be a tough road. People have preconceived notions about feminists to the point of stigmatization, so choosing to raise your kids with feminist values will net you a lot of scrutiny — which is precisely why feminist parents don't treat feminism like a four-letter word. We embrace it and underscore its ultimate goal so that our kids have no doubt the ideology is on the right side of history, despite what others may have to say about it.