5 Family Habits That Might Not Seem Feminist, But Totally Can Be
When it comes to how we understand what it means to be a feminist, or how to act "like a feminist," it's important to remember that all people have different concepts of feminism and how it fits into their lives. It can be helpful to keep this open and accepting mindset when you're discussing, for example, surprisingly feminist things in families — you know, the habits you and your family have when you're together that on the surface might seem pretty anti-feminist, but are actually just as feminist as anything else.
In fact, it's good to keep this mindset in place when we're tempted to critique or judge one another on the basis of "how feminist" our decisions or beliefs are, because really what feminism comes down to is choice — and it's OK if we all make different choices or have different reasons for making the choices we make. When it comes to family dynamics in particular, there are often some deeply rooted gender norms and expectations that we're often raised with because of cultural backgrounds and stigmas. Luckily, there is no singular "right" or "best" way to be a feminist, and what works for you and your own family can be different from what works for your other relatives or friends. The important thing is that it works for you and yours.
Let's break done some common family hemes that might seem anti-feminist on the surface, but can actually be pretty darn feminist when you get down to it:
1. Telling Your Child They Are Beautiful
While it's really, really important to celebrate your children (if you have them) for all the amazing things that they are — including, for example, how smart they are, how funny they are, how caring they are, and so on — it's also OK to tell them they are beautiful.
On the surface, this might seem like superficial praising — like we are teaching our children only to value themselves based on their physical appearance. But "beautiful" can mean many different things; indeed, it can speak to all parts of a person, including all the stuff we have in our heads and our hearts. Instilling positive self-esteem and messages about body image in children by teaching them that they are beautiful from a young age may also help them be more self-loving and body image positive as they grow up — and teach them that to be "beautiful" isn't just to fit one sole definition of the word, too.
2. Sister Bonding Over "Feminine" Things
Initially, it might seem that when sisters bond over traditionally "girly" things, such as doing each other's hair and makeup, going shopping together, or watching romantic comedies on the couch, they are bonding in a superficial way that is dictated by society and the depictions of female siblings we see in the movies and on TV — in short, that they're performing femininity in a way they've been pressured into by our culture.
But that's not necessarily the case. A lot of feminism is about being able to choose what's best for you yourself, without fearing judgment for your choices; furthermore, feminism is about being free to enjoy and value activities and pursuits without worrying that they'll be devalued depending on whether we code them as "masculine" or "feminine." Feminism and being feminine aren't mutually exclusive, and if you and your sister love doing girly things together, then that's all that matters.
3. Brothers Bonding Over "Masculine" Things
The same goes for boys, too. Just as our culture tends to want to write women who are interested in "feminine" things off as anti-feminist, men who are predominately interested in "masculine" things are, as well — the belief being that in order to be feminist, they need to be interested in "feminine" things instead. But the fact of the matter is that it's important for families to encourage siblings of all genders to do what speaks to them the most. If brothers happen to bond through playing or watching sports or going camping outside, that's OK! The important concept here is that everyone learns that they have the right to choose what they want to do — and that they don't have to do something or avoid it because society tells them they should or shouldn't do it.
4. Learning "Feminine" Things From Your Mother
When it comes down to it, we all know that whether you have a mom, a dad, two moms, two dads, grandparents, step parents, or any other kind of parent, it's likely you're going to learn household tasks from somebody. And there is no shame in learning traditionally "feminine" skills from your mother like cooking or cleaning — we all need to learn Basic Adulting 101, and if your mom is the one who's got the best handle on these aspects of it, so be it. As long as you're there by choice, there's nothing anti-feminist about spending time in the kitchen; indeed, being able to cook and feed yourself delicious meals is a skill that's worth having for everyone.
And besides, spending some of your time learning your way around the kitchen doesn't mean you also can't spend some of your time learning how to change a tire.
5. Learning "Masculine" Things From Your Father
Just like there is nothing wrong with learning "feminine" skills from your mother, there is nothing wrong with learning "masculine" skills from your dad. Learning and developing skills and hobbies with your parents can be a wonderful way to bond and share things with the people who raise us, so there is no reason to shy away from that just because it follows a traditional gender role. Traditional gender roles only become a problem when people feel like they have to follow them, even if they don't want to — if everyone is on board for whatever you're doing and choosing to be there themselves, then that's all that matters.