6 Things A Feminist Would Never Say To Their Kids
One power that we have as feminists is the ability to raise our kids to be feminists. And toward that end, there are a few things feminists would never say to their kids. Some of these are things we hear all the time as children, because unfortunately, we don't all grow up in feminist households.
The good news is that there are a lot of positive things parents can say to their kids to encourage feminism. They can remind them that they can do whatever they want, no matter their gender, and that they can choose how they talk about their gender (and other genders and gender identites, too). They can teach them why feminism matters and how they can get involved, and they can teach them what sexist behaviors they should never tolerate from other people. The rest of the world may teach kids that they have to be a certain way because of their gender, but if they grow up in a feminist environment, they'll have the skills to question what society teaches them.
But, on the flip side, there are a few things parents say that unintentionally encourage sexism and disempower their children. Here are a few things that feminists wouldn't say to their kids.
"Be A Man."
Without realizing it, parents are often protective of their girls and rough with their boys. And if their boys admit to discomfort or vulnerability, they get told to "man up" or "be a man." This teaches them that if they have a problem, they have to hold it in rather than getting help, which can lead to mental health issues down the line.
This piece of advice, on the other hand, is disproportionately given to girls. At its worst, it teaches girls that it's their duty to be aesthetically speaking and leads them to suppress their authentic emotions so that their faces look the way people want them to. Even when it's not stemming from ideas about beauty, telling kids to smile can teach them that they always have to be positive, which also feeds into stereotypes saying that women shouldn't get angry or take issue with anything other people do.
"You're A Girl/Boy."
For pragmatic reasons, children usually get assigned a gender at birth. But parents should at least understand that this may not be the gender the child ends up identifying with and avoid telling them what they are when possible. If your child tells you they are a boy or a girl or neither, believe them. Part of feminism is the ability to define our own identities — something even kids should be not only allowed, but encouraged to do.
"You Shouldn't Wear That."
Another part of respecting a child's gender expression is avoiding rules about what they can and cannot wear. Boys shouldn't be made to feel ashamed for wearing dresses, and girls shouldn't be shamed for being "tomboys." Girls also shouldn't be criticized on the grounds that their clothing reveals too much skin, because this sends the message that if someone takes their choice of dress as a reason to harass or assault them, they are to blame.
"That Was Your Fault."
This is wrong not just when it's said outright, but also when it's implied. Victim blaming can come out in many subtle ways. It may be a piece of advice to avoid getting bullied or assaulted. It may be the suggestion that if they'd done something differently, these things wouldn't have happened. Children need parents they can turn to when they're having problems, and if they know that their parents will make them feel worse, they make be forced to hide their struggles.
"You Shouldn't Feel That Way."
Feminists don't tell people what they should and shouldn't feel. They want to help their kids get in touch with their feelings, which means validating them even if they don't seem to make sense. This gives rise to adults who are confident enough to make their own decisions because they know what feels right for them, not anyone else.