I Am a Feminist Raising Two Boys

“No!”

“Stop!”

“I don’t like that.”

These are phrases I teach my young sons to respect when wrestling, playing, or fighting with each other. My world consists of Power Rangers, Legos, Pokémon, burps, and farts but in a few years, these phrases will become even more important, as my sons reach the age of romantic relationships.IMG_2866

I am a feminist raising two boys.

How do I make sure my sons understand the importance of listening to and respecting women?

Recently, a friend told me about her son who is at a state university. She has taught him about respect. She has taught him about not taking advantage of women. At a frat party, her son saw a young woman drinking–a lot. Her friends left the party without her; soon, she started stumbling around.

Her son remembered not to put himself in a position where he was alone with a woman who may be too drunk to fully understand her situation but he also knew he needed to get her home before she got hurt.

He and a friend walked the young woman to her dorm, telling her roommates that she’d had too much to drink and may need help. A few hours later there was a knock on the door. It was the campus police.

They asked about the woman who was now in the hospital due to alcohol poisoning. The boys were interviewed separately, just to verify their stories. By walking the girl home and making sure her roommates knew to look out for her, the boys may have saved her life. They did the right thing.

I am a feminist raising two boys.

image1How do I make sure my sons know what to do in similar situations?

I talk with my sons. They know they can always ask me questions, and I will be open to what they ask. I teach them not only what is right but how to speak up when they see something wrong. I teach them to respect all people.

My oldest son has made comments about women not being as strong as men. I’m a feminist but I’m a realist. Men are generally stronger, physically, but I explain that physical strength is not the only measure. It doesn’t mean you are better than anyone else. I teach my sons women are powerful leaders and often look out for the greater good.

I am a feminist raising two boys. I teach my sons that love is a beautiful emotion.

I tell my sons emotions are okay. Being sensitive shows you can be empathetic. Kindness and compassion are more important than academic merit. Showing affection with loved ones is not only acceptable but shows you know how to love.

I am a feminist raising two boys. How do I teach them that men and women should be treated equally?IMG_2867

Our sons see my husband and I sharing the workload. My husband usually starts the laundry, and I fold it. My husband is often first up in the morning so he empties the dishwasher–most of the time.

My older son, who is six, helps me fold laundry, dust, make beds, and do general clean up. I tell him every person in a family should contribute to keeping the home clean.

My husband chose to work part-time when our first son was born, and I continued full-time. When our second son was born, we reversed roles; I went part-time, and my husband went back to full-time work.

Our sons are growing up in a home where both parents have professional careers, yet  their parents are partners in caregiving and household needs. We talk to them about partnership. We remind them that in some families only one parent works, while in others, both parents do.

We talk about how men and women should be treated equally, including pay. If one parent stays at home, that is work, too. We do not hide from these discussions with our sons.  

I am a feminist raising two boys. How do I protect my sons?

IMG_2447 2I will teach my sons to protect themselves. I will teach them to listen to their romantic partners and never to push them to do anything that makes them uncomfortable. “No means No.”

I will teach my sons to look out for situations where someone, male or female, may be unsafe. I will teach them to be the helpers, to stand up if they see something wrong.

I am a feminist raising two boys.

I am a feminist raising two feminists.  

Erika Bracken Probst writes about civic responsibility and engagement. Her children’s book, Friends on my Street: A Celebration of Diversity tells the story of her neighborhood.

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