Raising a feminist son

I know the title is offputting, but hang in with me here. I myself have never thought of myself as a feminist. Sure am a strong woman, I believe in equality for all, but my believes extend far beyond my own gender and apply to humanity. I find that the current role of feminism is a singularly focused agenda, and that it is hyper focused on individual transgressions rather than addressing institutional problems pervading our society.So it had never really occurred to me to call myself a feminist. However as I raise my son with intention I realize that being a feminist man is very different than being a feminist women. That the qualities I am trying to instill into my son may qualify as feminist traits for a man, but certainly I would not qualify them as feminist traits for a woman.

This point was really hit home for me a few nights ago. My son is my oldest, and given that he lives in a house with two younger sisters me and my husband have tried to carve out a space on Thursday evenings that is a date night for him. We alternate between my husband and myself taking him on dates. This week is my son and I were preparing to go out and my son had a lot of ideas about what he wanted to do. My husband pointed out that it would be thoughtful if he asked me what I wanted to do. My husband spent a long time trying to essentially convince my son to ask me what I wanted to do. I admit I myself was kind of off put by this at first. If I had ideas about what I wanted to do I could convey them to my son on my own, and that I didn’t need my husband to advocate on my behalf to my own son. However my husbands explanation is what prompted me to think that we were actually raising a feminist son. It was this: that our society does not ask women what they want to do, and that our society does not give women the same opportunities as it does to men. So that men need to be aware of this and need to prompt these conversations and allow women the space to say what it is that they want or need. And if they do not offer up this information that it is their responsibility to ask the questions.

When I heard this I softened to the conversation, it had never occurred to me that that was even something that my husband had intentionally been doing for all of these years. I reflected on all the times that my husband had asked me what I wanted to do, or advocated in creating space for me to go to training or retreats. That he had put my name out there for positions of leadership within the organization that we work and live at together, and that he actively takes up a role in the home both in parenting our children and what are traditionally viewed as female roles of homemaking and cleaning. And it gave me a whole new appreciation of my husband, and I was suddenly very aware (not for the first time) what an exceptional human being he is. Part of what makes him an exceptional human being is that whether or not he is aware of it he is a feminist man. And I hope to God that I am raising a man that is equal to if not surpasses my own husband’s compassion and awareness.

So with intention each day I try to cultivate certain qualities in my son. The same qualities that I would now say will prepare my son to mature into a feminist man. That he be compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others. That he be aware of his own needs,to be able to speak them to others, and to be aware to the needs of others. To not fear his own emotions or those of others. To know that behavior is information and to ask questions when something seems amiss. To be strong enough to speak out when he sees something wrong happening, and to give voice to those that are not able to speak up for themselves. But most importantly to be a man that welcomes love into his life, because it is love that will change the world and fundamentally the base to all these other traits.

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