Treading carefully here as I broach this subject, not wanting to upset anyone just after your thoughts ...
I am a feminist, I guess I always have been - even as a child I showed sympathies, maybe I’m more feminist than anyone first thought it turns out. I’m cool with this and have professed many a time to friends that I am pro women not anti men.
But the other night my boyfriend said to me in a tone of disgust or dissapointment almost that I was ‘deffinitly a feminist’ (as if it were some kind of disease!) and he felt sorry for Zander (my son), himself and his older son - my stepson. I’m slightly offended by this.
But I guess thats not the point. My main pondering now is, can I raise my son to be a well rounded balanced confident young man and still have feminist interests. My feeling is yes I can, I treat my children as equals regardless of their sex and provided I keep myself in check and watch that I don’t stray into the anti-men category I can still be a positive influence to my son.
Anyway, I would be interested in thoughts and ideas - what feminism means to you if you are and how you weave this into motherhood especially where sons are concerned.
I feel very much like you do, I think. Years ago, when my friends and I were all young, independent single mums, I noticed we had a tendency to criticise men - we’d all, after all, been ‘abandoned’ after years of crappy treatment and they all chose not to see their kids. A couple of us lived together and we went in to get some keys cut - both our kids sat at the counter on spinny stools and the man in the shop leaned over to say hi - both of the children flinched. My friend and I were horrified - they’d been through a lot, it wasn’t surprising that they were afraid of a great big stranger, but we realised right then that we could be teaching them to be afraid of men altogether, or that men weren’t good people. It was a scary enough thought that my daughter might be picking up these messages and this had big implications for her - but my friend’s child is a boy, and he knew he’d grow up to BE a man. How much worse were these messages for him?!
From then on, we were really careful to actively invite our decent male friends around and to ensure the children saw them having a chat, helping out around the house and being kind to us and them. I think people confuse feminism with man-bashing, which is to completely miss the point. I wrote on feminism at uni and at college, but I also wrote a dissertation on the loss of identity males in our society suffer as a result of the loss of their traditional masculine role and the effects of equality on their psyche. I don’t think male and female interests can ever be mutually exclusive while our society works in the way in always has done - there are gender differences and working with these to create balance and contentment are the roots of real feminism and also the end goal of many feminist writers - both female and male. I don’t think the backlash, where men are defensive and displaced, is any less important than the complete trashing of feminism that the Spice Girls were part of, I just think it’s all got a bit mixed up somewhere along the lines!
Sorry that’s turned a bit ranty. I meant to say that being a feminist as a mother of a son is something that sits well with me. I adore my son - he’s by far the easiest personality, and the most similar to me, of my children. I want him to grow up to be a happy, confident, respectful man who knows the value of ALL people. If he thinks it’s ok to treat a girlfriend like dirt in the future, I’ll have failed. All my children will help out around the house, all will have their aspirations encouraged and nurtured, all will be equally important. None of that means I can’t call myself a feminist
I think the short answer is yes. If you can make sure you’re not anti-men, then he’ll grow up seeing women as his equal, which will probably make him a better man. The word feminism can mean different things to different people though and I think it’s a strong word. It can mean anti-men, it can also mean anti-family. I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist, but I would say I want equality for everyone, regardless of sex, gender, race, religion etc. But I also like art and culture with a strong feminist theme (as in powerful women) if it’s done well. I’m useless at describing what I mean!!
Feminism shouldn’t be intimidating for men, should it? Not if it’s centred around respect and breaking down stereotypes. I think the term does sadly encompass man-bashing and I do feel that it’s a confusing world for young men to grow up in. What is ‘modern man’ supposed to be like? He seems pulled in many directions.
I am sure that it’s possible to raise balanced young men with a respect for the feminist movement, and respect for different perspectives.
Fairycakes, I’d be really interested to read your dissertation!
i’m not sure of the history but surely feminism came from woman not having equal rights so isn’t feminism above all about being equal and being respected as a person. How it would affect a child i don’t know unless mum or dad is spending a lot of time ranting about the subject, which i can’t imagine anyone doing. So isn’t it about just setting a good example.
What do people mean when they say they are a feminist, because if it’s what i think then most women would probably think themselves feminist.
I’d love to read your dissertation too (can’t day it too loudly as I haven’t read my husband’s yet - although his is on head covering in the second temple period, so not quite so interesting!).
I know plenty of men who self-identify as feminists, so I don’t think it’s incompatable with raising boys, although I have two girls so no personal experience. To be honest it sounds more like your partner is feeling threatened than anything wrong with the way you parent your son.
Fairy cakes, thank you for such a detailed reply, I’ll go back over it once the bairns are in bed tonight when I can digest and write more. Sailor ... femanism being anti family .... thank you for opening my eyes to that as a possible misunderstanding/perception. Thats pretty hardcore considering our bodies were designed perfectly for that purpose, never considered that as being a facet before. I don’t think being anti-men is femanist - more of a judgement based on experience - but it’s so interesting that this is obviously where the lines blur, misunderstandings between the sexes occur, men get defensive and women get trashed for having femainst sympathies ....
will be back later with more contemplation, on with the macaroni cheese and a cup of tea for me!
Yes, it does get blurred - often people aligned Thatcher as a feminist - which was bizarre but perhaps where the anti-family line came in… shemay have been a woman but doesn’t seem to have been very interested in other women, she just seemed to want to be a man! The real feminist cause supported women being recognised as equal but different - not having to compete with men for the same things, but being acknowledged in their chosen roles as being equal - so a woman would no more or less important or respected whether she was working, looking after her family, whatever. Women were only granted legal rights concerning their children a few years before the first wave feminists so this is all very remote from where we are now, where there has been a swing in, for example, child custody (which is being addressed, more men are gaining custody than they were…) but it was ALL about respect and equality - and doesn’t at all say that women and men are the same or that women should be all powerful and men should lick their boots…that came in with Thatcher and the girl bands of the 90s followed it up nicely. It’s a shame because now people do see feminism as a dirty word and it wasn’t meant to be that way at all. Argh, ranting again! Can you tell this is fascinating me?!
As for the dissertation, I wouldn’t mind re-reading it myself! It was never a masterpiece, just part of a big project, but we got burgled and the computer was taken so I lost a lot of old stuff. I don’t know if I’ve got a paper copy anywhere, I’ll have a hunt!
Am finding a wave of questions running through my head now this has surfaced ... to name but a few ...
modern femanism - want to kow more. we have the right to vote and go out to work things are different, what are we fighting for/to maintain now? ... the right to birth at home/breastfeed in public/run homes rather than work full time/for our bodies to be sacred and our image not sexualizied in the media? Are both women and men are struggling to identify themselves in this era? Is ‘society’ (read: big brother?) trying to meld men and women into one unisex being where no one can find definition.
... what do I want for both my children, my boy and my girl? what values and skills do I want them to have? Is this human rights that I’m on about of femanism because I personally believe returning to a matriarchal society would be more beneficial than being stuck in this male dominator society?
Was my late grandma was an early feminist in all that she achieved and believed?:
* first to make and wear her own trousers (suit) community.
* A pillar of their community, arranging men’s breakfasts at church -
* Recieving a Burma Star (the ONLY woman to do so I believe) in the second world war after working undercover in Ragoon and Burma and other places as a cypher.
* leading guides and brownies and was regional commisioner.
* Spearheading mercy missions to earthquake victims with supplies in the 70’s or 80’s can’t remember which.
I don’t think she thought she had a cause or doubted others respect she had the confidence to be the change without thinking to question.
Anyway, some muddled thoughts ... still interested to hear others’ as I colate mine.
Gosh it’s a massive question: I think the “movement” is far more integrated with other movements these days: the left, the environmentalists, the peace movement. i.e. that whilst I may not label myself a FEMINIST activist, the things I care deeply and passionately and noisily about are things that matter to women and our treatment in society.
Is it still relevant? Off the top of my head….
- if the government went ahead and withdrew child benefit from families where ONE or more adults earns £40k then they would be punishing single parents unfairly - who are for the majority women.
- if the government introduces tax incentives for married couples for ideological reasons, they are inadvertently (or otherwise) punishing the woman who bravely removes herself and her children from an abusive relationship (however many feckless council estate mothers they perceive there are - one abused mother who is financially punished for leaving is one too many)
- if cancer researchers (and the powers that be) continually ignore the possible connection between the crap we are sold to smother on our bodies in an attempt to create some unobtainable version of beauty (which is in itself a whole massive issue) and the rise of hormonal cancers
- if we continue to value people in terms of the wealth they create rather than the part they play in holding a society together, making the decision to SAHM non-existent to some because it is not supported financially by the state.
then YES. People who look out for women’s issues and examine how government policies, the media etc affect women in particular, whatever they choose to call themselves are still needed and probably always will be.
I’m a feminist and I’m raising a son. Feminism (to me at least) is the social, political and economical equality of all genders. Here are some of the reasons I think feminism is still very relevant:
Women are still being paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same work, especially in part-time positions, more than 40 years after the equal pay act. Rape survivors are still blamed for the crimes their rapist committed. The rape conviction rate is extremely low in the UK, especially in Scotland.
Women are pressured into wearing make-up - we’re supposed to smother our faces with chemicals, causing all kinds of damage to ourselves and the environment. We’re constantly exposed to photoshopped images and told our bodies are meant to look like that. Young men grow up reading lad’s mags and haven’t the first idea of what a woman really looks like.
The current government cuts disproportionately affect women, children and those of us with disabilities.
Every day people like Nadine Dorries chip away at women’s rights here in the UK - this particular politician is trying to get abstinence lessons going in schools for girls (but not for boys), and she is thoroughly anti-choice. We haven’t got equality yet, and what we have achieved we might lose if we’re complacent.
I’m raising my son to know all this and more (at an age appropriate level).
As a single mum raising a boy, my overriding desire is for Rye to treat all people with respect.
I would also very much like for Rye to grow up knowing that he does not have to belittle anyone to feel or be a man.
I would like for him to know his role in a relationship, is one that he and his partner create between them, by taking into account each other’s desires, strengths and weaknesses, and it is a role that can and will change and adapt as time goes on.
I would like for him to have a sense of self responsibility.
In many ways I am teaching him the ideal; I believe strongly in ideals because it was gives us hope for change, gives us the impetus to make change.
So yes I do hope my son is idealistic; and those ideals spur him to be a part of positive change.