Illustration: Rebecca Hendin via Buzzfeed
“Feminism” What a misunderstood word it is. Over the years, people including women have asked me “You are not one of those feminist-types na?” I am. I am one of those. I am going to bring my feminist germs into your clean patriarchal thinking where everything has it’s defined place and a woman’s opinions have no place. Nowadays there is an even more abusive name for women like me. We are called “FemiNazis” Yes that’s who we are. We want to exterminate the male gender just like Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews. Imagine what will happen if women like me reproduce? What if I give birth to a brood of independent thinking little brats who dare to have their own opinion? Well I just have one independent thinker and it’s a continuous struggle to raise him as a feminist. Feminism is not exactly a protein powder that I can stir into his daily glass of milk.
I recently read an article on ‘How Feminist mothers can Raise Feminist Sons’. The first suggestion was to start early. We have to inoculate our children at a young age against gender stereotypes This is where it gets tricky. Children look at each other as peers and equals. What girls ought to do and what boys ought to do is something we adults teach them. In our attempt to raise ‘good sons’ we unconsciously reinforce patriarchy by teaching them to “help her, she is a girl”, “don’t fight with her she is a girl”, “be a gentleman” and so on which widens an already existing divide and subtly influences them to think less of women. My son is actually the only boy in his class and when relating an argument, he had with a girl he asked “Will you take her side because she is a girl?”. Good question. Gender bias can work both ways. Which is why if I have to raise my son as a feminist I have to free feminism from the trappings of gender. Feminism is about power balance. “Respect women” and “Don’t hit girls” should be replaced with “Respect people” and “Don’t hit anybody”. For why do behave disrespectfully or hit anyone? Only because we perceive ourselves as more powerful.
Gloria Steinem the famous American activist and feminist said “While we have the courage to raise our daughters like our sons we have rarely had the courage to raise our sons like our daughters.” Maybe we should just raise our children as children. Children who understand that being different is ok but being treated differently is not. Choices of colours, clothes and careers; choices of thoughts, words and deeds should all be set free. Language should be set free. Free…until the words ‘like a boy’ or ‘like a girl’ cannot be interpreted negatively.
The synonym to feminism is equality. Equity is needed for equality. Systemic injustices have been done over the years as one gender has had the advantage and those injustices must be set right by positive action and better opportunities for girls but not because they are girls but because they are our children. Let’s celebrate our differences because different can still be equal.