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How do you raise a son in an age of misogyny?

yesallwomenThe whole furore over #yesallwomen has started me thinking more widely – reading through the tweets on the hashtag reinforces what I already know, that being a female in this society is hard and that very little has changed in the last 30 years

I know that I am going to have to consider how to educate, empower and protect my daughters because the world we live in hasn’t progressed in the ways I would have hoped

What has really struck me is that raising daughters is probably the easy part of my future parenting – I’ve walked this road, lived through everyday sexism and I understand how it feels – what I haven’t got a clue on is how to raise my son in what feels like an age of continued misogyny

Talking to the men in my life one really strong theme emerges – that they just do not understand how it feels to be female in our society and to have to deal with the daily drip drip drip of these experiences

How do I raise a son to understand what women are facing every day and to call out other boys and men if they continue to perpetuate these behaviours?

As I see it, the only way we are going to move forward is to educate our men to challenge this misogyny head on – yes we can keep telling girls that they need to lean in, that they need to stop doing this or start doing that but until we have a generation of men that sincerely believe that both sexes are different yet equal and who respect women for who they are not what the media portrays as an ideal we are not going to get anywhere

But how do you ensure that you do that for your son?

Is it as simple as avoiding the pink / blue divide – will wearing his tights which say ‘girl’s tights’ on the label help the process?

Is it about carrying on with my career whilst Mr M is at home and practically demonstrating that family roles are interchangeable?

Is it about treating him and his sisters the same in terms of opportunities and choices?

The girls adore princesses but love Lego and tree climbing, they like pink and glittery but should we be considering whether to limit these things and exposure to Disney with it’s passive, reactive, can only exist if they have a prince and a happily ever after role models?

And who are the role models for little boys?  Yes obviously Mr M but who else?  Should I stop reading Paperbag Princess because, whilst the princess is cool and independent, the prince is definitely not?

Where is the roadmap on how to bring up children so that we break this cycle of sexism?

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2 comments to How do you raise a son in an age of misogyny?

  • At least you’re thinking about it, which is Step One. I think the most parenting input is by model, and if this is a subject close to your heart, then you will have a big impact on their lives, just by dint of that. It’s a long journey, I think, so yes, the issues around Disney princesses and superheroes are important, but they’re not defining. It’s all part of a big picture that’s built up over a couple of decades (my son has just celebrated his 17th birthday, so I hope that’s true!)

    I think it’s really important to talk about these issues as they get older, and to equip them with the ability to be critical (in the true sense of the word) of the culture we live in. What’s good? What’s bad? Otherwise, they’ll just buy into the whole thing.

  • I think modern kids’ books do have plenty of good role models /examples of equality – eg. in Harry Potter, Hermione is just as important as Ron and Harry in all the action. So far I don’t see any signs of misogyny in my 9 and 7 year old boys but I do try to explain to them how the world works in context — eg that women didn’t used to be able to do things but that was really unfair and now they are just the same as men. They seem quite accepting of that.

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