It's not the word, it's the perception...
I am raising two children. Something that tiptoes into my daily consciousness… if I haven’t raised two feminists, I have not done my job. More importantly, if my husband had not contributed to raising feminists, then I married the wrong guy. In using the word ‘feminist’ I am simply referring to the expectation of gender fairness and respect.
There are only two genders roaming the globe. I am bewildered at the visceral controversy in achieving equality. For those stuck on the word equality, let's call it equity. And for those stuck on the word feminism, let’s call it gender symbiosis. We may not be physiologically akin, which of course cannot be changed. We should absolutely acknowledge our differences. Appreciate that men and women complement one another. Nevertheless, how our two genders treat one another is cultural, and this moral compass can, and should, point in the same direction.
My children are the same gender. So, with plausible admission, I can only profess experience with raising the one gender. I can’t intellectualize or even make an educated guess as to the intricacies of raising the other gender. Nor can I confidently deny the possibility of yielding to gender-specific ideologies and, in fact, raise them differently. I am, though, certain of one aspect – raising children to respect the other gender is the same lesson for both boys and girls.
If you have not already guessed the gender of my children, here’s a hint. I gave them both the same stocking stuffer for Christmas. A bumper sticker that reads: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Please know that this is not a 'man-haters' manifesto. Rather, a statement of confidence and self-reliance.
Yes, I have birthed two accompaniments to the female population. We are raising two girls to embrace the equity of their gender. Feminist with respect to how they perceive themselves. Feminist because of the way they should expect to be treated. And when not, to have the confidence to make a change. They don't necessarily have to be an activist to be a feminist. However, with any type of unfairness in the world, thank goodness there are activists.
We want them to possess the mind-set and skill-set to support themselves and have a fulfilling life whether or not they find a significant other. To flourish in a world that can be biased toward them simply for being female. I also hope that if they do find someone, that that someone is also a feminist and their relationship is a loving and respectful partnership. That they are both the beneficiary and the benefactor of romantic gestures – if he opens the door for her, I hope she opens the door for him. That continuing a career or staying home to raise children is a mutual decision for the benefit of their family. I hope that he, as a father, doesn’t view parenting in terms of gender‑specific responsibilities; that, for example, he doesn’t view bath time as a chore, but as a joy of being a parent.
I have heard quite a bit about the double-standard when raising the two genders. In all the conversations with moms raising both genders, many – not all – have said, “boys are easier than girls.” It’s such a vague and generally unbecoming comment so I always ask, “how so?” Most often the response is, “they are emotionally draining” or “they require more attention.” I find these answers curious coming from a female that has already experienced what her daughter is experiencing. I wonder, is this when the gender rulebook is handed out, where the opposing cultural message is conveyed to boys and girls? My thoughts on this:
But don’t you want her to come to you. Always, and bringing all of her to you, without censoring herself. Not just with the easy stuff, but particularly with the harder stuff. Isn’t that how you will know her more intimately. Young kids struggle to articulate feelings, much less understand them. Isn't it those wordless passionate and spontaneously fiery emotions that let you know. Hadn’t you experienced her world when you were young. How can the perception of her emotional needs be disapproving. Inherently, she is insecure, but trying so hard to be perfect when she doesn’t have to be. The alternative is that she may not come to you. The risk is that she keeps it all inside. The consequence is that she doesn’t grow freely and confidently.
Incidentally, I could replace all the shes and hers with he and him because you'd want this relationship with your son too. I applaud those who are raising gender symbiotic children – girls or boys. You know who you are!
© Copyright Paula Davis