My feminism started at home, following a rapid discovery of what I did not want for myself.
I often viewed the tasks relegated to women in my family as disempowering and self-sacrificial. The concept of fairness was practically moot: Why should I do the dishes, sweep, and mop daily when my brother gets to keep playing video games and watching TV? I saw how women were treated in relationships, and I quickly learned that boys and girls are seen differently in this world. I then molded my own life around the version of reality I came to prefer: women are equal to men and we deserve for our labor to be honored and shared.
Now, as I enter my mid-twenties and my son is about to celebrate his first year on earth, I wonder how feminism will influence my child. How will I instill these lifelong lessons that begin in the home?
When we become mothers, our focus quickly shifts to be all about the child. We think less about ourselves, our friends, our hobbies, and our relationships (some of us become single mothers, and that’s a whole other story altogether). It’s as if we are altered versions of ourselves; parts of our identities go on the back burner while child rearing remains at the forefront of our minds.
But I will maintain and prioritize the identity of “feminist,” for my son and for myself.
Months before my son even arrived, I began worrying, “What can I teach a boy?” I thought about what the world could stand to gain or lose from someone assigned male at birth—yet another boy who will become a man in a male-dominated, unequal, increasingly violent world for women, femme individuals, and gender nonconforming folks. Recent legislation blocking abortion and birth control access, as well as anti-LGBTQ sentiments from bigots who are emboldened by Trump made me intensely uneasy. Still, I was full of positivity. I was bringing in a new soul who would experience life with guidance from me and my partner.
I felt small in the grander scope, but within my scope, I knew I had the power to mold my son into a person who welcomes a feminist future.
My son is the center of my universe, but I want to be careful not to center him here. Instead, we must focus on how we raise boys, and how we can insist on doing things differently than our parents. Most of the badass women I am thankful to know had mothers who were hard on them—like, really, really hard on them. My mother, too, held me accountable for my actions if I failed to meet my responsibilities. Meanwhile, my brother was more easily forgiven if he messed up. I was responsible for my own safety. And if my mom wasn’t around, I was responsible for my brother’s safety, too. I had to learn to take care of my family and our home. He did not.
This resulted in my mother instilling a sense of responsibility in me, and not in my brother.
Admittedly, I am still in the thick of it as I learn to be a mother—and a mother to a son—during this first year of parenthood. But I know that both my son and I desperately need feminism because, to be honest, boys need to learn how to do shit for themselves. They should not expect girls to perform labor for them, emotionally or physically.
There are far too many men who continue to rely on women for their day-to-day basic needs. We need to raise our sons to both value and learn how to complete household chores, daily cooking, and other seemingly menial tasks typically relegated to women or whoever “mom” is. And that’s just scratching the surface of what we need to teach our sons. That’s only part of why I need feminism more now that I am raising a little boy. Our gender-obsessed and gender-divided society must change into a more equal and just one, and part of that work starts, as always, in the home.