I am a Feminist and a Boy Mom

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“Feminist” can be a controversial word, but to me it just means that I believe people should do what they want with their own bodies and lives—look how they want to look, work where they want to work, and love who they want to love. As a feminist, I respect myself and I respect other people. I know the importance of checking my privilege and also scrutinizing my own prejudices.

Now, most parents of girls recognize the problems that women face in a patriarchal society, even if they do not call themselves feminists. They worry that their daughters’ worth will be evaluated based solely on appearance; they worry that someone will hurt their daughters and not be justly punished; and they worry that their daughters won’t get the same opportunities as male peers. Conversely, parents of boys are often content with the status quo because, well, their boys will benefit from it.

But personally, I think being a boy mom is a huge responsibility. Everything I do while raising my two young boys will affect society around them in the future. Besides that, I want to protect them from toxic masculinity and the harm and dysfunction it causes.

That’s why as a feminist and a boy mom, I keep these things in mind:

No means no

It is important to teach the concept of consent to children from a young age. When my toddler son refuses hugs and kisses, no means no! Just the same when he wants to sit on me when I workout, or pull my hair or pinch my nose—when I say no, I mean it. I am continually teaching my boys that no one has the right to touch anyone else in a way they don’t like.

Manners matter

People say little boys are more difficult than girls because boys are wild, but is it nature or nurture? Girls are expected to be quiet and polite, whereas every unsavory behavior from little boys is met with a nonchalant, “boys will be boys!” Don’t get me wrong, children should be allowed to be children and not be expected to act like fully grown adults, but I believe boys should be held to a higher standard.

Boys can cry too

You won’t ever hear me say, “boys don’t cry”, or “don’t be a sissy”, or “you cry like a girl”. Personally, when I hold in my feelings in I tend to get angry and then release my anger at inappropriate times. I feel much better after talking about my feelings and having a good cry, so why wouldn’t I want the same for my kids?

Be mindful

Some of the things I see and hear coming from other parents are concerning. I hear parents relaying misogynistic ideas to young boys; I see parents editing pictures of their little girls to make them look more beautiful; I hear parents obsessing over their own appearance in front of their kids, as if our kids gave one noodle what we look like! As a feminist I try to be mindful that the things I say are actively shaping my kids’ worldview:

Take for example this exchange with my toddler:
Toddler:  “Mama, are you putting on a makeup?”

Me:       “Yes sweetie.”

Toddler:  “Why does mama wear a makeup?”

Me:       “I wear makeup because I like it, I think it looks beautiful.” 
          (NOT “Because I look awful without makeup.”)

Toddler:  “I wanna wear a makeup!”

Me:       “Only adults wear makeup, children don’t wear makeup. If you 
          want to wear makeup when you grow up, you can.” 
          (NOT “Makeup is for girls!”)

Knowledge is power

How many adult men don’t know the basics of female anatomy? How many don’t understand how periods and breastfeeding work? I don’t like the stigmas around these basic aspects of human life. Ignorance leads to fear and even disgust, so I choose to arm my boys with knowledge.

My older son likes to pretend to breastfeed his toy

All in all, I am confident that there are tons of parents out there raising their kids to be informed, respectful adults. I am optimistic about the next generation that my sons will be a part of, and I know they and their peers will make us proud.

Julia Chen
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