Opinion: Why I Am Raising a Feminist
Say the ‘F’ word and most likely than not, people around will either flinch or embrace you in acceptance. Seldom has a word wielded such divisive powers and yet, feminism is the need of the hour. I wonder why more parenting books, and groups do not address it?
I grew up in an India where being a woman meant being someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother, neighbour – all came before the individual ‘ME’. A pedestal so worthy that we’d proudly chest-thump and say, this is the country where women are worshipped.
Gloria Steinem perfectly encapsulated this when she said, ‘A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.’
I do not want…
I do not want my daughter’s identity and idea of self to be built on the external relationships she shares, willingly or otherwise with the world around her.
I do not want my daughter to push her boundaries, only as far as her gilded cage will allow.
I do not want my daughter’s worth to be measured by shade cards of acceptable whiteness, lightness or darkness.
I do not want my daughter’s choices questioned by anyone but her own conscience. Whether her choice is to be a single mom who loves to surf or a driven worm scientist – which at the moment is the epitome of passion for my four year old.
The voices in her head, I want those to be her own steady companions, that build her up and not the constant wearing down of how she should run, laugh, dance, drink and play.
I do not want my daughter to meld into the background, her voice low, her confidence shaken
I want my feisty four year old to be a sassy forty year old, one who knows the timbre of her voice and the weight of her words.
I do not want my daughter’s virtues tied to her unbroken hymen, the size of her breasts or her sexual preferences or the lack thereof
This is why, I am raising a feminist. No, this isn’t just for girls alone, because our boys need feminism more than ever.
…..but what I want
I want my child to grow up knowing that gender is not a privilege and that we are far from achieving it. At home, her father and I have non-stereotypical responsibilities – he cleans and does the laundry, and cooks just as much as I do. It is never considered help, rather that we are each contributing to the family, my young one included.
Learning begins at home. This is where most of the seeds for dissent should be sown, as conformity is a looming danger. We encourage dissent – we always discuss, ruminate and argue. My daughter’s opinion and feedback is as valued as an adults. We expect to raise an independent child, so how can we expect obedience?
Like I once read somewhere, if your children doesn’t always agree with you, you must be doing something right
We can raise a feminist child only when there is a feminist family. Children are like mirrors, reflecting the realities they see around them. Upending traditional roles is key towards this. The value of chores around the house, resolving conflicts based on respect and love and not aggression and superiority and encouraging critical thinking are vital.
It has also been a personal journey for me in ensuring that we do not body-shame her. We are comfortable with our own bodies, and respect her choice to be held, cuddled, kissed or bathed.
Consent is the cornerstone of feminist parenting
We actively seek TV shows, books and media content that showcase girls and women of a large spectrum, it’s absence marked by observation that Elsa would have been just as beautiful with her colours. We do not discuss weight and focus on being strong, funny and weird. That tears are precious and being happy in your heart and tummy are gifts for life.
For now I am happy that my child does not associate skills or interests with gender. She loves pink, as much as she loves worms. She wants to get her own robot, albeit a pink one. I am aware that this is an ongoing process, that years down the line our conversations will be intersectional (race, gender, class, age) and I hope that we will continue to question the status quo together.