My niece recently joined our family. This little girl is almost 5 months old, and I have the honor of spending a lot of time with her, since I babysit her on a regular basis. Watching her grow and learn every day has been something else. I typically don’t like babies or small children – so you know my niece must be pretty special (imho) if she’s won over my sour heart.
One of the primary difficulties feminist thinkers faced when confronting sexism within families was that more often than not female parents were the transmitters of sexist thinking . . . most people assume that a woman raising children alone, especially sons, will fail to teach a male child how to become a patriarchal male. This is simply not the case.
In Women’s Studies classes past, the topic of parenting mostly revolved around criticizing the color pink and calling toy stores out for the way they divide up their aisles. Those critiques are legitimate, as is the criticism from hooks, but what I need now is practical advice for how to be a good feminist care giver (or parent) – not poop to throw around in a poop fight. (Notice my language is getting somewhat cleaner now that I have to monitor what I say with a baby in the house?)
What do feminist parenting methods look like? I have suddenly become acutely aware of the messages we send babies right from the get go. Most people tell my niece how pretty she is. I have been actively reminding myself to tell her on a daily basis that she is smart and brave. When she’s sleeping, I like to send her happy thoughts of being courageous. We sing our alphabet every day and count to ten in English and in Spanish. I want my niece to grow up knowing that it’s OK to be smart and pretty.
Before my niece arrived, I made an effort to find books that show girls as the heroine. We’ve been reading the Ramona books together, and watching the girls on “The Backyardigans” take their adventures. There are no dolls for her to play with at our house. That’s all well and good for now – but I wonder what to do when this little girls starts walking and talking, and I have to do something more to entertain her than let her stare at the blinds or the electrical outlet.
I’d love some advice from some seasoned feminist parents. What books do you like to read with your kids? How have you instilled feminist values in your kids? I’d love to learn from your victories (and mistakes).
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.