When it comes to raising feminists, don’t get hung up on the toys and the clothes. The kids are alright.
I just read an article about how difficult it is to raise a feminist son when you can’t control influences outside the home.
The writer and her husband were doing all they could to provide a gender neutral influence at home, but that all got away from them when their son started a new kindy and gravitated towards an all male peer group and started playing dinosaurs and cars and shit. And this concerned her.
The article by Jamila Rizvi is excellent, and I am by no means here to debate it. The topic of toys and clothes was only a small part of the piece, but one that stuck out to me, as I also got caught up in the stress of it all when my daughters were born. Rather than disagree, I’m here to reassure. Don’t sweat the toy stuff when trying to raise feminist kids.
As a parent of identical twin girls, who have rarely been apart, given the same upbringing, provided with the same influences as far as toys, entertainment, clothing, sports and activities are concerned, I’m here to say that none of this is in anyone’s control, at home or out in the big wide world.
My girls couldn’t be more different and yet they were once the same being. There’s only so much nurture you can provide before nature takes over and your kid becomes their own little individual. And that is awesome.
Who they choose to play with and what they choose to play, might not necessarily have any impact on the adult they become. I was heavily influenced by my older brother growing up. I loved building with Lego and blocks, creating race tracks for Match Box cars. I played cricket in the backyard with a proper ball and got knocked around. I even wore his clothes on free dress day. What did I do when I grew up? Worked in fashion, beauty and childcare, immersing myself in feminine and female dominated industries.
Childhood is an experimental wonderland. It’s not a life set in stone. Boys playing dinosaurs with other boys while wearing clothes marketed to boys, doesn’t mean they are going to grow up disrespecting women or shy away from a career as a nurse, if that’s their calling. In the same way that girls playing dolls with other girls while wearing tutus is not going to result in a posse of submissive women without ambitions outside the home.
Rather than concerning ourselves with what they choose to play, we should be focused on how they play. Is everyone being included in the game? Is there equality amongst the players? Is it a fair playing field and is everyone getting the recognition they deserve? How are the children speaking about their friends and more importantly, how are they treating them?
The same goes for our influence at home. How do we speak about gender and equality? How do we show our children our feminist values? Right now, I show that by letting my daugthers have a choice. Whether they want to dress up as a ballerina or as Spiderman is their choice. And both choices are correct, because it comes from them.
So what I’m saying is, give yourselves a break when it comes to the gender neutral influences. Stereotypes will always be out there and that’s ok. Allow your kids to express their uniqueness however that feels good to them. If you’re lucky enough, your parental peer group will be on your wavelength and there will be acceptance and celebration for every kid’s choices.
Just don’t let them wear crocs.