How to Teach Your Child About Feminism
Today is International Day of the Girl Child! Across the world, girl children face many obstacles which infringe on their human rights. Inequalities such as forced child marriage, gender-based violence and lack of access to proper education, nutrition and medical care are just some of the many challenges they face.
As a parent, the hardest thing is probably making sure you educate your child about such problems without traumatising them, making them feel unsafe or boring them to death. Fortunately, feminism, which continuously highlights gender inequalities, is likely to appeal to children. With its values of nurturance, respect and sensitivity, teaching a child about feminism will speak to their inclination towards kindness. While self-centeredness is a common trait in children, they can also be innately caring and this quality can be nurtured with feminist values.
In this article, we’ll discuss how you can raise a feminist child, regardless of their gender.
If you don’t know to even start the conversation, books are the perfect place to inspire fruitful discussions with your child. At the moment, there are plenty of children’s books on the market that highlight girl issues, or celebrate girls power. Ask your child why/if they feel it’s important for the girl character to be the boss in a certain story or if they feel the girl is being fairly treated compared to the boy characters and why they think so.
Check out some examples of useful and fun books here.
There is no use having conversations about feminism when you aren’t exercising its values. Encourage equal household chores and duties between men, women, girls and boys in the house. However, it’s possible a child might just think that gender inequalities in the world don’t exist just because they are not witnessing them in the home. Remind your child that people have long thought that cooking was meant for women but that you do things differently in your house.
Encourage Speaking Out
Teaching your child that their voice is important and that speaking out can make a difference is a very important principle when teaching kids feminism. Show your child how keeping silent has maintained a lot of inequalities and encourage them to say something when they notice sexist, racist or homophobic behaviour. Of course, this goes for any other behaviour that encourages hate, abuse or unfairness.
Depending on what the situation calls for, give your children direction about who they can speak to about a certain situation. One situation might require they speak to a teacher, the principal or an organisation and for others, it’s okay that they come to you, their uncle or aunty.
Remember when Meghan Markle called out a sexist ad at the age of 11?
Instil a sense of bodily autonomy
Instilling a sense of bodily autonomy in your child gives them the opportunity to have a healthy sense of independence and for them to recognise their agency. You can start this by helping them identify their body parts (no euphemisms for genitalia!) When your child is able to name their body parts, they have power over their body and can verbalise when/how/where they don’t want to be touched. They can also recognise abuse and know how to report it to a relevant adult.
Make sure your child recognises that bodily autonomy isn’t always sexual. Remind them that no one can coerce them into wearing certain clothes or playing with specific toys due to arbitrary reasons like gender.
With the right to bodily autonomy, comes the responsibility of respecting the bodies of others. As much as you encourage them to be comfortable with saying no, remind them to also practice asking for permission when showing physical affection towards others.
Teaching your child about feminism is about squashing gender stereotypes, empowering them to use their voice, being a good example and giving your child resources to understand what feminism is about. As parents, families and communities, it’s important that we continue to support girls to give them the tools they need to be independent, safe and empowered members of their community.