As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a mother—and the notion of being a mother is still, for me, up in the air. But I do spend a lot of time thinking about my possible future children, working to become the best human I can be so that I’d be a great mother to them, and considering the ways in which I’d want to raise them to be strong, loving people.
When I think about the kind of parents I’d want my partner and I to be, I can’t help but think about former President Barack and former First Lady Michelle Obama. To me, they epitomize loving, feminist parenthood. They’ve raised such incredible children.
Last year, I stumbled upon this Glamour essay, in which Obama said, “We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.”
I remember being struck by this, stunned by the power inherent in this approach to parenting. It signaled to me that while my partner and I may be feminists if we were ever going to raise children to be stronger than ourselves, we’d need to learn a bit more about how to empower them as feminists. For my partner, that would mean learning more about the female experience and using that knowledge to guide his parenting.
So, in honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to share some of what we’ve come up with. Here are just five of the many ways you can up your game as a feminist.
1. Embrace Feminism
Before you can pass feminism to your children, you’ll need to embrace it yourself. And so much of that process of internalizing begins with understanding. That means it’s time to really listen—without getting defensive—and allow the stories of women, especially women of color, to resonate. Reading the works of women writers can be a great first step. So is taking the time to speak with, listen to, and learn from the women in your own life.
2. Speak out against shaming, objectification, and sexualization.
We live in a society where, unfortunately, women are still very much under microscopes. Women are shamed for being too thin or too fat. For being sexual beings in any capacity whatsoever. For being pregnant, or for not being pregnant. For the way they dress, the work they do. There is a mountain of judgment and pressure that grows every day. And it’s only through intersectional feminism that we can start taking those things down. Once you’re aware of the many societal pressures women face, it’s time to start speaking out about them and talking to your children about them. When you see injustices, don’t just tell your children they’re wrong, either—make sure you have an open, ongoing conversation about them, and how they can challenge or overcome them in their own lives.
And don’t just use your language to fight injustice. Be sure to take action for women’s rights whenever possible—whether that’s calling your congress people, donating to Planned Parenthood, writing letters, petitioning, or even rallying.
3. Use feminist language
I’m fortunate to work in a very open environment that has taught me so much about the power of language in creating a safe space. Words have so much more power than any of us can truly realize—until we use the wrong ones and accidentally alienate an entire community of people. Make sure you do your research and evolve your vocabulary to create a home that’s open and loving for anyone who walks through your door.
4. Treat your partner like an equal
I cannot stress enough the importance of creating a relationship dynamic that embodies equal power and respect. Whether you’re in an open partnership, a committed marriage to a partner of the same or another gender, or you’re a single parent who receives support from your family or a friend, it’s so important that you treat those other people with respect. Maintaining a power balance ensures that your children grasp the power of teamwork and treat their peers like equals—instead of looking down on them or feeling inadequate in their presences.
5. Never stop asking questions
As society changes and women strive for equality, we’re always learning, growing, and developing new opinions. The same should be true for you! Keep asking the women in your life questions. Keep listening to their stories. There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all formula for raising feminist children, but as you learn more about what feminism means, you can continue to serve as a guiding light for your children throughout their lives.