Wednesday 14 May 2014

Raising a Feminist

For those of you seeking advice for raising a feminist daughter, look away now. For this post does not contain top tips, helpful hints or an unschooling feminist curriculum to guarantee your daughter a smooth transition from toddler to feminist campaigner. Far from it. In fact, this post is merely a list of my own failings as a mother desperately trying, and failing, to raise a feminist daughter.

I’m sure I did all the right things, and yet somehow, I have ended up with a misogynist daughter, instead of the empowered what-glass-ceiling daughter I was aiming for. I read her books like Paper Bag Princess, and Maisy Mouse. I change the endings of fairy tales when reading them aloud, I limit her exposure to Disney Princesses. Her wardrobe contains very little pink, and I avoid telling her to be careful too often. We went to a museum last week, and she listened to a feminist speech on a telephone. She listened for a whole five minutes while the voice on the other end explained inequality and the history of women’s rights.

And yet:

1. She calls all women wife - there was a two month period where all women were called wife, and men were called, of course, man. And it was not just the women with husbands who were described as wives, it was all women (except the ones with very short hair, she called them men). She was simply unable to see women as anything outside of their assumed role in the home.

2. She plays make up - the other day, I caught my daughter sitting with her wooden blocks. She was holding a rectangular block flat in her hand, and when I asked her what she was doing, she explained she was doing makeup. She then proceeded to apply what looked to be whiskers with her imaginary makeup brush.

3. She shaves her legs - calm down, she doesn’t actually shave her legs. I have not gone so terribly wrong far down the path of misogynist parenting that I am allowing my toddler to shave her legs. But, when in the bath, she does often pretend to shave her leg. Using her toy lobster. This saddens me deeply, both as a feminist and a vegan.

4. She hates her period - ok, she doesn’t actually have periods. But, she does have pretend times of the month which mostly consist of shouting, “OH NO! PERIOD. BLOODY PERIOD. TUMMY ACHE.” a few times a day. If she can get hold of a spare sanitary product to tuck into her trousers during this game, all the better. She especially likes to play this game when we are out and about, especially in busy, yet eerily quiet, public bathrooms.  

5. She doesn’t believe men do housework - I once said something along the lines of, “...and then Daddy will clean the kitchen,” and she laughed in my face. Really loudly. I explained that, no really, Daddy does clean the kitchen when you’re in bed. She inhaled slowly, glanced theatrically around the kitchen, absorbing the pile of dishes, and the dirty pan piled with cutlery, and then raised her eyebrows at me in a very smug way.

6. She doesn’t believe I can fix things - whenever anything breaks, and I mention it aloud, she says, “It’s ok, Daddy fix it.” This is not only sexist, but also ridiculous. My husband is the least handy person in the entire world, the fact he even owns a toolbox came as quite a shock to me. If the broken thing seems particularly complicated, she will suggest that I ring some men to do it.

As far as feminist parenting goes, I think I am failing. Though not completely, because I did once stumble across her stirring a pan on her toy kitchen stove. When asked what she was cooking, she turned to me slowly and said, “Cooking penis. Penis soup.”

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