On an almost daily basis I am met with social media campaigns and news headlines that both overtly and subliminally prompt my reflections on feminism. When combined with my own, very singular female experience, I often find myself thinking about how my future daughters or granddaughters will fair in this system. Will they be paid equally? Will they be respected or sexualized? And what wisdom will I bring to remind them of how truly worthy they are?
I will admit, when considering women’s rights, feminism and gender equality, it feels almost logical for my mind to navigate in the direction of women. And maybe this is due in part to the fact that I am after all, a woman.
But On September 20, 2014, Emma Watson approached the United Nations with a very different perspective. She asked, “How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”
She was right.
And she’s got me thinking.
What about the other half of the population? What about the boys who will be living alongside our daughters and granddaughters? If it were my future sons I were speaking to, what would I say to them?
At twenty-five years old I am a long way from motherhood. Though plenty of women my age are in fact running homes and rearing children, I am simply not there yet. But eventually, I hope to be. And should that day come when I am given the privilege of bringing life into this world, it won’t be one I take lightly.
I’d like to believe that when my future children read this, the gender climate in our country will look far different. That my words will prove meaningless and obsolete. However, assuming change takes more time than we desire, there are a few things about this world I will want my son(s) to know.
1. Women’s rights and feminism are by no means exclusive to women. This is very much your issue. Gender norms don’t just keep women down (though that should be reason enough for your concern) they also cage men in in a terribly restrictive way.
2. You will be led to believe, even subconsciously, perhaps, that you are in a position of power. Economically, socially and sexually- simply, because you are male. But let me tell you, that so-called “power” will come at a price. Within this accepted structure you will not be allowed to cry or to feel because those are experiences socially reserved for women. You will however, have permission to be angry. You may even be encouraged to yell and to fight- as long as you look “tough.” Is this the kind of man you’ll want to be?
Crying is not gender specific, despite what others will want you to believe. So please remember, whether it’s on a field or a stage, in a classroom or street corner, you are strong, powerful and heroic-and you will be brought to tears time and time again. This is what separates you from machines and robots. It isn’t weakness, it’s humanity.
3. Work/life balance has been and in large part remains a conversation prescribed to the female experience. Should you become a parent, know that you are just as responsible for maintaining a presence in that being’s life as any woman is/ would be. Do not let the stereotypes that have defined generations of men and women before you continue with your children. Show your daughters they can be anything they want, and show your sons it’s okay to feel. Lead by example. Lead by showing up.
4. Be an active, present part of the change. Lean in, breath fire, be a he for she. Because at the end of the day it’s not about being a man or a woman, it’s simply about being human.