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  1. Reader question #98 + Guest-blogging at + Admin «

    […] week and next.  I’ll still post questions here as time allows, but today’s question, How do I define feminism for myself and my future kids?, is over […]

  2. ozymandias
    ozymandias August 22, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    I’m not a parent, but Raising My Boychick is my FAVORITE feminist parenting website.

  3. xenu01
    xenu01 August 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |

    You know, it’s funny- I grew up in a very pro-feminist household in theory- we had Backlash, etc, on the shelves, but when it came to supporting my personal decisions in regards to birth control and reproductive health, my parents were flabbergasted. Thank goodness we started going to the Unitarian Universalist Church on Sundays, because that sex ed year they have in eighth grade? I owe a lot to that. Also that my high school had a program (super seeeekrit, of course- you had to KNOW) in which young women could have access to planned parenthood services for free and without the knowledge of their parents until one year after high school graduation.

    Anyway, my point is that the best thing you can do as a parent is be openminded and informative but also to know how to turn your child onto other resources when the time comes for them to need to keep secrets from you. And to be ok with secrets.

    But that didn’t answer your question! Websites that helped me out a lot have been:,,,,,

    Good luck!

  4. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil August 22, 2011 at 10:51 am |

    I would check out Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. There’s a great chapter about how children are taught about gender from their earliest days.

    Where the Girls Are by Susan Douglas really gave me the tools to be a more conscientious consumer of all forms of media, many of which replicate some pretty pernicious stereotypes.

  5. Helen
    Helen August 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |

    I’m reading Delusions of Gender as we speak (as it were.) It’s very clear in presenting science for non-sciency people like me, but she’s also very funny. I second the recommendation.

  6. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |

    Lori, I think you would probably get a lot out of Susan Monk Kidd’s “Dance of the Dissident Daughter”, which chronicles her spiritual evolution from a rather restrictive, ‘separate-spheres’ type of Christianity to…..being a seeker and feeling more at home with the Feminine Divine. It was an interesting read for me, since I had a very dissimilar background. What was most interesting is that this wasn’t just a journey for her, but for her family as well.

    I was explicitly raised to be feminist, but that was back when the more common term was *women’s liberation*. My folks didn’t do everything right; my father was an alcoholic for many years, and we had all the classic issues that come along with that—but of the things they did right:

    Taught me to read at an early age, and allowed me to read whatever I wanted (didn’t censor my reading or set an artificial limit on age. They figured if I had a strong interest in the subject, I was old enough.) I do this too, as a parent.

    Gave me a lot of physical independence, and expected me to have a great deal of responsibility. (My folks were both the oldest kids in larger families, and I grew up in an era where latchkey kids were ubiquitous. I agree with this style of parenting, but was not able to do this myself for various reasons (that can mostly be summed up as “lack of social and economic privilege combined with hyperobservance by authorities”—didn’t want to risk my girl spending time in the foster system. So, she is only now getting the level of independence I had since starting school).

    I was unchurched, but had exposure to and knowledge of a variety of religious faiths and practices. My father was a radical atheist when I was growing up (I think now he’d probably describe himself as agnostic or nondeistic; he has described himself as Buddhist, but never really had a regular practice….I guess I’ll find out how he currently describes his cosmology tonight since we’re both going to the Humanist Group tonight at UU); my mother was a nonpracticing Catholic who returned to the Church round about the time I moved out (it’s probably worth mentioning that Sicilian Catholics are devout and anticlerical, and many are attuned to liberation theology, and even the conservative ones—which my mother was emphatically NOT—keep practices that were Christianized from the original pagan….so, not at all like standard, run-of-the-mill USian Protestant expression….) Anyway, I had the freedom to develop my own thoughts and path. I encourage my daughter to do the same; we attend a Unitarian Universalist congregation because…that fits.

    My folks didn’t police my gender expression (well, my mom kinda did, but only after I was in my teens, and that was totally about her anxiety about my sexuality….not ending up pregnant in high school, among other things). It was ok for me to be interested in things coded “male”, and I wasn’t pestered to be all glammed up. They caught flak for this from the extended family, but ignored it just the same. To be clear, things coded female weren’t denigrated in my family; just that I wasn’t pressured to femme it up, since it was clear to my folks that wasn’t my style. I do this for my daughter too; make it explicit that whatever direction she gravitates to, that’s ok.

    They did encourage a strong work ethic and earning my own money at an early age. This isn’t something I did for my daughter, because she really struggled earlier in school due to residual preemie issues. I was more concerned she focus on schooling *and* learning outside of school pursuing her interests (animals, nature, art). She can always earn money, and I figure a work ethic towards school and personal interests will probably translate to a work ethic in jobs (guess time will tell if I’m right).

    A couple of things I do differently:

    I strongly encourage her to develop her talents, and to explore—discover what she likes and what she doesn’t. Try things out. My folks were very “meh” on that. Academics were stressed to me, but everything else was considered “fluff” that I could pursue as an adult if I wanted. If it didn’t involve hitting the books, it was something I’d have to find my own money and transportation for (and even if it did involve books—library time was included in the “fluff” category). I mention stuff that’s going on in the community and such, and if she shows an interest, we do it. The only thing I pushed on her was swim class—I saw that as a safety issue. Once she learned, she wanted to keep going on her own.

    I tell her she’s beautiful. She is, but like a lot of girls entering middle school, she’s very self-conscious about her looks (meaning, the “raw material” of appearance—she doesn’t pine for a high maintenance look). Mainstream USian culture is hypercritical of female appearance, and I want her to know that she’s beautiful the way she is….that the features of her ancestry are beautiful. My folks, when I was going through that, would always stress that looks didn’t matter. The takeaway message I got was “yes, you’re ugly, but at least you have some brains going for you.” I want my kid to have more backup than that.

  7. Bridget
    Bridget August 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm |

    We had the Free To Be You And Me record as kids, and it was just so completely awesome. I totally plan on buying the DVD for my son :)

  8. Bridget
    Bridget August 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    Oh also, I like Harriet Lerner’s book The Mother Dance, which is not so much a parenting book as an exploration of all the feelings (positive and negative) that can go along with being a mother, and how to be conscious of the ways one’s own upbringing can influence her parenting. I think the book is about 10 years old and I found it at my local library.

  9. KC
    KC August 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |

    It’s rather unfortunate that “traditional” Protestantism tends to teach that patriarchy is Christian. Saying that men are better than women (or vice versa) is being unloving and unjust to one gender, the complete opposite of verses that tell you to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22: 34-40) and that there is neither male nor female in Christ, and we are all equal in His salvation (Galatians 3:26-29). Not to mention all the female leaders, disciples, and followers in the Bible. A blog that I like about being Christian and feminist is

    My mom was raised Catholic and told all of her life horrible things because she was a girl by her parents. She shouldn’t learn to drive because she was female and therefore emotional and therefore more prone to getting into wrecks and panicking. She shouldn’t go to college and get a job because she’d just get married, have kids, and be a stay at home mom. She ended up running away from home, becoming an accountant, and being a successful single mother after my parents’ divorce. (I split my time between my parents about equally, but my mother’s always actually been there for me, where it took my dad ten years and health problems to stop being distant and have a relationship with me.)

    My mom is a Christian (Protestant now) after a long period of indifference towards her upbringing. She raised me telling me I could do anything that I wanted to. She read with me and taught me to read at a young age. As soon as I hit puberty, she started talking to me about sex and trusted me to be honest with her about things like masturbation and birth control and whatever I wanted to try or was confused about. She’s always encouraged me.

    My dad and my stepmother have been a good example of an equal relationship. They actually invert the normal stereotype: my stepmom, the breadwinner, works in a high-up position at a local company, and my dad stays at home and does the household chores and cooks. They make decisions together and look to each other for guidance. My dad actually credits my stepmother with leading him back to being a Christian after years of indifference, thanks to her talking to him about religious issues and encouraging him to go to church with her.

    It hasn’t been perfect – my mother still has some issues about little things like me choosing not to wear makeup, and all three of my parents and I have arguments and issues. But they’ve raised me in a Christian environment without ever making me feel inferior to my stepbrother or the boys around me, and I love them so much more for that.

  10. Esther
    Esther August 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    “If I wanted to play with dolls and have a pink room – cool. If I wanted boy stuff, cool. Girly stuff was ok and not less than boy stuff. I had dolls, Legos, Star Ward figures, Tonka trucks, etc.”

    My parents provided me with the same freedom, with one important exception: Barbie was strictly off limits. When I was about four, an elderly family friend slipped through the net and gave me a Barbie for my birthday. I was so upset and I cried and cried, but my mom told me that I had to be polite, thank our friend for the nice gift, and that we could exchange it the next day. I don’t remember exactly why I responded the way I did, but somehow my parents had convinced me that Barbie was wrong and horrible and not to be desired. Personally, I appreciate their effort.

  11. Megan
    Megan August 22, 2011 at 10:28 pm |

    I think what helped me the most is that we discussed things at home. I was raised Catholic, and we went to church every Sunday, and my parents held somewhat traditional gender roles, but my parents still fostered critical discussion at home of things that we learned in CCD or at school, or things that we saw on the news. That was the most important thing, because it helped me develop the “hey, wait just a minute …” mentality that allowed me to get to feminism on my own.

  12. Florence
    Florence August 23, 2011 at 7:36 am |

    La Lubu: Mainstream USian culture is hypercritical of female appearance, and I want her to know that she’s beautiful the way she is….that the features of her ancestry are beautiful. My folks, when I was going through that, would always stress that looks didn’t matter. The takeaway message I got was “yes, you’re ugly, but at least you have some brains going for you.” I want my kid to have more backup than that.

    I love this.

  13. Brigid
    Brigid August 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm |

    I’m not a parent and I don’t have suggestions of resources for Lori. But I did write a post not that long ago, partly in response to Caperton’s post here on modeling and obedience about the best thing I think my parents did for me, which is teach me to question authority — theirs, religion’s, the government’s, whatever. The reason this teaching of theirs is so crucial (and they did it by example, both by questioning themselves AND by allowing and encouraging me to do so) is because it allowed me to become the feminist I am today even though they were imperfect as feminists.

    So my advice? Teach your kids feminist ideals, talk to them about it when sexism makes you uncomfortable, all that. But also show them that you’re imperfect, and encourage them to follow their own rebellious consciences. Teach them, but also give them the tools to teach themselves.

  14. ahimsa
    ahimsa August 25, 2011 at 12:17 am |

    Since I have not seen anyone mention this book yet then here is my suggestion (late!), Feminism Is for Everybody by bell hooks. She’s an excellent writer and this little book manages to pack a lot of information into only 123 pages. It’s been a while since I read this book, so I don’t remember details, but there is a section on feminist parenting in there.

  15. How do I define feminism for myself and my future kids? (Reader question #98) - Feministe (blog) | Feminist definition of life and living well |

    […] How do I define feminism for myself and my future kids? (Reader question #98) – Feministe (blog) How do I define feminism for myself and my future kids? (Reader question #98)Feministe (blog)She's looking for recommendations for reading (websites, books) that can help her define feminism for herself. Source: […]

  16. Wiley
    Wiley September 2, 2011 at 10:57 am |

    I’m not a parent, but I do have a very, very strong sense of feminism and my own worth, because my parents did a lot of things right.

    My mother was explicitly feminist–it is because of her that even at an early age I reacted with total incredulity to arguments that abortion was unacceptable. My little kid brain was like “…whut? You want to be able to make decisions about someone else’s body? Totally not fair, man.” However, I think my father provided the framework for the incredible self confidence and grit that has allowed me to become and remain both a feminist and a staunch advocate for myself and for other marginalized people. see, my father made explicitly clear, many times, that he both valued AND *liked* me, just as I was. He still punished me when I did things wrong, and gave his honest opinion when I was doing/thinking something he didn’t agree with, but he enthusiastically supported ANYTHING I liked, and genuinely enjoyed hanging out with me. It made me feel like a person, and that my actions and thoughts were valid.

    Do that for your kids.

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