Why I’m Raising My Sons to be Feminists


I have two beautiful, rambunctious, loving boys. My husband and I want one more child, but in a family where male grandchildren currently outnumber female grandchildren nine to one, I’d have to put my money on a third boy if I were a betting woman. And that’s okay with me. I love my boys, and as much as I’d like the opportunity to raise a strong woman, I know I will have the privilege to raise strong men. And to me, to be truly strong men, they must also be feminists.

Depending on the crowd you run with, that word is either worn like a badge of honor or a scarlet “F”. This may be because of the numerous and varied definitions people tend to attach to this word. To me, however, the definition is simple: A feminist is someone who recognizes the value of women and supports women in their right to equality. That’s it. So, naturally, I want my sons to be feminists.

My sons are young, only one and three, so right now encouraging them to be feminists doesn’t exactly look like sitting them down and discussing the gender pay gap and women’s rights.

So, what does it look like?

It looks like encouraging my three-year-old to play with the boys and the girls in his preschool class.

It’s sometimes telling them bedtime stories where a girl is the protagonist, and maybe even rescues a boy.

It’s encouraging them to focus on the quality of their character rather than their appearance and to do the same for those around them.

It’s not focusing too much on my own appearance in front of them. Like anyone else, I have days when I feel fat, or when wrangling toddlers all day without a break has me feeling like an extra on The Walking Dead, but I keep the comments to myself (in front of them, at least).

It’s asking questions when my 3-year-old declares scarves are for girls, and encouraging him to shut out the noise about what’s for a boy or for a girl and find what he likes.

It’s reminding myself to not just use male pronouns when we talk about firefighters, doctors, or police (their current obsessions).

It’s buying my sons play kitchens, shopping carts, and dolls (okay, they only have one doll). Look, it’s all just pretend play and I get that, but how so many of these items are still relegated to “girl toys” is beyond me. My boys will need to be productive and self-sufficient adults one day, which means they will need to grocery shop, cook, and be able to change a diaper if they plan to have kids. 

It’s encouraging my 3-year-old to talk about his emotions and ensure him that it’s perfectly fine for him to have those emotions. Now, said 3-year-old can be very sensitive, so sometimes I give him the same “toughen up” speech I would give a daughter, but I don’t diminish his emotions simply because he is a boy.

It’s telling them it’s okay if they don’t want to hug someone and that when someone says “no” we have to listen because everyone deserves to have control over their own bodies.

It looks like respecting myself and making it clear to my boys that I am confident and competent, and in every way an equal partner to their father. It helps, of course, that I chose to be my husband and their father a man who sees me in this way.

It’s never making my sons feel like they have to apologize for being men, or for anything about who they are, but helping them to realize that they have the power to make things better, always.

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Emma Nelson
Emma is an Athens, Ohio native, who moved to Westerville seven years ago after a two year stint in Chicago. She lives with her husband, Matt, and their two boys, Lincoln (3) and Silas (1). Emma is a journalist turned marketing assistant turned teacher turned stay at home mom. So far she loves her newest gig, though she’s probably just okay at it. Keeping two young boys occupied means lots of exploring Columbus to find all that is not only kid friendly, but also adult friendly. Emma enjoys writing things in her head that she never actually gets down on paper, getting lost in the rabbit hole that is YouTube with her kids, and playing a game with her rambunctious boys that her oldest likes to call “attacking boys” (you can pretty much guess how that goes for her). Emma has a B.A. in journalism and political science from Miami University and completed further study at Ashland University to obtain her teaching certification in secondary English Language Arts. You can contact her at [email protected].