this parenting caper : we need to talk about sexism

posted on: Friday, June 14, 2013


Sometimes the responsibility of parenting buoys me up with joy. It's awe-inspiring to be given the gift of guiding small people into big ones. It's mind-blowing to see up close how a human morphs from a squirming infant into a strong and capable individual with their own unique take on this world.

But sometimes the responsibility brings with it a weight of worry. Then the worry turns into a fervor of action. Action in the form of a little rant. Or a discussion.

I may, or may not have had a little rant/discussion with one of my kids this week. As you know, my kiddos are two boys age 15, 5 and the lady who is 1.

Being a mum of boys is a heavy gig sometimes.

I feel responsible for teaching all my children how to be fair and loving people.  If I was, for arguments sake, to see that one of my sons wasn't critically thinking about how women and girls are portrayed in the media or thinking that it's okay to laugh at sexist jokes because 'it's just a joke,' I might have something to say about that.

I might tell my son that he is in the privileged position of belonging to the group of people that hold the most power, not just in our society, but in the world. That brings with it responsibility.

And that any representations of another group of people, women for instance, as being 'less than' -- less intelligent, less able, less important than the people who hold the most power is perpetuating the underlying beliefs that run through our culture that that group of people is inferior.

I might tell my son that sexism is insidious, it seeps into everything and colours your notions of people you haven't even met. When a girl is judged as worthy or not based on her sexual attractiveness or anything to do with her sexuality even in something like a cartoon, it contributes to the systematic disenfranchisement of all girls everywhere. It's a big deal because it's not a big deal.

If he were still doubtful I might ask him to do this: for 12 hours go about your day imagining you're a girl hearing and seeing what you hear, say and do. Is it fair? Is it right?

* * * 

Yep, I might be that parent, doing that rant. But goodness me. Some weeks it's called for. How do you talk about sexism with your kids? Or if you haven't had any talks yet, do you think you will? What would you say? I'd love to hear!

15 comments:

  1. It's been one hell of a week in Australia, hasn't it! Your boys will feel so lucky to have been on the end of the rant, one day. Kellie xx

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    1. has it what!? *shakes head* I feel confident that will be true kellie, but sometimes it weirds me out that it has to be said.

      I'm curious to see how these topics will be discussed with my daughter one day -- I am guessing it will be very different. x

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  2. Bron - this post was awesome! Your an amazing mum x

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    1. aww, thanks bel. that is so lovely of you to say. x

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  3. I am feeling it this week too... my boy is only 9 months old and what a country we have here in Australia. I'm determined his generation will be different! I can't wait to share the world and what's out there, with him! It's going to be tough, but we'll all be feminists in our house!

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  4. My eldest is a 20 year old girl, some how all of the important talks were easier. Now I have boy! Even though he is only 18 months old I am already dreading the daunting task ahead. Is it possible we are becoming more backward and more sexist?

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    1. you know, I think in aus we are more backward then we were in, say, the 90s -- it feels like there's been a backlash. or maybe this is just the next hurdle and it only feels like we've digressed? I really hope so.

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  5. I think it's wonderful that you are THAT parent. I'm struggling raising a girl in a world that only wants to comment on how she looks and not what comes out of her mouth. And don't get me started on putting nail polish on a 2 year old. It makes my skin crawl.

    No matter whether we are raising girls or boys, there's tons of work to be done to fight sexism. Thank you for speaking out.

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    Replies
    1. thank *you* nataliya, it means a lot to me that you appreciate my rant! x

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  6. It's wonderful that you're that parent. We have lots of talks and my kids see me rage about the inequalities of our world, not just sexism. Now my eldest carries that flame out into the world and shows those who haven't got those parents that their beliefs need to be challenged and hopefully changed.

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    1. that's fantastic that your daughter feels passionately about equality too! I feel confident that my kids will all develop appropriate notions of justice...it's an interesting road getting there though, that's for sure. x

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  7. I have 3 boys and a girl, and I hope that they all grow up to realise the responsibility they will have to teach their own children what I am teaching them. Not just about sexism, but also racism, homophobia, discrimination due to disability, etc. My husband and I also have differing belief systems and all our children are learning from us that it's okay not to have the same belief as someone else - as long as you respect their right to have that belief! Life is just one big classroom for them right now, and at the moment they're all getting A+'s!!!

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    1. that sounds awesome colleen! they're lucky to have you :) x

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