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How to Raise Boys Who Respect Women

How Mothering Boys Toned Down My Feminist Thinking

I was raised by a long line of feminists to be a feminist. As a teen, I skipped school to march on my state capital for women's rights. As a young adult I signed petitions and marched on Washington for equal pay. And then I had my first son. I continued to espouse my girl-power beliefs and show my son that girls can do anything boys can do (though I did slow down on the "everything you can do I can do better" rhetoric). When he became obsessed with sports and started rattling off stats for every player on his favorite NFL team, I trained for and ran my first half marathon just to prove to him (and myself) that girls are just as athletic as boys. Once I started writing in the parenting space, I came home from work enlivened by the introduction of non-gender-specific toys and science and technology gear for girls.

And then I had my second son.

As he grew to the almost-kindergartner he now is, I became acutely aware that while I may be tapping on the glass ceiling for future generations, there aren't any little girls at home who are witnessing me doing so. And for all my pride in the strides women have made over the past 30 years, I have sons to raise who need to know that they are strong, independent, wonderful people too. As the media grows more biased against boys, my sons need the support of their mom more than ever. It's not about me; it's about them.

So while my boys will certainly grow up knowing that girls are every bit as strong, smart, and capable as boys, I'm toning down my "I am woman, hear me roar" preaching just a bit and giving them the benefit of the doubt that the current culture they're growing up in, combined with my feminist leanings, will churn out two well-rounded men who not only respect the women around them, but also view them as equals. Because, really, shouldn't that be the goal? For our kids to grow up in a world where we're all viewed as equals rather than superior to any one group?

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