Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why you should raise your boys to be feminists


Feminist. Growing up, I always thought this was a bit of a dirty word; a derogatory term for any angry woman with too many opinions. Never in a million years would I have thought about associating myself with them.

But things change, and slowly, over the years (so slowly in fact that I didn’t realise it was happening) – I decided that actually I was a feminist. And I wanted not only my daughter to be one, but my sons too. 

You see, somewhere along the road I understood that the word "feminist" had been sullied – sometimes by men, sometimes by women, sometimes even by feminists themselves - as I found out to my detriment after writing an innocent post about little girls. But what feminism really means is the equality of men and women – and it’s pretty hard to argue with that isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the term feminist somehow became a way of arguing about every act associated with being a woman. 

Are you letting down feminism by waxing your legs? Wearing make up? Letting your girl play with dolls and your boy play with cars? Being a stay-at-home mother? Are you a feminist because you shave your head? Earn more than your partner? Always pay for dinner? Are pro-choice? 

Everywhere you turn these days there are arguments raging over who is, who isn’t, and who should be a feminist. (By the way, the answer to all three is pretty much always BeyoncĂ©.)

Many argue that feminism has done what it was meant to and now it is just emasculating men. Many say that its efforts should be shifted overseas to where it is really needed – tackling female genital mutilation and child brides rather than being about getting an extra 10% in your monthly pay packet.

But the wildfire of Internet porn that has taken over young people’s online world is now raging out of control in many places, and is fanning the flames of a new feminist battle right here in Ireland. Our children’s generation is becoming hyper-sexualised via online porn that their developing minds are simply not old enough to process. Whereas once it was stealing a top-shelf magazine from the local corner shop and seeing *gasp* some breasts, it’s now all there in extreme, graphic, and often violent detail at their fingertips – and those fingertips keep getting younger and younger as it becomes more and more usual to hand our children devices to "entertain" themselves on.

Eleanor Mills, who spearheads the Sunday Times campaign to safeguard children from online pornography, says:
"These days, young teens venture online for sexual information and find a smorgasbord of unimaginable depravity at their fingertips.
We are allowing our children to see adult material that a decade or so ago would have been accessible only in a sex shop or an extreme fetish club.
The effect is devastating: they think these gross scenes are normal and set out to copy them as they take their first steps in sexual activity."
In the US and UK it is all too normal for young girls (and boys) to be bombarded with sexualised images and requests for sexual acts from others they know. And you’d be foolish to think that Ireland isn’t following the same path.

The progress made by feminism over the years has suddenly stalled in this regard, and our children’s generation are reverting to the bad old times of objectifying women, and they are all suffering for it.
Girls are being scared and boys are being scarred by this new phenomenon, and adults are hopelessly wringing their hands and shaking their heads and wondering what we can do about it.

Of course, there are certain measures you can take to protect your children, but the truth is that until the Googles, Facebooks and the Yahoos of this new world take ownership for who sees what, then all we as parents can do is to try to educate our children, both girls and boys - especially boys – about what is right, why girls should be seen and treated as equals, and why it’s important to stand up for what you believe. It’s our job to push against the tide that is turning the next generation in the wrong direction and help our children to see why respect and equality are so important regardless of gender.

That’s why feminism is so important right now, and it's why we need to encourage our kids to see it as a good thing and not let it be relegated once again to being a "dirty word" that no one wants to be associated with.
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