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As a feminist, I have always tried to raise my daughter as one too. Here are some ways, I am raising her to be a feminist ally.
The title of this article might perhaps be slightly bothersome to quite a few of the readers out there. And if you are one of those who don’t believe in words like ‘gender equality’ or ‘gender equity’ or even liberty, for that matter, I would urge you to stop reading right away!
Feminists often have to explain why they believe in equality and why we expect the same opportunities. We expect to have the same opportunities to power, pay, respect and agency to be thriving individuals just like any man.
From delving into the aspects of gender as a former think-tanker to being a volunteer working towards enhancing women’s representation to exploring the world of gender advocacy as a researcher, I have done it all. I spent a better part of the decade ensuring that gender equity has remained a core interest of mine.
Now, as a mother to a nine-year-old, I never shied away from these beliefs and we often have discussions at home. She is also privy to some of these deliberations.
However, it was only during a recent conversation with her that I began to understand that she is slowly but surely understanding certain things. She is beginning to understand the importance of agency of an individual to choose and to stay that way. Here are some snippets of all such conversations, starting with one she shared with me that she had with her friends.
S: I do not want to get married
R: I think it is weird if girls do not get married.
A (my daughter): What is so weird about that? My mother has lots of friends who are not married and they all look happy to me. It is not weird at all! As long as they are happy, whether married or single, it is their wish.
When she narrated this conversation to me, I was happy that she had been observant of my friends and their single status (I do not remember having any specific conversation pertaining to this). However, I realised that her rather logical and analytical mind (save for her belief in unicorns, that I don’t understand) figured out that everyone should be free to choose to be happy. And as long as their choices long it doesn’t harm anyone in the process, it isn’t really weird or unacceptable.
Her explorations and curiosities about the world had just begun. Another recent instance got me contemplating.
We were at a relative’s house where the family elders were watching one of the evening soaps on the Television. A noticed that the story revolved around some men advising a young woman to get married and the young woman stays weeps silently.
I was sitting nearby and she sauntered up to me and whispered, “Why does the lady in this serial have to listen to those people? Doesn’t she have her own thoughts on who she wants to marry?”
I nodded and said, “Sure, she should be free to do as she pleases.”
As an aside, she also added, “Also all the women in these programs are either angry or crying, no one really looks happy!”
We guffawed quite a bit on that.
This got me thinking how could a parent possibly work towards creating feminist allies among the young. Was it possible? And can we try it? Can we engage in conversations with them when they are young to enable their logical, analytical selves to question archaic notions that perpetuate gender norms? I share what has worked for me thus far.
Whether it is cooking, washing clothes or sewing your child definitely notices that mundane household chores have no gender attached to them. (In fact, I believe, it is only about who is smart enough to escape it!) But when your child notices this, they internalise the same. They start understanding that chores have no gender.
The little minds at your home are often filled with many questions, some of them can be difficult but always answer them honestly. They may be little but they have beautiful minds that sometimes may not be able to fathom all the complexities of certain stereotypes.
However, they are more than happy to attempt to understand this narrative. Hence encourage all the questions that come from them and yes have the patience to answer them.
There are some amazing womxn doing superb work all around us, let us introduce our little people at home to all such role models. You will not have to look too far, let me tell you.
It could be your house-help who is juggling work and home and ensuring her children get a good education. Or it could even be the homemaker pursuing her interest in dance or singing after winning smaller battles with her family. Similarly, it could be that relative who chose an unconventional career.
Do you have any tips on how to raise a feminist ally? Do share them in the comments below!
Picture credits: Still from Amazon Alexa’s Echo Dot ad on YouTube
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Varsha Pillai is a former television journalist who quit the fast lane in media when
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