When imagining my future as a mother, I had ideas about how I would raise daughters. Many ideas. They were about passing on the strengths I had inherited from the women in my family, from my mother and grandmother, my aunts. They were about raising a feminist daughter.
When I imagined raising sons, my only clear idea was to raise them with respect for women. All women. Now that my son is here, that seems so inadequate. How do you parent a white, more or less middle class boy who is innately privileged by his gender and perceived class? How do you encourage a healthy self esteem, a sense of worth, while also teaching him that no matter what society tells him he is not more valuable or worthy than anyone else? I have a lot to learn.
I've already begun with the basics. For every piece of blue clothing he has been generously gifted, I go out of my way to find gender neutral items. More than that, I also make an effort for him to wear clothes with ruffles, pinks, flowers and swirls. His room was decorated before we knew his gender, but by virtue of our own personal tastes was more 'masculine' than 'feminine'. After he was born I made an effort to mix in more soft and pretty elements. He has a mix of both Himself and I's toys from our childhoods, including my dolls, dollhouse and glittery knick-knacks. All chosen for our own sentimental attachments rather than gender concerns. His ever-growing library has a large section of books featuring female lead-characters, as many as possible in roles other than princess and sister.
All of this is done from a desire to encourage him to develop as a person without having external ideas of gender enforced on him in his own home. We cannot change what he will be influenced by outside our own sphere, but inside it we can offer him the freedom to be himself without consideration of what his interests/behaviour/ideas are on a gender-identified scale. I want him to be confident that masculinity can (and should) include a wide range of emotions, crying, softness, nurturing, pink and anything else he wants it to. I see this as the first step in raising a feminist son. To offer him an environment where he isn't encouraged to identify as Boy first, with all the baggage that entails, and not to see anything overtly female/feminine/girly as negative.
In the meantime, I've got some reading to do (who knew I would find reading to be the solution to yet another problem?) to figure out what else it will take to raise this feminist son. Thank goodness for the interwebs, where I can look to women like this, this and this to get me thinking.