Battle of the sexes
There’s so much to consider in the male versus female debate that Rose Cohen has decided to raise her son and daughter to be feminists.
‘Mom, if Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa, who was the first woman president?’ my son asked when we were revising Grade 4 history on the way to school the other day.

‘Well, we haven’t had one yet,’ I replied, then went on to wax lyrical about Margaret Thatcher, misogyny, androcentrism and gender stereotypes. The poor boy got rather more than he bargained for and couldn’t escape my vehicle of equal rights campaigning fast enough. 

But he left a fond smile on my feminist face. I was pleased he was having such thoughts. Pleased because they seemed to come naturally to him.

In his 10 years of life, he has already experienced many gender dilemmas, with less than favourable outcomes. At the age of 4 he came home from nursery school with a bloodshot eye after getting into a sand-throwing fight with his peers. Some boys had thought it fit to tease his friend Liam for having painted toenails. Liam was neither effeminate nor queer (in the Enid Blyton sense of the word) he merely had two little sisters who loved to play pedicure-pedicure!

How sad, I thought, this little boy was being kind to his sisters and got branded, I’ll bet he never lets them near his feet again. He also daren’t show a fondness for babies or toddlers because that’s for sissies and girls only. My son Sam barely spoke to me for a whole day once because I told a friend that he thought her baby was cute. ‘Mom, boys don’t like babies,’ he chided, ‘only girls and softies do.’

Horrors, where did he get that idea from? Certainly not his own father who fetches and carries, makes gourmet school lunches and falls asleep in bunk beds after soothing bad dreams to sleep.

In our family we agree with renowned feminist Gloria Steinem, who said of the double-role dilemma facing most working moms: ‘Men as nurturers are important, not just to free up women, but for children. If they grow up being cared for only or mostly by women, they believe that men can’t be as loving and nurturing as women are – which is a libel on men – and they just replicate the gender roles that limit everybody.’

I’m trying so hard to get this across to my daughter and my son that sometimes it goes horribly wrong and a tad too far. Just last weekend I encouraged my daughter to play some touch rugby with her Dad and her brother. After a ball-slamming incident involving her face, she stomped upstairs to play with her dolls and said: “Mom, I really don’t like rugby.”

But that’s ok my darling daughter, just be sure to choose your own destiny.

Is it possible to raise a son to be a feminist?


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