Feminist Parenting? – Day 1

I ran a free online 5 day course on social justice parenting last year and I recently rediscovered the pdfs so thought I’d pop them here so they don’t get lost again

Hi and thank you so much for joining me this week as we explore parenting for social justice in small, easy to manage bitesize chunks. Not going to lie, the topic is huge so I’m trying to make is accessible and get rid of the overwhelm. 

They say it takes a village to raise a child but we have never been so lonely as we have the last 2 years.  But when we talk about the village that every parent I know deeply longs for, it does not always mean that it takes dozens of other people to raise your child but that the entire community is responsible for building a safe, happy and healthy environment in which ALL children can thrive. And that’s what I want to sow the seeds of here- a community that will then go into their own communities and have the important conversations, fight for changes and advocate for all children. At its core, parenting for social justice is respectful parenting while advocating for the rights of all children. Keep that in mind as we explore different themes each day this week

So today we’ll be looking at feminst parenting, then gender stereotypes tomorrow, consent on Wednesday and finally representation and inclusion on Thursday. We’ll be looking at what each of these actually are, how they show up in our lives and impact our children and what we can do about them. There will also be a little challenge at the end of each video and I’d love to hear about how it goes for you if you take part!  

If you have any follow up questions on each topic and want to discuss it before the Zoom catch up on either Friday or Saturday- depending on which works best for everyone as I completely forgot it was Easter weekend! Just comment on that day’s video to start a conversation and I’ll also address it in the call, which will be posted here if all parties consent and available for you to watch in your own time.  

Please feel free to get talking to each other in the comments section, asking questions and helping each other out. I want to see a community grow from this and you will learn so much from each other. 

So on with our first part of the course!

I’m assuming by the fact that you have found yourself here, that you identify as a feminist. A word that was once approached with so much reluctance and disdain has recently become, well, just common sense. It’s a word that is now comfortable to claim for ourselves and it no longer holds so much of the baggage that it did for our grandmother’s generation who fought so hard for women’s liberation. However the word does start to feel a little heavier when we become parents, especially for those of us raised and socialised as women and girls. How do we reconcile the fight for women’s- and everyone marginalised by their gender- liberation with the fact that we have just entered into what feels like a lifetime engagement of familial servitude? Mothering by its very nature is a contentious subject within feminism and the very act is well known to uphold capitalist ideals. Without a mother’s unpaid labour, our patriarchal systems would collapse. I’m not even joking. 

But there’s a difference between being a parent who identifies as a feminist and feminist parenting, when the awareness of our intersecting identities and various privileges and oppressions directly inform how we parent our children. We want to build a world that is not fair but equitable and just for all children, where every child’s right are respected and upheld while our own needs are met as parents, individually and systemically. All sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? 

As I tell the children that I teach, you can’t eat an elephant in one bite but caring enough about the problems that we as parents face in raising children for this future, well that’s the first nibble of a tough leathery old trunk. We’re on our way and you will absolutely meet people on your parenting journey who question you, criticise you and make you doubt your choices. That’s on them. The act of parenting can be a radical, affirming and political act born out of love and respect for your child or a choice to co-sign the status quo driven by the fear of rejection from white supremacist patrirachy.

Feminist parenting is led by not only our own choices, language and behaviours but also by an awareness of and advocacy for wider systemic issues such as the gender pay gap, rising childcare costs, women bearing the brunt of austerity, over a third of domestic violence starts or gets worse when a woman is pregnant, the health inequality experienced by women of colour and fat people, the fact that disabled women were 11 times more likely to die of covid than non-disabled women, the decrimilisation of rape, the onslaught of gender stereotypes our children are drowning in every day, the proliferation of diet culture and the self care industry. So how are we supposed to fight all of this and parent small people? The status quo is looking pretty inviting right about now, isn’t it? 

You simply can’t fight it all. You really can’t. You will burn out. So pick one or two causes that you really, deeply care about and start by advocating online before taking your advocacy offline when you feel safer and more confident. Talk to people. You’ll soon find out that other people care about the same things as you or you’ll be starting important conversations and inviting others in. By doing this, you start pulling at the threads that holds these toxic systems together, You might find that you start talking to a parent in the playground who has never voted or has never really questioned the gendered toys that family members buy their child. By gently explaining to another parent at a play date that your family don’t do gun play and why, it slowly chips away at the old entrenched ideas that a lot of people don’t think twice about. 

But one of the most powerful things you can do is to be compassionate to yourself and others. Self love is an act of resistance these days and it is one of the strongest messages we can send to our children- that their needs matter and their voices are important. And when it comes to others, studies show that children are not motivated to be kind when told to be but they are intrinsically motivated to when it is modelled for them clearly and consistently. You cannot teach empathy by instruction- it is taught by absorption. Teach them how to connect with their own emotions first as without this, they will not be able to connect with others’. The more they experience empathy from others, the greater their capacity to empathise as they grow. Let your child see you advocating for them and for others and talk to them about it in age appropriate ways.

So what else can we do? I have 6 quick tips that I feel are the cornerstones of parenting for social justice:

  • Check your privileges regularly
  • Commit to dismantling gender stereotypes
  • Be anti-racist
  • Vote

Finally, Understand and acknowledge that capitalism is upheld by the unpaid work of women and mothers  

Now for your first challenge of the week! 

I want you to grab a pen and paper and I want you to Identify your parenting values- what is important to you and your family? What is important to you and your family? What are your principles? How do they take shape day to day? What prevents you from living them? 

I hope you’ve found today helpful and I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments. See you tomorrow!  

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