By Stacey Freeman
Feminism can mean many things, depending on who you ask. Underlying every discussion and debate is the premise that women should enjoy the same privileges and rights men do. In a world where women continue to statistically earn less than their male counterparts, fill fewer seats in Congress, are more likely to fall victim to domestic violence, and, as the Harvey Weinstein investigation underscores, face sexual harassment (or worse) in the workplace, it’s clear the fight for equality is far from over. As a mother to a young son, I recognize while he’s under my direction I still have the power to shape how he sees women and guide him to become a man who respects and treats women as equals. Here’s how I’m doing my part.
1. Educate him, literally
Though we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality, it’s essential for my son to understand how far women have already come as a result of the actions of a few heroic figures throughout history. It’s easy to take for granted the rights women now enjoy when he wasn’t around to witness how it is we came to have them. What his school doesn’t provide, I supplement at home via books and thoughtful discussion.
2. Tell him that unless it’s a yes, it’s a no
An emphatic no. Maybe is also a no. If there’s room for interpretation, I tell him he already has his answer: No.
3. Encourage him to stand up for women
The women he will come across at school, a party, work, or in any other setting during his lifetime will also be someone’s daughter, mother, sister, aunt, friend, and so forth, even if not his own. If he witnesses an injustice or abuse of any sort, it is on him to protect those women, too. After all, he would want someone to step up and do the same for the women in his life that he cares about or loves if he couldn’t do it himself, right?
4. Treat my children equally
Not long ago, my daughters (justifiably) pointed out that I was holding them to a different standard than I was my son when it came to helping out around the house. I took notice and have since given him specific age-appropriate tasks that allow him to contribute, too. It’s been gratifying to watch his growing independence, especially since I no longer have to ask him to clear the table or make his lunch for school. As he has discovered, housework is not only women’s work. R.I.P. June Cleaver.
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5. Set an example for him
For now, I’m the woman my son spends the most time with, although I know the day is coming when I won’t be. So, I want his point of reference for dealing with women to be a positive one, which means I have to first show respect for myself before expecting him to do the same, for me or any other woman he meets. That means creating healthy boundaries, exercising self-care, and walking away from relationships that limit or undermine me. Little children have big eyes. And as much as I’m watching my son, I know he’s watching me, too.
About the Author
Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir, MariaShriver.com, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights on the divorce experience and has repeatedly been quoted in The Huffington Post’s divorce vertical. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Email Stacey today at Stacey.Freeman@WriteOnTrackLLC.com or call 800-203-1946 for a free consultation and proposal. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTrackLLC.com.