Most parents would love to raise children who respect everyone equally, and who have equal opportunities regardless of their gender. These are feminist values that we need to model and pass on to our sons and daughters if we want their generation to see, and be a part of, change.
It’s not always easy to strive for lofty goals, though, when you’re a busy parent just trying to make it through the week. So we’ve broken down some concrete ways to be intentional in raising feminist kids, every day for a month. With this 30-day challenge, you and your family can start with some small actions and conversations, and turn them into big change!
- Girl-led movie
Watch a movie together that features an awesome female protagonist. Look for one that passes the feminist “Bechdel Test,” meaning that it has at least two named female characters who speak to each other about something other than a male (harder than you might think!).
- Research a trailblazer
Pick one woman trailblazer—from history or current day—to learn more about together. Depending on your kids’ ages and learning styles, you could draw/color in a portrait of the person, look at a slideshow of historic photos, listen to a speech, or check out a biography or short documentary.
- Body terms
Teaching kids anatomically correct terms for all body parts, instead of using nicknames and euphemisms for private parts, helps show them that they shouldn’t be ashamed of their own bodies—and encourages them to talk about any body issues that may come up.
- Practice saying stop
Teach a lesson in consent and assertiveness in a fun way, by having a tickling or wrestling session where you take turns saying “stop”—and stopping as soon as the other person says to stop.
- Show that men care
Show kids that men can (and should!) change diapers, pack lunch, do laundry, style hair, and plan playdates. If you don’t have someone who can demonstrate that in your own family, look for examples in the world around you or in the media you consume—if it’s hard to find them, talk about examples of gender role stereotypes being perpetuated.
- Compliment your body
When kids observe their moms disparaging their own looks or frowning at themselves in the mirror, they’re learning what kind of relationship girls are supposed to have with their bodies. So think about what kind of example you’re setting, and turn it into a self-empowering statement next time.
- Read a girl adventure
Action plots aren’t just for boys or for male characters. No matter your child’s gender, look for some books that feature girls who are strong, fast, brave, and ready to jump into action!
- Thank an unsung hero
Whether it’s a grandmother remembering birthdays and sending cards, or a cafeteria worker serving lunch or cleaning up, there are probably plenty of women in your lives doing important behind-the-scenes work who aren’t recognized for it. Talk with your kiddo about what’s important about these women’s labor, and come up with ways to thank them.
- Support a business
Seek out some women-owned businesses that you can support as a family, or put them on a list for next time you’re looking for gifts. It’s a practical way to teach kids that women can be entrepreneurs and business leaders.
- Replace a phrase
Discuss whether there are any phrases or language you use in your family that perpetuate gender stereotypes—think “what a princess/heartbreaker,” “boys will be boys,” “act like a lady,” or “girl talk.” Brainstorm some alternative phrases that would help promote gender equality.
- Speak up
If there’s something specific that’s been bothering you or your kids about gender inequality, find a way to take action as a family or support your kids in taking action. Support a local advocacy campaign, send an article to your relatives, write a letter to a school official, or make a plan to bring up an issue with a friend.
- Find your leaders
To teach kids about leadership, look up some of your local leaders, from school board to mayor to governor to Congress, and see if any are women. Watch a clip, read an article, or browse a social media account together to learn more about what these leaders do.
- Music tune-up
Add some feminist songs to your family playlist for the next dance party or sing-along session. Look for women-led bands as well as lyrics that encourage gender equality.
- Analyze ads
Next time you’re watching a show or reading a magazine together, discuss the ads. What types of products are targeted at women or men, and what kind of gender roles are depicted in the ads?
- Talk about periods
Menstruation is a fact of life (if not for your kids yet, then probably for someone they know and love) and kids of all genders should learn to talk and listen more openly about women’s bodies and how they work. Check out the Feeling My Flo podcast, have everyone in the family help shop for tampons, or bring up menstruation by leaving your pads out in the open for kids to ask about.
- Art inspiration
Look up images of a female artist’s work, and talk about how and why they created it. Besides learning about art beyond the typical classics, you can see if your kids are inspired to express themselves through art too.
- Focus on pronouns
Pay attention to the pronouns you and your family members use for an entire day, to see if you hold any gender biases or stereotypes you weren’t aware of. When you’re talking about someone you don’t know, or even an animal or toy, when do you tend to use “she” or “he” or “they”—and why do you think this is the case?
- Compare girl/boy clothes
Tour a clothing store or browse an online store that divides clothes into boys’ and girls’ sections. Notice what kinds of messages, images, and practical features (like pockets or extra durable fabric) are on the girls’ clothes versus the boys’ clothes—what does this say to kids about how they are expected to act and what they are “supposed” to be interested in?
- Don’t forget STEM
Seek out a book, show, toy, t-shirt, etc. that features a girl or woman in a science, technology, engineering, or math-heavy role—because it’s likely that your kids haven’t seen too many female role models in the STEM arena.
- Rethink praise
Are you complimenting girls on things beyond their looks and their helpfulness? Are you praising boys for attributes besides their physical and academic abilities?
- Explore gendered jobs
Think of a job you’ve never (or rarely) seen a woman perform, or a man. Then do some research (either by asking your friends and family or looking online) to see if you can find an example of, say, a female electrician or a male daycare teacher to show your kids.
- Find feminist men
Remind kids of any gender that men and boys can be feminists too. Think of examples in your own community, or find a male celebrity or public leader who stands up for gender equality.
- Show confidence
Women tend to downplay their own abilities and try to take up less space, so especially if you’re a mom, try to get through the day without saying anything like “I’m so dumb” or “sorry to bother you.” Challenge your daughters to do the same.
- Model thoughtfulness
Men tend to be overconfident and talk over others’ opinions, so especially if you’re a dad, try to get through the day by listening carefully, not interrupting, and putting others’ needs first. Challenge your sons to do the same.
- Share a family story
Tell kids about a time in the past when you, or a relative, encountered unfairness due to gender. Let kids ask questions and discuss how things have changed (or not).
- Embrace girl/boy friendship
It’s important for kids to learn to play with other kids of all genders, instead of dividing them up as “the girls” or “the boys.” And when kids do find friendship across gender lines, don’t tease them about having a little “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”
- Don’t force affection
Even when saying goodbye to close relatives, kids shouldn’t “owe” anyone physical affection. Hugging or kissing should be their own decision—so if they don’t feel like giving a hug or kiss that day, agree on another sign of respect like a handshake, high five, or “thank you.”
- Expand your skill set
Show kids that you can learn something outside of the comfort zone of your expected gender roles, including in your own home. Moms and daughters can fix toilets, for example, and dads and sons can decorate cupcakes.
- Include dads
Next time someone mentions a “mommy and me” class, assumes the mom will be the one responsible for picking up a child, or asks a child where her mother is, find a way to point out that dads (plus other parents, guardians, and caregivers) can be primary caregivers too.
- Show unconditional love
Make sure girls and boys know that you love and respect them no matter what their interests are or how they choose to express themselves—even if those don’t match up to your expectations of them based on their assigned gender at birth.
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