3 ways to raise kind feminists

by Laurel Pretorius
My own feminism has helped me raise feminist daughters
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My own feminism has helped me raise feminist daughters, writes Laurel Pretorius.

I am an old-fashioned feminist. I have been fighting the good fight since I grew breasts and learnt that it’s unfortunately a man’s world. I am a tough, loud and opinionated woman. How else do you get the patriarchy to hear you? I am the type of women who gets on men’s nerves by the very fact that I behave like a man. I embrace my alpha side. I am independent. I say what I want. I do as I please.

But it has been a challenge to get here simply because I was born a female. It has taken me decades of standing my ground to finally feel like a powerful woman (with nothing to prove) in my fifties.

As a teen, I was a clueless feminist. In my twenties and thirties, I was an angry feminist. In my forties, I was a warrior feminist. But finally in my fifties, I am a wise woman and feminism no longer defines me.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s good for women (and men, I have learnt) to embrace their feminism. It’s like a rite of passage for every girl growing into her vagina and breasts and for every young woman becoming a wife, mother and matriarch. Our feminism protects us and ultimately teaches us and turns us into better humans.

I’ve had men talk over me in mid-conversation so many times, I stopped noticing them doing it. The first man to do this was my father. I learnt that girls and women are silenced, and our opinions don’t really count unless we make a noise about it. And, oh my goodness, I cannot even count how many times I have been mansplained to by “well-meaning” men. I became angry. I seethed. I loved my male friends, but I grew to hate men. Down with the patriarchy.

Motherhood and my lovely girls (young women now) changed the feminist in me. As I raised them to become their own feminists, I learnt to embrace my feminine side… and forgive men.    

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Here are the 3 most important ways I raised my daughters to become kind feminists (young women who know their worth, treat their own men with respect but take no shit, and ultimately love how powerful they are in their own beautiful female bodies):

  1. Lead like a good human and true feminist

Simply defined, feminism is the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes”. I needed to find my way back to this simple meaning so that I could sensibly lead my girls by example.

To raise feminists, we parents need to show our children (girls and boys) the values of feminism by demonstrating respect and equality in our own relationships. In our home, my husband and I have challenged traditional gender roles and stereotypes by encouraging our girls to pursue whatever interests they please regardless of gender expectations.

By embodying true feminist principles, I became a more powerful example for my daughters who are now good (not angry) young feminists themselves. They are strong and nurturing. They believe in their capabilities. They embrace their femininity and their masculinity.

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  1. Teach consent and boundaries

Men disrespecting our boundaries simply because they can just doesn’t fly with me. It’s what made me an angry feminist to begin with and it took me the longest time to forgive.

Respect for autonomy and bodily integrity has to be one of the most fundamental principles of feminism and I taught it to my daughters from a young age. I spoke to them about the importance of consent and boundaries. That “no” means “no”. End of story.

I talked to them about respect and open lines of communication in relationships between men and women. In our home we respect each other’s personal space. We knock on bedroom doors and wait for permission to enter. Respect your kid’s boundaries and teach them to respect yours.

  1. Have thought-provoking conversations

When my oldest child first realised I was a feminist, she argued with me – it was a “not all men” kind of argument. This led to her and I picking apart the concept. Even though the debate ended up in the air, it left us with some food for thought. That first argument was the start of her own feminism.

I love that she became a feminist through our conversation and her own critical thinking. This is fundamental to the cause as it encourages feminist kids to constantly question societal norms and inequalities. It also gives them the ability to intelligently call someone out who may be perpetuating discrimination.

As a feminist, I have learnt so much while raising my own. My daughters have asked me questions which have made me think and rethink the way I answer them. They have brought me up to speed with regards to new-age feminist philosophies.

Most importantly, they have shown me that feminism isn’t about fighting men, it’s about showing them they can be feminists, too. Just maybe we’re finally entering an age of true gender equality.   

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