This is a brief practical guide to raising humane children, male and female, daughters and sons. The ideas contained here are not new, they are available in many other places, and I cannot take credit for them; they have been said before in parenting guides, feminist theory on girlhood, feminist theory on masculinities, as well as in attachment parenting and gentle parenting manuals for example. In many ways these suggestions are instinctive and common sense. The problem is, however, that our world is so rigidly divided along gender lines, and our brains so thoroughly washed in either pink or blue, that parents and carers have learnt not to trust their instincts and to assume instead that baby humans must be treated remarkably differently based on their sex. The following is not really a feminist guide at all, and it is not solely about sons. There are 24 suggestions in the list, I’m sure you could add more. I have included some examples or case-studies to show possible practical implementation of these suggestions.
A bit about me: I am not a parenting expert. But, I do have a professional background in youth and advice work. I set up and managed award winning domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying programmes across all children and young people’s settings (including Early Years) for a London Local Education Authority – Islington – and I advised on national anti-bullying policy and safeguarding. I have delivered training to teachers and whole-school staff, social workers, nurses and police. I am now an academic researcher in the area of feminist theory and activism, with a PhD from the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol. I have been involved in feminist activism for over twenty years; I founded the London Feminist Network in 2004 and revived the London Reclaim the Night march. I currently do a lot of research on masculinities and I work with several men’s organisations. I am a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of the West of England in Bristol, and author of ‘Radical Feminism: Activism in Movement’ published by Palgrave.
I only have one child, my son is toddler age. I am a terribly impatient person and therefore parenting is often an effort for me. As is the case for all women, childrearing does not come naturally to me, though it may feel instinctive to some; parenting skills are however, unfortunately, not genetic nor predestined by sex. My partner and I are trying to raise our child as best we can in the world as it is; acknowledging that the world as it is, is imperfect, and so are we. While I know the world is imperfect, I do not have to accept that, nor do I have to remain silent about it and I hope to teach my child the same. I hope to raise him actively against much of the culture that he will be increasingly immersed in, because much of the culture tells him lies about boys and men and the biggest lie of all is that his future is written in stone. Boys will not be boys, they will be adults, carers, fathers, lovers, friends, colleagues; they will be human, like anyone else, and humane, if only we let them be. …
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My area of research is contemporary British feminism and feminist activism. I am particularly interested in changes in this social movement from the Second Wave of the 1970s and 1980s to the present day. I have been involved in feminist activism for twenty years, founding the London Feminist Network and revived London Reclaim the Night in 2004. Prior to returning to academia, my professional background was in education and youth work, where I worked on domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying. I am still proudly involved with the women’s sector, conducting work and research for organisations such as Women’s Aid. I am passionate about all social justice issues and equalities. Other research interests include gender studies, animal rights, lesbian and gay studies and particularly gender identity, definitions, expressions and borders within the LGBT community. @Finn_Mackay