A lifestyle blog from a forty-something mum

Friday, 16 October 2015

On Raising my Daughters as Feminists

Daughters, FeministsI've raised my daughters to believe they were capable of anything. Olivia and Sophia were encouraged from a young age to experience whatever life had to offer and to adopt what worked well, and discard those things that didn't. During their childhood, it was their father who gave up work for a year as I returned to work full-time when the girls were just 3 months old. In the following years, we adjusted our work/ life balance several times over to adapt to new careers and the needs of our growing family. Gender stereotyping never came into any of these decisions and as parents, we dealt with whatever needed to be done.

As a result, my daughters see men and women as equal, and feminism is something that is ingrained in the very core of their being.

I don't know whether it was coincidence, but neither daughter was overly fussed on baby dolls, or the colour, pink. Instead, they preferred Lego, K'Nex, cars, trains and their Fisher Price garage. Outside of school, their interests included ballet, Japanese and rowing. The majority of Olivia's friends were boys, while Sophia's were all girls - I had no problem with either of their choices. Any attempt to cajole the girls into preferring traditional toys were thwarted. This caused frustration with both grandmas, who were convinced that girls should be, well.... girly. I recall my mother being especially horrified when I bought Sophia a Scalextric set for Christmas one year. It was what my daughter had asked for - what was I supposed to do?

My daughters are shocked by issues of sexism as this isn't anything they have ever experienced. They are particularly critical of how men and women are portrayed in advertising and find it hilarious that women are supposed to love housework, while men are generally categorised as hopeless in any domestic situation - obviously, neither classification is true.

In the mid 1980s when I started work, sexism was rife. It wasn't unusual to be asked about what underwear I'd chosen for the day. This was humiliating even though disguised as 'harmless fun.' Thankfully, we've come a long way since the eighties and today, the workplace is a more harmonious environment. I hope that my daughters are never subjected to sexism and believe that mutual respect for both sexes and recognition for achievements and hard work is excellent progress.

All our kids need to be taught about the issues surrounding sexism from a very young age and yet, as a mentor to teenagers, I come across many who don't believe that they have the right to respect from the opposite sex. This revelation comes as a shock after believing that we'd come so far. I'm only too happy to discuss the issues surrounding inequality, discrimination and respect with any of the kids, in the hope that they will go on to have successful relationships and pass on this valuable life lesson to their own children someday.

I'd love to hear what you think. Please feel free to share your thoughts...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

4 comments :

  1. What a brilliant post. I really respect the way you brought the girls up, but it is hard with the outside world (e.g. grandmas) not understanding!
    The everyday sexism of the 80s sounds horrendous! I can't believe people would ask that.

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  2. Not for the first time do I believe you have very lucky daughters, with you as their mum. They sound wonderfully grounded, practical and common sensical due to such a balanced input. I love that they can believe in themselves and be shocked by what they think is abnormal, when, really it's still rife - not as bad as it used to be, but still very much present. I remember the banter in the city which would be completely illegal now. Some of it was fun, some not so. I suspect your girls will continue to lead the way for their peers now xx

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  3. First of all I think it's fabulous that you use the word feminists. Drives me mad when I read young women - including well known big celebrities - fear that word. As you say it's all about equality and stopping sexism. I was lucky as I was brought up with the same beliefs you've instilled in your daughters. Funnily enough I didn't encounter any sexism from the regional bureaus when I was head of the Middle East as an AP news editor but I did confront it once in a while with British men.

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  4. Here here, I agree with you completely. I think sexism is still and always will be part of life and as you say, things have improved massively but sadly I don't think it will ever go away. Like with so many things, you need to educate your children to understand these things and I have talked to my sons about it too which my husband found strange but I explained to him that I would never want a son of mine to be sexist, so it is just as important to educate the boys too.

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