Kids Motherhood

I Will Raise My Son To Be A Feminist

I Will Raise My Son To Be A Feminist www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Amber Shoemaker

“She got raped.”

Those were the words I remember using when talking to a friend in a bar about 10 years ago. “Oh my god! Where was she?” she asked me while taking the first drink of her beer. “Walking to her car down town, BY HERSELF.” I answered, shaking my head and wondering how she could be so stupid. The thought never occurring to me that I was victim blaming. That I was contributing to rape culture. That I was being a part of the problem.

For most women there’s a time in our life before we realize the world treats us differently. For me that time was up until around fifth grade, which is when I swear I went to bed one night with a flat chest and woke up the next morning needing a bra. From that moment on, I’ve had what’s considered large breasts, settling in now at a 36DD. I remember being told to cover up and not wear things that were low cut. I was warned about the dangers of giving boys “the wrong idea” and how “putting them out there isn’t lady-like.”   I wondered what it meant to give someone the wrong idea about the size of my breasts. Wrong idea how, exactly? Like they would think less of me because of the number sewed on to the inside of my bra? Of course, I found out incredibly fast because as it turns out fifth grade boys aren’t exactly the most subtle of creatures and I experienced everything they could come up with. Bra snapping, being at the pool and having one try to un-tie my top, lewd comments that I honestly didn’t even understand until I went home and asked my mom. She looked at me with her lips pressed into a thin line and said, “You’re developing into a woman, you have to be more careful now.”

And from the ripe age of 12, I felt dirty. Boobs are everywhere you look, used to sell everything from food to cars to alcohol and apparently that was just fine. But when it came to me, the “early bloomer,” I felt incredibly self conscious and unsure about what was OK to wear and what wasn’t. A V-neck wasn’t OK, certain round-topped collars weren’t OK, and a two-piece could only be worn if it came with a high-necked halter. I’d look in the mirror and feel like something was wrong with me. I didn’t realize I was being sexualized and it was absolutely destroying my confidence.

Since then my boob journey has been all over the place. For a while I was obsessed with them because with big breasts meant attention and even though I realize now how misplaced it was, there were quite a few years where I wanted it. When we’re told as young women to “cover ourselves up” because we can give boys the “wrong impression” we are essentially being told we’re sexual creatures, whether we like it or not, and that men will prey on us. Think about the weight of that statement. We accept men preying on women as an inevitability.

I was raised in a home with four sisters and no brothers so my experience with young men was what I encountered socially. I was always taught a zone defense. Go out in groups. Don’t walk to your car alone at night, ASK A MAN TO WALK WITH YOU. Don’t wear anything too revealing. Carry pepper spray. Hold your keys with the largest one between your first and second finger so that it can be used as a weapon if you get attacked. I can’t tell you how many times I ran to my car after getting out of work late, pulling my jacket around me and keeping my head down.

Then I had a little boy. And as the little boy has started to grow up, I have started to see our society through fresh eyes. I will not raise my son to tolerate a world where someone says the words “she got raped” instead of the words “someone raped her.”  I don’t want him looking at a woman in an outfit she feels beautiful in and thinking that she’s “asking for it” because it shows off her body. I don’t want the word “slut” to ever cross his mind, let alone come out of his mouth. I will teach him that no matter how far something goes sexually she has the right to say no at any time and if that happens you have to stop immediately. I want him to know she can’t consent if she’s drunk, and the number of partners she’s had is none of your business. I want to raise a man who will not tolerate listening to other men use derogatory words when discussing women and who will intervene if he sees anyone trying to take advantage of a woman. I will raise a feminist.

And it starts now by teaching consent as soon as we can. My son doesn’t have to hug anyone, even family members, if he doesn’t want to. I knock on the bathroom and bedroom doors when it’s closed and he’s in there alone. I bring up sex occasionally and never laugh or make him feel like he’s being inappropriate when he asks a question. I try to use every teachable opportunity from seeing something on TV to walking past a lingerie store at the mall to point out how it’s OK to wear what you want, even if other people don’t like it. And it’s hard you guys. It’s hard to promote a healthy view of women when I don’t always have a healthy view of myself. But it’s a life long journey of discovering who we are as women and how we’re seen as objects in this world and doing everything in our power to change it.

Starting with our kids.

About the author

Amber Shoemaker

Amber is a full time mom, partner, daughter and sister. You can find her home with her boys or waiting for a doctor somewhere. She likes to read, write, and travel whenever she can.

7 Comments

  • While I appreciate your article and understand the message you are putting out there, I am curious why you choose to raise your son as a feminist rather than as a gentleman. A gentleman is a civilized well-mannered man and, as such, would never look upon a woman and see a sexual object first. A gentleman would never dream of using the word “slut” nor take advantage of a drunk woman. A gentleman has discretion and honors the women in his life. He protects them from all kinds of attack be that physical, emotional or mental. A gentleman sees a woman as an equal and treats her accordingly. Above all else, respect should be on the forefront of his mind. In my eyes those are all qualities that any young man should endeavor to achieve.

    • A feminist is all these things as well. You say gentleman, she says feminist. Different words, same goal. Raise a human who respects others and treats them as equals.

      • On the contrary, a feminist is by definition a follower of feminism which is the movement designed to create equality for women either politically or socially. A woman may be considered equal in society and/or politics and yet not be safe from any of the actions or attitudes mentioned above. On the other hand if that same woman encounters only gentlemen in life then she can be confident that she will be respected and honored AS WELL AS being equal. The point is that we must educate our youth (boys and girls) to respect one another based on character. When we have accomplished this no longer will people need fear victimization.

      • I do see your point Jeff, because it is a valid one. I’m a staunch feminist but I raise my kids neutrally, and I leave it to them to chose what social issues they want to embrace or not because I think it is their god given right to do so. A feminist on the other hand is someone who is actively engaged in fighting for women’s rights, and we do need all those we can muster because we are so far away from equality, so I raise my hat to Amber. All said, there is something about the word ‘gentleman’ that is old world and too transitional that it makes me doubt that a gentleman will still have modern day sensibilities. Is it enough to respect others and treat them equally? or is it necessary to be aware that girls & women’s rights are still trampled on? Even if as a man you don’t actively want to engage in the feminist cause, you do need to be aware of it to have a powerful relationship with the other sex.

  • Thank you so much for writing this. I too am doing what I can to raise both my son and daughter in this way. People hear the word feminist and think of someone burning bras and that’s the furthest thing from what a feminist is. Feminism simple means you believe women should be treated as equals. Plain and simple. Unfortunately our culture overwhelmingly takes a victim blaming stance and places higher priority on teaching girls and women how to protect themselves instead of holding boys and men accountable. As a survivor, it is always validating and a huge relief to hear other parents doing their part to raise good humans. Thank you.

  • This is such an incredibly important message for the world. I have two sons who are big brothers to a baby sister, and every day I hope that I am raising them to undestand, respect, and value the worth of women. As a women who, in my teen years, endured many of the things the writer describes, I personally understand just how important feminism for society. We have so far to go, yet strong voices, such as this writer’s, gives me hope for the future.