“Girls don’t drink coffee.”
“Girls don’t drive tractors.”

When my three-year-old said these two statements, they struck fear into my heart as a feminist, one trying to raise a feminist son. And while I didn’t think all was lost, I had to really study our life to see how he would come to these conclusions, and worse, if they had crept into other ways he saw the world. But the answers came quickly and in a sweet simple way. I asked him, “Why do you say that?” “Well,” he said. “Daddy drinks coffee, you drink tea.” True. I don’t drink coffee. Right. And what about girls driving tractors? “I haven’t seen you,” he said. For him, I am every girl. Because I don’t do it, every girl mustn’t. I praised his empirical abilities and asked about the friends we have that do these things. He accepted that he hadn’t thought of them as girls. They were adults. This was hilarious to me. As Mom, I was included in the girl category, but not the adult one. The way children think is so confusing, complicated, and fascinating. I became hyper aware of everything we put in front of him, got girl and women figures for the Duplo, and made sure they were active in his play. But monitoring everyone else was impossible and made me tense all the time. Always having to explain why became too much.Modelling progressive feminism is not how most of the world lives. And I didn’t want him to turn off.

In trying to model inclusive and non-sexist behavior, I had just done what I wanted. To me, being a feminist means living my best life, doing things I want to do and not doing things I don’t (within reason, of course–there is always compromise as an adult) without worrying about any expectations or obligations based on my gender. But of course, a child would see that what I chose to do or not to do would still be associated with my gender and reflect some sort of internalized system. My partner and I have different interests, skills and talents that when put together give each other freedom with responsibilities. Even though it is based on our preferences, that creates a world for our child that can still appear “gendered.” We both love to cook, I hate to clean. He makes beds better than anyone and I have my own way to hang out laundry. We both work inside and outside of the home. But the trick is to demonstrate that what mommy does and what daddy does may be different, but have equal value. I can only hope he will process this and live it in his own life whomever and whatever he turns out to be.

-Ashley E. Remer
Founder & Head Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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