How I’m Raising My Son to be a Feminist


raising a feminist sonI call myself a feminist, but I’ll confess that I was relieved when I found out my first child was a boy. Amidst headlines of high profile rape cases, sexual harassment suits – and the prospective peer pressure of having to be a dance mom because have you seen those costumes? – it somehow felt… safer to bring a son into the world.

But if being a #boymom is about “snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails” (and knowing all of the characters in DinoTrux) – it’s also about shaping the next generation of men.

I’m raising my son to be curious and kind — and to feel comfortable calling himself a feminist.

I want him to see women as capable leaders, trusted friends and worthy of respect.

First, I’m grateful I’m not doing it alone. My husband is one of four children, and I thank his three sisters and mother for helping him develop into a man who is attuned to the female perspective and comes to parenting as an equal partner. And, we rounded out our family unit with a little sister who is 28 months younger. My hope is that my son sees his role as empowering her, more than protecting.

Fostering feminism doesn’t mean we’re reading manifestos at the breakfast table. Like so much of parenting, it’s in the details of how you carry yourself and talk about things day-to-day. Here are a few things I’m trying to practice as my children grow up:

Tickling time-out

Understanding consent is something moms can work with kids on from a young age. After reading this article from the Good Men Project about tickling, I had a good pause and realized how early opportunities to practice “no means no” start with me.

There’s nothing like the sound of a toddler’s giggle. But when a kid says STOP! during a tickle fest, you can help teach consent by stopping right away.

Hopefully a zillion years later when things are getting hot and heavy in the back of a minivan while your son is supposed to be out to the movies, he’ll already have those lessons about consent engrained in his mind.

Girls roles in imaginary play

We have a play kitchen and Lego sets, and I want both of my kids to feel comfortable being imaginative with either. I try to be careful not to distinguish between ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ toys.

One interesting development is that when my son wants to role play from shows like PJ Masks, he struggles with how to address the fact that there’s only one female character in the cast. Should mom be Owlette, or should his sister?

I try to emphasize with my son that when we’re using our imaginations, it’s a great opportunity to choose whoever you want to be – although I’ll admit he’s not totally buying that. At any rate, I try to help his little sister come to his rescue just as often as he swoops in to save her from an imaginary monster.

Choosing books with strong female characters

My baby shower was book-themed, and our home overflows with great titles that were gifted, or ones we’ve purchased. I strongly believe books about girls are not just for female audiences. A few of my son’s favorites are Rosie Revere, Engineer, The Paper Bag Princess, Uni the Unicorn, and anything from the classic Madeline series. A Mighty Girl has a great list here.

Like all moms, I’m not sure I’m doing everything right. But when my friends asked my three-year old son “What are women’s rights?” and he immediately responded “Human rights!” I felt like maybe I was on the right track.

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Brianne Sanchez is a writer and community engagement professional who calls herself an “Iowan by Choice.” A transplant from Chicagoland, she moved to Des Moines in 2007 and acquired a house, husband, dog, son Emmett (June 2013) and Eileen (October 2015), which means she now has deep roots in this place. Brianne blogs at and is a frequent contributor at DSM Magazine. When she finds free time, she spends it crafting, reading, hiking, biking and volunteering, but never cleaning.



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