How do you raise a child in a feminist manner?

// 20 June 2010

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One of the things I was certain of, even throughout my pregnancy, was that I wanted to instil a sense of fairness and equality in my child. I didn’t really know how I was going to do it, but I had some basic ideas – the clothes he would wear, the toys he would play with, the way I would explain the world to him.

I planned to dress my son in gender-neutral clothing, offer him choices of trousers or dresses, that sort of thing. However, my ex-partner and I split up when my son was eight months old, and I get the feeling he’d hit the roof if he came to pick up my son dressed in a floral frock! I have to admit that part of this is also protective; I don’t want other children (or adults) to make fun of my son for what he’s wearing, so I dress him mostly in conventionally masculine clothing.

On the play issue, I’ve fared slightly better. My son loves all things wheeled; cars, trains, even bin lorries. But he also has his baby doll, Tommy, complete with pink toy pushchair, his wooden toy kitchen and tea set and the myriad cuddly toys which are slowly taking over my house and which must be looked after at all costs. I encourage him to play in the garden kicking a ball around, but also spend time with him baking cakes and letting him ‘help’ with cooking dinner.

But clothes and toys do not a future feminist make. The most important thing, to me, is the way I raise him, the conversations we have and the examples I and the other adults in his life set him regarding gender stereotypes.

One of the things I’ve noticed as he grows older is that he’s started noticing sex. Before, he knew the words ‘penis’ and ‘vulva’ and that assigned-males have one and assigned-females the other and that was the only difference he knew of between men and women. Lately – with influence no doubt from preschool friends and non-feminist family members – he has started categorising some things as specifically ‘male’ or ‘female’.

At a recent craft day at the museum he had to wear an apron. I picked up the nearest one, which happened to be pink. He screwed his face up and said “Not that one, Mummy, that’s a girls’ one!” He couldn’t articulate exactly why it was a girls’ one, but he ‘knew’ it was. He tells me “Mummies don’t go to work”. I work hard to counter these newly-formed opinions by telling him colours are for everyone, and that many Mummies do work – and many Daddies stay home! Unfortunately it seems that the ideas he’s getting from outside influences are having more of an effect on him than my counter-arguments.

My partner and I try to model an egalitarian relationship to my son. I buy him books which feature strong female characters (if you’re not a parent you might not know that those are few and far-between) and try to monitor the programmes he watches on Cbeebies because so much of it is male-centred with (white, cis, currently-abled) male protagonists. I encourage him to value things which are traditionally seen as ‘feminine’ as well as those seen as ‘masculine’ and to not think of one as inherently more worthwhile than the other.

But it’s so hard. Babies are born with no preconceptions of gender. They don’t know that their genitalia means they will be expected to look, dress, and act in a certain way. It is only what we do as role models that shapes a child’s view on sex and gender.

And no matter how hard I try, there are still so many other factors coming into play – his other family members, his friends at preschool, the characters he sees in books and films and television programmes. I am not raising my son in a void, and it’s incredibly difficult to undo what he’s been told and shown of “what boys do” and “what girls do”. I really envy the Swedish couple who are raising their child gender-neutrally; it looks like one of the only ways to ensure a child grows up with no preconceived notions of how zie should be based on zir genitals.

So that’s my attempt, still ongoing, at raising a feminist-minded boy. I’m sure I haven’t covered everything (not least because I have a word limit here!), and I’m sure there’s much more I could be doing, so I want to ask – how are you raising your children into the next generation of feminists?


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Comments From You

Michael // Posted 20 June 2010 at 7:01 pm

I like this.

I wish you the best, speaking as someone who didn’t get this growing up. I especially liked this part, “I planned to dress my son in gender-neutral clothing, offer him choices of trousers or dresses, that sort of thing.”

Penelope Friday // Posted 20 June 2010 at 7:02 pm

I think I’ve banged on about the “there aren’t some things for girls/women and other things for boys/men – anyone can do anything they want!” to Austin, my son. (I just asked him this question, directly and with no hint of my feelings, but clearly I’ve indoctrinated him reasonably well and he said “no, that’s silly”.)

As far as clothes are concerned, I stick to trouser-type clothes (I include leggings) and then let Austin choose which ones he wants. I pick them up from the supposed ‘girls’ section as well as the ‘boys’ section, and almost always he picks so-called ‘girls” trousers. His long hair is also his own choice: we’ve asked him if he wants it cut shorter, and he says “no, I like it like this.”

So, basically, I’ve tried to teach him the general rule that everything is for everyone, no matter of gender (or indeed race or sexuality or disability, or… you get the drift) and then have let him choose for himself.

I know things may change when he starts school (he’s currently at pre-school) next year. But I’m really thrilled with my feminist son so far :)

Matt // Posted 20 June 2010 at 7:05 pm

Its like, I think you are completely right to raise your child in this way but most of the details I see here are about things like clothing and toys. Its not that I don’t think these things matter, micro inequities count too. But what are you doing about the more basic things? I bet you are going a much longer way in informing how he interacts with women and girls and how they have exactly the same rights in those interaction that he has. That seems like a much more important win than convincing him that boys can wear skirts too. I’m interested in this I was just wondering if you could touch on some of the more subjective and pervasive things.

Anji // Posted 20 June 2010 at 7:12 pm

Matt, you’re absolutely right. Had I had the space I would have gone into more detail about the ways in which I am teaching him about interacting with girls and women, about informed consent and equality in all aspects of life. I’m hoping other people will chime in with how they are doing these things, too.

Jessica Smith // Posted 20 June 2010 at 8:55 pm


I have 2 girls and am also finding that the outside influences are extremely strong. I also have to catch myself – if I don’t think about it I suddenly realise that I am encouraging the stereotyping too. For example – I recently realised that the vast majority of my 4 year-olds playdates had been with other girls, when I really want to encourage her to play with boys too.

Some of the things that we are doing that I’m really pleased with is making sure our 2 girls stay really active. They do gym, they swim and we are often out at playgrounds. I have resisted the pull of the ballet class, and am searching for a football group that they can go to.

I am also often torn between deliberately censoring some things (e.g. disney films) and wanting them to be able to talk about these cultural things with their friends at school – who obviously have all watched them.

I am hoping as they grow up we will be able to have more serious discussions, and for now I try not to worry too much about the pink stuff!

Shannon Bryony // Posted 20 June 2010 at 9:21 pm

I tried to raise my son to be egalitarian, too — back in the ’70s and ’80s — but I found that outside influences were much more effective in not only turning him into a sexist, but also a racist, even though we had several African-American friends. Parents can try as hard as they can to buck the unfair socialization their children go through at school and with their friends, but it’s a losing battle.

annifrangipani // Posted 20 June 2010 at 10:18 pm

I don’t have kids but I do have a friend who is a single parent and I’m reasonably involved with them. Her kids are dual heritage, like me, so I try really hard to find them books featuring Black characters. These are really hard to find in shops, and I’m not sure White parents think of them for their children, but I think it’s important to show diversity to children at an early age. I can recommend the Amazing Grace series and Spike Lee has also written children’s picture books.

I have three nephews who are fully paid up members of the patriarchy aged 5,3 and 1 but that is a post for another time. They don’t even talk to me because I am a woman!

Citrusse // Posted 20 June 2010 at 10:39 pm

I could only recommend the book “That’s my boy!” by Jenny Murray, a feminist and mother of 2 boys. Great book. Borrowed it at my local library. Includes interview with Diane Abbott (feminist and mother of one boy).

Denny Vaccaro // Posted 20 June 2010 at 10:50 pm

I’m a 21 year old in college, and a long way off from having kids, but the challenge of raising my future children to hold egalitarian ideals is one of the things that I worry most about. In particular, I’m nervous about the balance of resisting gendering without forcing my child to do things for the sole purpose of genderfuck. I want to raise an independent child, not a child who I use as a tool for my politics.

earwicga // Posted 20 June 2010 at 11:54 pm


Would you have ‘resisted the pull of the ballet class’ if you had sons? Ballet is one of the best forms of exercise going, and to reject it because you believe it represents a binary end is at best, foolish.

Shannon Drury // Posted 21 June 2010 at 1:39 am

Raising feminist kids is a CONSTANT struggle under patriarchy. It involves questioning everything and taking nothing for granted. My ten-year-old son is already a pro at catching stereotypes–more so than his 5-year-old sister, who wants nothing more than the same Disney Princess makeup kit as the rest of the girls on the block.

Hanna Torsh // Posted 21 June 2010 at 5:41 am

I love that people are talking about this because I know that men raised by feminist parents are the best men I know in terms of their treatment of women and their sense of their own masculinity as being positive and flexible.

One of the most important things you can do for children is to offer alterntatives to the dominant discourse which is so sexist and reductionist – girls wear pink, boys play with trucks etc. It may feel like a losing battle but I think it does give children who really need alternatives more options.

Sheila // Posted 21 June 2010 at 8:41 am

Thanks for a post about this. My children’s attitude to equal rights is slanted by having a single working mother. They laughed like the martians on the old Smash advert when I told them women didn’t have the vote until less than a century ago – they found it so utterly unbelievable that women weren’t given equal rights. My children believe social contribution whether it’s through paid work or active social parenting. The other month I told my 9 year old son that his step mother had lost her job. He was speechless with anger. Wow, I thought, he understands that she was discriminated against in the workplace. Not quite, when he could speak he said, “That’s completely unacceptable, Mummy. You work. Why should she sponge off Daddy? Tell her to get a job”. That’s a nine year old boy’s view of feminism.

Elena // Posted 21 June 2010 at 9:17 am

I was horrified to read this piece.

Femine and masculine roles are hardwired into children I’m afraid. It is inconvenient I know but it is scientifically proven and true and isn’t open to further rational debate.

Trying to force small children to do things they instinctively ‘know’ are wrong (like a boy wearing pink) is therefore child abuse in my opinion. You really should have this little boy taken away from you. You’re going to do him harm in the head.


Lucy Nichols // Posted 21 June 2010 at 9:29 am

We have a 4 year old boy and 3 year old girl (plus a baby boy). We have tried to raise our older children in as gender neutral way as possible but it is very hard to exclude the influence of the rest of society. We started putting our daughter mainly in trousers, mostly because tights are fiddly, but usually now she chooses dresses. We avoided getting her dolls, but other people did and they are her favourite toys. At the same time though we didn’t avoid getting our son cars and trains. So there is a flaw there. We shouldn’t be rejecting things that are considered feminine. We should be valuing things considered both feminine and masculine equally. Feminism should be about advocating choice and opportunity, not about labelling those things traditionally considered feminine as less worthy as this is a very dangerous attitude. Therefore we wouldn’t avoid them doing ballet, but rather offer a choice of ballet AND football to each of them. (Horray for Peppa Pig’s dad who is very good at ballet you know!) Allowing our children choices has meant so far they have largely followed gender sterotypes, but they do play with each others toys as well.

Our 4 year old boy has just reached the point now where he says things like ‘pink is for girls’. I can’t blame him for thinking that when that message is pushed so forcefully upon him. We just have to counter these comments as best we can. They are still very young though and it is a bit early for them to able to think critically. We have absolute faith however in our ability over the long term to successfully indoctrinate all our children into a feminist mindset :-)

Anji // Posted 21 June 2010 at 9:52 am

Elena – well aren’t you just delightful? I’d love for you to come and meet my son. That’s a genuine offer. Come and meet him and see what a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child he is, comfortable in his own skin and secure in his own gender identity.

Femine and masculine roles are hardwired into children I’m afraid. It is inconvenient I know but it is scientifically proven and true and isn’t open to further rational debate.

Actually, the opposite has been scientifically proven over and over again. There’s just as much scientific evidence for ‘my side’ as there is for ‘your side’; perhaps even more.

And did you not know that pink was originally considered to be a boy’s colour? From Wikipedia: In Western culture, the practice of assigning pink to an individual gender began in the 1920s. From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because being related to red it was the more masculine and decided color, while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty color, or related to the Virgin Mary. Since the 1940s, the societal norm was inverted; pink became considered appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century.

If gender segregation of colour didn’t begin until 1920, and it was originally considered to be a boy’s colour, then your argument of colours being ‘hard wired’ into children’s brains falls totally flat, I’m afraid!

Ailbhe // Posted 21 June 2010 at 9:57 am

Since a colour-preference is hardwired from before birth, obviously any pink things she offers him will be rejected, just like men and boys have ALWAYS rejected pink things, right?

Sheila // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:01 am


I hope I can be first to take issue with what you’ve said and how offensive you’ve been. How dare you say the child should be taken away from a mother for dressing a boy in pink. That’s a very offensive and distressing thing to say and you should apologise. Would you object to a girl dressed in blue (as most school uniform seems to demand)? My boys knit, and love planting flower seeds, and sewing – especially with a machine, they love the doll’s house I sexistly bought for my daughter (except she wanted it) and even use their pocket money to buy things to put in it. On the other hand, they have an arsenal of light sabers and foam bullet spewing guns that even Tony Blair would have been correct to be scared of. One of my sons puts on a kilt whenever he can – like book days at schools and fancy dress parties. Pre world war II girls were discouraged from learning languages as these were seen as too hard for them. Post-war, the job market demanded other skills so girls could learn languages and lo! were discovered to be good at them just when they were valued less. There was nothing hard wired about this. I have frequently handed clothes down from my daughter to my sons. But I guess that’s because I don’t like sexualised clothes on either sex so the clothes were asexual in cut – no flounces and frills. My daughter hasn’t worn pink since she was 5. Curiously I do notice clothing shops have pink for girls under 5, red for 5-7 year olds and lilacs/lavenders for 7 upwards. Lots of girls I know have followed this pattern. Is it hard-wired? Probably only in as much as they all want to look the same and want to progress in colours to show they are growing.

I feel rotten to say this because my children give me so much pleasure that I would wish motherhood on everyone but Elena, if you really think a boy wearing pink is child abuse then I hope that you never have children.

Jemima Aslana // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:12 am


Gender roles are anything BUT scientifically proven as hard-wired. Unless you count the bogus science evo-psych. If you go by actual real psychology, you’ll find that gender roles are entirely socialised, and also vary a LOT between cultures. If it were as hard-wired as you say, how do you explain the Scottish kilt and the pink jerseys of certain male football teams? No. Just no.

Also, your argument severely erases the experiences of many (if not all) trans people in this world, and especially trans women at that. And that is incredibly nasty. They exist, even if you do not want to acknowledge that fact.

And suggesting that Anji has her little boy taken away is simply cruel in the extreme. Anji seems to me to be an extremely conscientious parent, who put a lot of thought, time and care into doing what’s right by her son. That’s more than can be said for my own father, who has serious issues with anything deviating from the norm, and THAT, m’dear, has hurt me far more than my mother’s insistence that I be treated as an individual.

Siobhan // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:17 am

I am 19 and don’t plan on having children for quite a while, but I do often worry about raising them with egalitarian views. While my parents and most friends also hold these values, just being around by extended family tells me it won’t be easy. On many occasions I have heard an aunt exclaim how we give dolls to girls and cars to boys “for a reason” – though they are never able to articulate precisely what the reason is.

Elena, no one ever said they tried to “force” the child to wear pink. They were given a choice. Also, these things are “hardwired” into children by society and gender stereotyping.

To suggest that any person’s child should be taken away from them simply because of the way they choose to dress their child is appalling, and suggesting that simply dressing a boy in a supposedly feminine colour is even more ridiculous.

Mephit // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:25 am

While in the west, pink is assigned to women & blue to men, in Thailand and other Asian countries, pink is popular with men.

Colour-preference hard-wired into the brain = nonsense. Socialised norm, maybe.

JenniferRuth // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:39 am

Elena can’t be for real – I’m calling troll. I doubt someone that misinformed and inflammatory would post here. Even the occasional anti-feminists around here have more coherent comments than that! Remember, there is no point arguing with a troll!

I don’t have children but I do have 5 nieces and 2 nephews. From what I have observed outside influences is very, very strong. After all, kids don’t grow up in a vacuum as Anji points out! When I see my nieces and nephews I try to slip feminist rhetoric into the conversation when it fits. I don’t force it but, for example, say I watched a Barbie movie with my youngest nieces (they love Barbie) I try to talk about it with them afterwards. Like, what do they think Barbie should do after she marries the prince? Or do you think it is realistic to fall in love with someone immediately? Things like that. Sometimes I get surprising answers! Barbie should be a pirate, for example :) If they give me a “girls do this, boys do that!” sort of answer then I ask them why they think it should be like that and point out examples in the real world that don’t fit the assumption.

As an Aunt I can only be there some of the time and I would never presume to think I have as much influence as a parent or know what it is like to be a parent. Still, these little conversations seem to work quite well!

Today is my eldest nieces 16th birthday. I’m pondering what feminist book to buy her. I think it’s time :)

Elmo // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:41 am

Before the 20th century, boys were not only dressed in pink, but dressed as girls-all children were considered female up to the age of about 5 i think.

Here we go:

And since most men pre 20’s grew up to be fully fledged members of the patriarchy, it obviously did no harm to their “manliness”!

Elmo // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:44 am

In Scotland, there is *nothing* more manly than the kilt!

Juliet // Posted 21 June 2010 at 11:04 am

Interesting piece. I think you’re doing a great job, Anji, and bringing up children (especially to be feminist) is the most difficult job of all, I think. I agree with others that outside influences can be incredibly powerful.

I also agree that it might be good to offer ballet as well as football. earwicga, is right, ballet is one of the best forms of exercise, it makes your body very supple and even if you don’t do exercise for a while, when you start again your body remembers. Apart from doing ballet, going to watch it can also give fantastic pleasure. I’m really glad my Mum sent me to ballet class. I also love tennis and swimming.

As for football, well, isn’t it the case that in the early part of the 20th century women’s football really took off (most factories and other workplaces had their own women’s footie teams). They used to play at big grounds and everything, then the FA decided women’s football was getting too much attention and…we know the rest!

Thanks for this piece, and good luck. Don’t take any notice of the stupid and cruel comment made by Elena, who clearly has some big issues of her own that I hope she will work through!

Jessica Smith // Posted 21 June 2010 at 11:11 am


I agree. I decided that gym would be equally good in terms of exercise as ballet, but is a little less pink and frilly, and has more equal numbers of boys and girls in the class. The gym class they go to also has 2 or 3 really great male teachers. As their nursery staff is entirely female this makes a big difference for me. There are a few boys who go to the local ballet class which is great, and who knows, when they are a bit older they may well decide they want to do ballet themselves.

tamasine // Posted 21 June 2010 at 1:32 pm

That was a really interesting article, and it sounds like you’re doing a great job :)

I don’t have children (and I’m not really planning on having any either!), but I was raised a feminist way by a single mother. I think that the best thing that she did for me was mostly involving choice; a lot of the time I chose not to wear dresses as a child, even though it’s what my nan thought that I ought to wear. My favourite coat when I was smaller was a brown duffle coat. I wasn’t always dressed in pink, although now I will wear pink (and have recently discovered that sometimes it makes a nice change to wear a dress instead of trousers all the time…) and I will wear a whole different variety of trousers. I was also interested in playing with cars and had a mini garage thing (still got the collection of matchbox cars somewhere…) but I also liked playing with dolls and teddies. My time spent watching tv was certainly limited and I guess that’s probably what has had the most (least, should really be the right word!) influence on me for gender ideas and roles. I guess all you can do is keep on talking about these type of issues, especially as he gets older, and constantly offering different information about different people/cultures/history – and almost continuing that option of choice – so pretty much as Penelope Friday said

I’m seeing some (very) younger members of my family later in the week; I’ll see how they’re doing with gender roles…

A J // Posted 21 June 2010 at 1:59 pm

Sounds like you’re doing a great job, Anji!

The only time I become uneasy about attempts at gender-neutral child rearing is when, rather than being about resisting gender pressures, it becomes more about enforcing choices on the child. So I’m all in favour of encouraging daughters to play football, for instance, but I wouldn’t be the least bit annoyed if they really wanted to do ballet instead (or as well as), and certainly wouldn’t prevent them from doing so. A son who loves playing rugby isn’t necessarily any less successfully raised in a feminist manner than a daughter who loves the same. You can do your best to help them resist pressures upon them, but ultimately you do eventually have to let them make their own choices, and support them in what they do.

Anna // Posted 21 June 2010 at 2:08 pm

I’m raising a 2 year old daughter & really identify with the piece & the comments (except for Elena, obviously. Although I think she might have been tongue-in-cheek?). I’ve noticed recently my daughter starting to gravitate towards the pink choices, which (since i don’t believe she is “hardwired” to do so) makes me sadly realise how quickly she picks up on the subtleties of gender stereotyping. There’s a very good book on this from the early 80s, called “That’s a Good Girl”.

rejinl // Posted 21 June 2010 at 3:21 pm

I used to know a family who chose gender-neutral names for their children – don’t remember their names now, but they were the most liberated kids I knew. In fact I wasn’t sure of the kindergartener’s gender for most of the year that she was my student. She played with both boys and girls, dressed in her own (very creative) way, didn’t have long frilly hair like most of the other girls.

And she seemed very happy.

Amanda // Posted 21 June 2010 at 6:12 pm

This is a great post. Thank you Anji for starting the ball rolling on a revealing conversation – the comments have been such a good read.

Brought up by my wonderful feminist mother, I wasn’t allowed to wear pink or ruffles or watch TV or play with Barbies — and yet, even when I was younger, I could see that my mother struggled with inequities in her relationship, her own body issues and definitions of femininity, not to mention the balancing act that is being a working mother.

Not wearing a ruffled pink dress or playing with barbies, although well intentioned, didn’t really help address these issues, nor did it encourage any type of conversation around what it means to be a human in our world.

I now have two young girls. I especially loved @JenniferRuth’s advice. We live in a world that seems to thrive on gender distinction. I hope that we can help our children to break this down by questioning everything and providing a supportive environment for discussion and playfulness and alternatives. As those of us doing this now, it’s not always as easy as it sounds!

I was so encouraged by everyone’s amazing responses. What diverse and wonderful kids (and would-be kids) we all have!

Alex T // Posted 21 June 2010 at 6:14 pm

Hi Anji!

Great to have this discussion going, well done.

Well, my son will be a year old soon, and so far he’s been dressed in pink, bought dolls to play with, etc etc. I haven’t got much more to add since he’s not at an age yet where he notices these things or makes many choices, but I have to mention how much blue we’ve been given! Friends and family are under strict instructions to avoid blue clothes for the imminent birthday – but also to avoid ‘sludge colour’, since to me it looks like we’re trying to dress our boys as soldiers (seriously, there is so much camouflage gear out there for little boys. I’ve nothing against anyone joining the army, but I’m totally against pushing our boys into it and the association with violence little boys then have), and also clothes with slogans on about how horrible he is (‘here comes trouble’ etc., as opposed to the ‘perfect princess’ slogans on girls’ clothes). Because he’s not. He’s sweet and lovely.

It was a post on the feministmums forum that alerted me to the slogans issue, by the way! :)

Mike // Posted 21 June 2010 at 7:00 pm

All I know is that when I was growing up, I wanted dolls, I wanted princess toys and to feel safe. I didn’t get that. I got guns action figures and sent to a military school. I learned to live with it although it was hard. Now I’m 23 and learning my place in the world. It isn’t about forcing anything but about giving choice. That’s the important part.

Rose // Posted 21 June 2010 at 7:26 pm

I don’t have kids – but I do work with them residentially. And every school, every term, the boys will find an excuss to start dressing up as ‘girls’. Sometimes they are such sterotypes that they look nothing like the actual girls (well, what does that say?), but when they get the girls to dress them up, they fall right in!

With 12 year olds, if they wear the same clothes, and comb (reasonable length) hair in a ‘girly’ way (add a flower clip), then there is no way we can pick the boys from a crowd of girls.

I think thats a great experience for the kids – they realise that they are the same after all, and can compete against each other.

But one thing I find really interesting is the reactions of some teachers. Some really hate it! They say its not natural, and refuse to look at them (once they’ve been told ‘its a boy’).

Whats natural is the child as canvas, was unnatural is how we (society) paint them!

Anji // Posted 21 June 2010 at 7:29 pm

Thanks for all the responses, everyone! A friend on Dreamwidth pointed out that thus far, the conversation about what people are doing to raise their children in a feminist way have been mainly centred around ‘stuff’ – the toys they play with, the clothes they wear, etc.

I’d like to know how else you are raising your children in a feminist way, the conversations you’re having, the ideals you’re instilling in them, the lessons you’re teaching them.

I’m not just asking to make good conversation – though so far it’s been excellent! – but to garner ideas for when my son grows a little older. At 4y9m he’s a little young for big feminist lessons, but certainly as he grows older I am going to want to have a good ‘arsenal’ available to me for when various situations arise. :o)

rbrtjoiner // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:01 pm

Very interesting comments here (as always!). I came late to feminism – after 3 kids, a divorce & a degree (in that order!). When they were younger, I admit I fell into gender stereotyping my kids (clothes, toys), but as money was short, they often shared clothes/toys (2 girls & a boy) with no great ramefications. As they got older & I developed my feminism, I tried to teach them to question everything (something the teachers did not always appreciate!). They always helped around the house & supported my decision to go back to education. It wasn’t always easy but now they are 16, 19 & 20 and more independent & confident than I ever was at their age. My advice? Teach your kids to question the status quo – but always with evidence to back up their argument; insist that they respect everybody, regardless of their gender, race, sexuality etc; tell them it’s ok to have opinions, as long as you don’t hurt other people (no one likes a know-it-all); and finally – be true to yourself – you don’t have to follow the crowd!

Feminist Avatar // Posted 21 June 2010 at 10:34 pm

Because I am a tedious historian- boys were not seen as girls in the past until they were five. Read some of the letters sent to celebrate the birth of a son (especially an heir) compared to that of a girl if you have any doubts on this! But, boys and girls were dressed the same as infants (often in long dresses- but men wore these to bed and in Scotland under their kilts, so this isn’t particularly gendered), and were often referred to as ‘it’ until they were older toddlers.

I never had an explicitly feminist upbringing- I had more barbies and sindys than any child would ever need and I loved playing with them (wasn’t too bothered with baby-dolls). I saw every disney cartoon and came from a religious family so had a fair whack of religious indoctrination on gender roles.

But, the thing that stuck with me was that despite this both my parents treated me as if I could do or be anything I wanted to be (as long as they weren’t paying for it) and also my mother and other female relatives used to tell me all these stories of women in our family who had overcame the constraints of their gender- or the opposite when they couldn’t. So, I had stories of relatives who defied parental expectations to have a career- or another winning a scholarship but not being allowed to take it by her father because she was a woman. And, I think it gave me a strong sense of how gender shaped life outcomes and how desperately unfair that could be (even when they were victorious)- and that is what shaped how I viewed the world. I also think that can be applied across to other contexts such as race, disability, sexuality etc.

I think possibly the most important thing to teach your child is how to recognise privilege and structural constraints and that they should try to do something about inequality.

Rosalynd // Posted 22 June 2010 at 9:47 am

Gah I knew I’d read this somewhere!

Pink was considered a ‘boys’ color until the 1940’s as it’s a pale version of the ‘War’ color red. And blue was for girls because of the Virgin!

But even though this is pointed out, there is then some rubbishy pseudo-science about girls naturally liking pink because it’s like fruit, about two sentances later. Oh WELL!

earwicga // Posted 22 June 2010 at 10:25 am

I’d like to know how else you are raising your children in a feminist way, the conversations you’re having, the ideals you’re instilling in them, the lessons you’re teaching them.

That everybody is different but equal. That communication & empathy are key skills. As for how to do this – I choose to bring up my own children rather than them being brought up in child-care institutions. That way I can take up all the opportunities that are offered every day to counter the crap society throws at them via their peers, schools, media etc. A little often is far more effective than ‘lessons’ or ‘indoctrination’.

As for toys etc. The rule of thumb is there is no such thing as ‘boys’ toys or ‘girls’ toys. There are just toys. Ditto for books, clothes, colours, activities, jobs etc. When gendered crap comes up it is helpful to note how unfair it is that boys/girls are considered by society not to be allowed that particular thing. Children really appreciate notions of fairness. Apart from all that – follow their lead, provide ALL opportunities within your means to develop your child, so their particular tastes/abilities/interests are catered for. If anything is banned then it becomes all the more desirable. And use charity shops!

Elmo // Posted 22 June 2010 at 11:46 am

I think “different but equal” can be rather dangerous-thats how people always tell me they dont see the point of feminism- “men and women are different but equal, so what are you complaining about?”-It creates this idea that we ARE different-boys like blue and fighting, girls like pink and dolls-when in fact, we are much, much more similar than society would lead us to believe. The same goes for people of different races, sexualities, abilities-all these differences are superficial. I think the best way to teach children about equality would be to explain that we are all humans and all humans are equal.

earwicga // Posted 22 June 2010 at 12:17 pm

Elmo – try bringing up twins and telling them that they are the same regardless of their particular skills and abilities – then compare their skills and abilities to everyone else’s, as they naturally do. Doesn’t work. Everybody is valuable and everybody is different to each other.

Sheila // Posted 22 June 2010 at 12:22 pm

Great posts so far on this. Whatever you “teach” a child through telling them, they will do as you do, not as you say. Let them see you treating people fairly and equally and with respect, let them see you dealing with anger in a mature manner and they will begin to master theirs, give them responsibility and they will accede to it, let them see you reading books and they will read, helping neighbours out, showing patience and forgiveness and tolerance. Don’t tell them how to be, just do it. Wear pink, wear blue, wear trousers, wear high heels, learn to shoot and climb trees, cook and sew, let them see there are no experiences where you won’t give a go and they’ll be broad minded and adventurous too. Have farting competitions with them and indulge their childish humour until you cry laughing too. And cuddle them. Let them be proud of you and they’ll learn to be proud of themselves.

Elmo // Posted 22 June 2010 at 12:25 pm

I wasnt saying everyone is the same, merely that our differences should not define us

Jan // Posted 22 June 2010 at 2:06 pm

Very interesting article, especially since this is a subject I’ve been thinking about for the past year or so. I haven’t any children of my own, but I have a nephew (3 months old). Before he was born, his parents chose a name for him, a gender-neutral name that would have applied to a boy or girl (I’m from India where prenatal sex determination is illegal on paper) and they are keen that he doesn’t get pushed into doing things that are traditionally male just because he’s a boy and miss out on other things because he isn’t a girl. At the same time, as far as I can tell, they are largely preparing to toe the line and “raise a boy” because they don’t really see an alternative. I’m concerned about my role in his life, where I can help him become the sort of person he chooses to be rather than a role society prescribes for him, but without contradicting his parents. I know that sounds contradictory in itself! His parents are definitely not traditionalists, but I already see the indoctrination happening from outside influences in the kind of clothes and toys he’s getting and all that. (Interesting how the pink/blue for girls/boys has been pretty thoroughly exported to middle-class India. It was never a convention here, but now privileged little boys are turning up their noses at pink clothes though it isn’t uncommon to see grown men in pink!).

Juliet // Posted 22 June 2010 at 2:48 pm

Sheila, yes. Children really do learn by the example of those around them. I see this every day. Sometimes it’s frightening to see how vulnerable and impressionable children can be.

Also yes, let them be proud of themselves, have respect for themselves and others. That’s so important. It’s amazing how many adults just don’t believe, deep down, that they deserve to be liked or treated well. A lot of this is because of how they experienced childhood. When you don’t think you matter all that much, it can open the door to so many bad things.

Have to say though, I would draw the line at the farting competitions!

aimee // Posted 23 June 2010 at 7:50 am

I had a bit of a giggle at Elena. THat’s pathetic really. I actually think it’s more likely to be child abuse if you indoctrinate your kids to believe wholeheartedly in rigid stereotypes. It’s totally narrowing their options and horizons and is generally just limiting.

Mostly we just try and be ourselves and bring up Felix to be himself, by which I mean who we and he wants to be rather than who he’s told to be by society. At the moment I work and my partner stays at home. It has been the reverse before. Whatever works. We’re tryig to teach him that it doesn’t matter what gender you are. We do what works at the time. He loves cars and Buzz Lightyear. He also has a massive pink house, ‘cos that’s the one he wanted. He loves to cook and play with his kitchen. He’s not a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’. He’s just him. It’s always gonna be difficult to keep him away from harmful stereotypes and the influence of the media and his peers but hopefully if we show him that its better to just be y0ourself then he won’t be bothered about gender stereotypes, ‘cos it’s so much less hassle just to be you and do what you want and what’s best for you.

Ruth // Posted 23 June 2010 at 8:43 am

Anji as usual excellent post.

Many people have chimed in with suggestions on how to avoid gender stereotyping and teach respect, and I do think these are key things.

I do, however, think it’s more complicated than that too.

If we want to raise children in a feminist / anti-kyriarchal manner, we have to start – I think – by treating them in a non-kyriarchal manner. By not abusing our adult privilege. By respecting them. (For example, how can we children to grow up believing that “no means no” when, if they say “no!” we tell them “you don’t really mean that!” or laugh at them or ignore them and do it anyway?) By everyone – not just parents but everyone – treating children like people, just people with age-specific support requirements.

I wrote a piece about raising a child in kyriarchy here, a while back now.

And Arwyn from Raising my Boychick wrote an excellent (better) follow up piece here.

Sheila // Posted 23 June 2010 at 1:03 pm


Spot on.

nick // Posted 23 June 2010 at 2:35 pm

I am a new dad now …5 week old son …

he wears blue baby clothes , he also wears lemon, white and red clothes.

He does not have any pink clothes …..

does that make me a ‘bad’ dad ???

If I raise him to be respectful, polite and kind to others am I raising him in a feminist way ??? Is the feminist way the best way ro raise my son ???

When he grows up and he wants play with cars/trains/action men/football , should I stop him ????? If he then grows up and becomes a fireman/pilot/mechanic/MP then is that no ok ?????? If he wants to support/help male cancer patients or male victims of domestic violence then thats good isn’t it ??????

as long as myself and his mother do our best for him, raise and nuture him to our best abilities then thats what we’ll do ……feminist way, masculine way….

do is matter which way ????

Anji // Posted 23 June 2010 at 2:50 pm

Nick – I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, so to speak.

It doesn’t make you a bad dad to not dress your baby in pink clothing; what I’m saying is that all children, regardless of gender, should be raised in an egalitarian manner. For some, this means not avoiding gendered clothing, but not sticking to clothing aimed at one gender. The point we’re trying to get across with clothing is that it’s ridiculous that there is “boys” clothing and “girls” clothing, and that all clothing should be for all children regardless of sex.

If I raise him to be respectful, polite and kind to others am I raising him in a feminist way ??? Is the feminist way the best way ro raise my son ???

If you raise him to be respectful, polite and kind to others regardless of their gender, if you raise him believing that girls are not worse (or better!) than boys, if you raise him to honour women in the same way he honours men, then you are raising him in a feminist way. And of course I believe that yes, a feminist upbringing is the best upbringing a parent can offer!

When he grows up and he wants play with cars/trains/action men/football , should I stop him ????? If he then grows up and becomes a fireman/pilot/mechanic/MP then is that no ok ??????

That’s not what we’re saying at all. What we’re saying is that discouraging children from playing with toys aimed at the ‘wrong’ sex is counter-productive. Equally counter-productive would be to encourage children into only playing with toys aimed at the ‘wrong’ sex. So to tell a girl she can only play with dolls/toy kitchens/whatever or to tell a boy he can only play with cars/Action Men/footballs would be wrong. But telling your child he can’t play with those things would be equally wrong. The idea is to allow the child to play with whatever he chooses, without telling him “You can’t have that, that’s a girl’s toy”.

If he wants to support/help male cancer patients or male victims of domestic violence then thats good isn’t it ??????

Well yes, of course. Nobody is suggesting that we tell our children to focus solely on “women’s issues” but that we teach them equality and fairness.

as long as myself and his mother do our best for him, raise and nuture him to our best abilities then thats what we’ll do ……feminist way, masculine way….

do is matter which way ????

I think it does matter which way. The only way we are going to achieve women’s liberation is by raising our daughters and our sons in a feminist manner.

I’d like you to think about this quote: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” by Gloria Steinem

It means that at the moment, we think it’s acceptable for little girls to wear jeans. Tomboyishness is accepted in little girls, they are ‘allowed’ to play football and climb trees and do traditionally ‘boyish’ things. What we need to do now is to level the playing field and equally accept the desires of little boys to wear pink/dresses if they so desire, to play house and cooking, to own dolls. It’s not about elevating women and telling boys they have to be like girls, but about embracing the masculine and the feminine in all children regardless of their biological sex.

sianmarie // Posted 23 June 2010 at 3:08 pm

Nick – exactly what anji said.

my mum once saw a mother shouting at her small son because he picked a doll off the toy shelf at the supermarket and said he wanted one for his birthday. but she shouted at him because it was ‘for girls’.

its about breaking down these stereotypes, that girls and boys should be treated in different ways and that ‘girly’ is an insult but ‘tomboy’ is ok (altho, getting less and less ok).

it’s about raising your son and daughter to be respectful and confident and positive and able to be the best person they can be.

and ending this silly pink blue divide and daft bio determinist theories!

earwicga // Posted 23 June 2010 at 8:18 pm


as long as myself and his mother do our best for him, raise and nuture him to our best abilities then thats what we’ll do ……feminist way, masculine way….

do is matter which way ????

Feminist and masculine aren’t exclusive terms.

Charlotte // Posted 23 June 2010 at 11:27 pm

Really good topic, and something I’m very interested in with Feminism.

I don’t have children but I recently briefly looked after my 1, 2 and 4-year-old boy cousins and noticed – even in that hour I had them – just how ingrained gender stereotypes are with them. I picked up a children’s birthday cake book (which is loaded to the hilt with traditionally ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ cakes but also more gender neutral ones) and was flicking through it with the 4-year-old and we got to a cake designed like a theatre stage with ballet dancers on it, done in pastel colours, and he immediately says, “Ewww, I don’t like that, that’s a girl’s fairy cake!” then asks me, “But you like that cake?”. Because I’m a girl, obviously I do. I then tried to question why he didn’t like it, but it was pretty useless.

The first of my friends recently had a baby boy, and I went along to my first baby shower a few months back expecting, and receiving, the full-on gender stereotypical assault of baby presents. Clothes in colours of blue, black, green and more blue were gifted, but I was more annoyed to hear comments like “As soon as I saw this in blue I bought it” etc.

I know it’s hard to fight it but if I ever have children I just want all options open, not set boxes to place boys and girls in.

Siobhan // Posted 24 June 2010 at 3:08 am

sianmarie – I’ve had similar experiences of younf children being scolded by parents for selecting toys which are for the “wrong” gender.

Three particularly ridiculous times come to mind here.

One was when a mother was madly looking for nappies with blue animals printed on them. We only had pink left. She looked quite distressed because she “really needed them”, and when I suggested she just buy the pink ones, she looked at me aghast and exclaimed “But I’ve got a boy!”

He was all of 3 months old.

Another was a time when a small boy of about 2 was happily playing with a Kelly doll while his mother looked around the shelves. When she saw him, she snatched it off him, looked at me and laughed, and said “I don’t know why he always plays with these ones. They don’t even have boobs.” What I found most

disturbing was the idea that her 2 year old son should be interested in ogling the body of a “female” doll. Apparently, this would have made it acceptable.

Lastly, a mother and father were buying clothes for their little girl. I scanned a pair of children’s track pants, navy blue with red trim, and very androgynous. When they scanned as ‘Boys track pants’, they both laughed, exclaiming

“Oh, they’re boys pants! We won’t take them.”

On another note, yesterday I saw a little boy happily wearing a Barbie Princess raincoat.

Jessica90210 // Posted 24 June 2010 at 10:49 am

I wouldn’t let my children watch TV – and i’d teach them about the patriarchy and signs of it in every advert. I’d just be getting them to think about things.

They’ll be radfems, or on the streets. The way I see it, I’m teaching them how everything in existance tries to exaggerate the inferiority of women. Which is the truth.

If I don’t brainwash my children, the patriarchal culture will surely brain rape them. Rather me than the Patrix.

Sarah // Posted 24 June 2010 at 5:13 pm

If you want an alternative to ballet, it’s worth considering a martial art like judo. This teaches much of the strength, balance and flexibility of ballet, avoids the pink-frilly stuff and the nasty weight/appearance obsession, plus it’s lots of fun and in my experience really helps build confidence.

corinne // Posted 28 June 2010 at 8:48 pm

“Nobody is suggesting that we tell our children to focus solely on “women’s issues” but that we teach them equality and fairness”.

iam sorry but if feminism was for men and womens issues it would be called something else. i have a son and a daughter so i wouldn’t necessarily bring them up as feminists , but rather equalists. i want them to appreciate the differences between men and women and treat both men and women with respect, .I know feminist are always saying feminism is about equality but although i agree with this i would say feminism benefits mostly women, otherwise it wouldn’t be called FEMINism. ffeminism has too much emphasis on men being the bad gender, the ones who rape, kill, abuse. i do not want my daughter to grow up thinking she is a victim of anything. or my son thinking that he is biologicaly bad.

i want to give my kids as much freedom as possible by giving him as much options when it comes to clothes, books, movies, toys etc. i do not think it is necessarily think it is a feminist way of bringing up a kid because this is for his own benefit and how i want them to see the world when they are older. i do not want women to treat women as if they are higher beings but equal to him.

i am sorry to say but women and men are diferent, not totally different but we are not the same you think we have the same minds? . Our actions and descisions are affected by chemistry, we know women and men have different hormonal balances so must act differentl. Also, science continues to find that women and men think and act differently in a variety of situations.

Lauren // Posted 28 June 2010 at 10:40 pm

Corinne, and you have a million establishments, history books and billions of people saying the exact same thing as you – corroborating differences.

Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn about the endless criticisms, within and outside the movement, like there’s ever been a feminist headquarters. If I was interested in all this faffle, I’d read the Daily Mail.

Just one question, if you hear a noise on a dark night – you don’t think ‘a woman is gonna kill and rape me!’

It seems the only people we’re willing to lie for in order to create equality is men, hiding the stats, truths and non-truths about them. I’m sick of this anti-feminism. The only people we’re told off for lying about in the interest of equality is women. If the differences between sexes put men in a bad light beneath women we’d soon hear about it.

Not enjoying the perceived victimhood is no excuse to live in denial of acid attacks, the techincal legality of rape, a worryingly pervasive object culture etc etc etc etc. These things mentally imprison, and are harming and killing a world of women, not just you.

Elmo // Posted 28 June 2010 at 11:18 pm

But Lauren, remeber teh scientists found all them different hormonal balances-men and womens brains are different, remember?

I think its funny how were the only animal with apparently different brains depending on our gender. You never hear anyone say “Male and female dolphins have totally different brains from each other”. And thats because socially, we have been conditioned to look upon men and women as totally different ANIMALS, not even the same species!

Soz bit of a derail

Laurel Dearing // Posted 29 June 2010 at 9:56 am

nyeh… i think it makes quite a difference in dogs, and some animals obviously have different roles for different sexes but… i dunno if people have found exceptions to it ever, and im not sure why we assume we are necessarily one of these species…

Troon // Posted 29 June 2010 at 11:13 am

One of the things I’ve come to feel very strongly is that we can get very hung up on individual decisions we make and ignore the whole of what we do as parents. I was brought up in a very conventionally sexist household. But even when I was very young I was praised for respecting difference in others and reflecting on my own limitations and privilege: first in trite ways (I’m better at sums but she’s better at writing) then in more ‘activist’ ways (refusing to accept the playground racism of 1980s North Kent). I also watched my parents argue fiercely. My own parents’ beliefs can still shock me, but I am increasingly realising that in a variety of ways they gave me the self-confidence and security to resist norms I felt inappropriate, and the corresponding humility to respect and value difference without being threatened. I don’t know whether I’m a feminist, but that seems a pretty good basis for anyone who would try to make the world more socially just and inclusive.

They didn’t do the same with my sister though. I was brought up believing that I could and should challenge norms, my sister that ‘normal’ was an argument for conforming (worryingly she is, I think, far happier as result…). Clearly underneath this lies a whole range of cliches about active, dominant males, which I still depressingly find so common in today’s world, and cringe to see being inflicted on another generation.

None of this means I wish my children not to see as abnormal what is offensive and portrayed as normal, but I hope fervently that whatever we tell our children, which will vary according to which parent they talk to, they will think differently to both of us as they grow up. This blog exists because feminists debate, challenge and argue, both with each other and with the world. Giving children the confidence to do this respectfully seems far more important than giving them any specific set of information.

But then, and I would acknowledge this, I’ve never walked down a street fearing that I will be raped and then killed, rather than just given a good kicking, and have only boys to care for.

Lauren // Posted 29 June 2010 at 12:28 pm

‘But Lauren, remeber teh scientists found all them different hormonal balances-men and womens brains are different, remember?’

Yeah, always such valid science, backed up by so much scientific evidence. Maybe Corinne should acknowledge the difference between actual science, and Daily Mail reporting of undergraduate ‘evopsych theory’. These hormonal differences are there, but so is an all-consuming culture that praises every way we’re different. Our culture is the sea and we’re just the fishes in it, we really have no idea. I have this wild crazy theory that social culture influences us just a tiny bit.

I have this other wild crazy theory that evopsych is as much bollocks as it sounds. ‘It was dem berries we ‘ad to pick in the old days’ is not science as far as I know. And anything the Daily Mail puts into press with ‘top scientists find…’ is usually as far from valid science as it gets.

Sheila // Posted 29 June 2010 at 12:46 pm

I told my boys (then age about 7 and 8) about rape. They were absolutely shocked and almost cried. “But, Mummy, why would anyone do that when you’ve told us it’s so lovely to go to bed with someone you care about. If the man doesn’t care about the woman, why would he do that when he’ll never get what he wants from that person anyway?” And lots more of the “Yucksville” and incomprehension – of the right sort – type of remarks. If sex is explained in terms of relationships, it makes it much easier. Now I’ll be shouted down for not allowing them the freedom to consider casual sex (though probably a bit young!), but getting across the concept of intimacy and affection was more important to me with my sons at the stage they were at than talking about the mechanics.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 29 June 2010 at 1:17 pm

i think id agree that talking about it in terms of relationships can be a good start, if simply because they wont have most of the same emotions that you get when considering casual sex, and that a lot of kids want to imitate being ‘grown up’ so stressing that sex is something fun that grown ups do might make it seem like something to look forward to, before you get to the point where youre talking about the emotions of sex and sense of self and sexuality and typical reactions to ‘promiscuity’, not to mention STI’s… though i expect pregnancy would have come up first.

one of my neighbours kids asked her what sex was. she told her never mind. i think thats sad but in he circumstances i think i would have left it for another time or said about babies. the circumstances were, (because she asked her daughter why she wanted to know), that a boy in the year above she was close to (theyre all her boyfriends!) told her he dreamt of having sex with her, so perhaps putting it as something people that love each other do wouldnt have been for the best. my neighbour told the teacher to speak to him because she felt that the boys parents were strict and might make a fuss when she felt he had probably got it from some older lads or something.

Katryn Bradford // Posted 29 June 2010 at 5:33 pm

I strongly recommend James Braly’s podcast for The Moth, entitled “Oliver’s Pink Bicycle”: (be patient for the first minute, which is adverts – it’s worth it). It’s about his three year old son’s adoration of the colour pink, how James himself reacted to this, and what he learned as he endeavoured to come to terms with his son’s preference. Utterly lovely.

corinne // Posted 29 June 2010 at 6:19 pm

So no one disagrees that feminism is mainly by and for women. I was a feminist until i was about 19 yrs old. I stopped calling myself a feminist simply after I read some books from warren Farrell. (I would recommend reading some of his books). Just because I am not a feminist doesn’t mean I am sexist because guess what i am a woman, or does it mean that I am stupid because i have read many, many feminist books. lauren, i do not and have never read the daily mail or plan to either. I did not say men and women are different species or anything I just think that men and women are not completely the same (that is not a bad thing). I also would find it hard raising my children as feminist because there aren’t that many black male or female feminist that I know of. Most of the feminist topics covered on this website are things that my children cannot relate to.

I have come across the worst kind of women during my life time so I find it hard to believe in that sisterhood thing. When i lived in Rwanda as a child i was sexually abused by a woman until i came here i did not think it was abuse because i thought women were not capable of doing things like that. I do not think I have read an article covering things like this on this website . When my family came to England my mum walked out on me and my brother. When I started school I was bullied by a bunch of girls for five yrs. I started researching feminism out of curiosity when I was 17 and all I hear is how men are the abusers, bullies, dead-beat dads, I do not want my kids thinking that this is always the case. Until there are as many domestic violence shelters for men as there are for women until men have as much reproductive rights as there are for women how I can raise my son as a feminist.

Lucy Nichols // Posted 29 June 2010 at 9:02 pm

I don’t think you can say that men and women are the same in all but physical form. They most certainly have big differences in hormones, which can have a big effect on behaviour. One person posting suggested that we never says animals have male brains and female brains. I don’t know if that’s true. We know in many species the males and the females behave in very different ways. The example of dolphins was used, but actually male dolphins have been observed carrying out what appears to be the gang rape of female dolphins. Apart from the effect of hormones on behaviour, scans and cadaver studies have shown that brain structure if different in males and females. It has also shown differences in brain structure between gay men and straight men. (Not much research has been done on lesbians brains, probably because too many researchers are men and aren’t interested in women).

However, the differences we observe in our society are also largely influenced by environmental factors and I believe most of the things we are debating are the result of environmental influences. Any difference in brain structure or hormones does not predispose females to wearing certain clothes, having a certain haircut, liking certain colours, being better at doing the ironing or the washing up. But I feel from personal experience that the hormones I have felt surging around have been responsible for my obsessive broodiness, and bonding with my babies. I see my daughter playing with dolls (despite us never buying her one) and wonder if maybe as a generalisation, there is a biological predisposition for females to be more nurturing. That doesn’t have to mean all girls are more nurting than all boys and I believe it is important to encourage nurturing play for boys and girls alike. We still have a lot to learn about the roles of biology and environment in gender difference but I believe whatever difference exists and why, each individual child should be given the freedom to find their own path and never pigeon holed by perceived ideas of gender difference when we have so much to learn in our understanding.

annabel // Posted 30 June 2010 at 1:45 am

Corinne, i’m sorry to hear about your difficulties with women in your past and would like to you know i have had similar difficulties, i was left by my mother, abused by my step mother and bullied by girls at school so i know the dilemma you experienced to a degree, my story will not be the same as yours ofcourse; I relate to you in regards to the focus of feminism on misogyny. Growing up i always idolised my father because he was kind, he didn’t leave and the abuse didn’t take place when he was around so he was my safe haven – he didn’t know about it. Misogyny and abuse from men is a huge part of feminism given that things like street harrassment, domestic violence, Juarez and sex trafficking are as rife as ever and as a female feminsit i can only really relate to my own experiences of that. We can only try to change so much, and starting with the things that affect us as women seems only logical. it’s like trying to get women to rate on a scale of 1-10 how it feels to be kicked in the balls. but I wonder if you have spoken to any male feminists about their issues?

despite the gendered origin of the word, feminism is not about demonising men, or elevating women to a holier than thou status either, or at least not to me it isn’t.

I am a proud feminist. Feminism is just a word and called as such because the movement was started by women. It pertains to equal opportunities. we men and women do have our differences and our own strengths but i don’t think these differences should mean that we women should get less opportunities or indeed, limit a father’s role as a parent or demonise either sex.

here’s an example: When i was growing up, my dad used to get horrendously discriminated against when he was out with me, people used to assume that because my mother wasn’t with us, he was a part timer. Or sometimes that he’d kidnapped me or something. and i think about if it had been the other way around, dad had left and did what my mother had done-he’d be in prison for not paying child support.

I’m white, so i can’t comment about being a black feminist, except to say that my friend’s father is a working class jamaican builder and resolutely feminist, they do traditionally have a more matriarchical upbring which might explain, i have no idea about Rwanda and I won’t pretend to.

You have to understand that being abused by a woman is seldom as acknowledged as being abused by a man, and we can debate how that may reflect the actual statistics or whatever, but i’m not interested in doing it now. I will say that growing up I have always felt in a distinct minority with regards to that.

As i’ve gotten older i have begun to try and get into the shoes of my abusers because i had a choice; become like them or become someone else. i am begining to understand how my mother may have felt trapped in her role because she was a woman and all of issues that she was up against i am now being faced with as well.

It is from my experiences that I believe that children should be raised feminist (equal) because they are going to be running the world after us and starting young is a great way to change things.

so to summerise, we as feminists are people and we can only change so much but we might as well start with the things that we percieve to be most important, everybody is different and perhaps you and I, Corinne are more sympathetic to male feminists and this idea of female abusers, because of what we went through. At the same time, people with difference experiences are going to address different issues so if we do it collectively instead of criticising each others approaches (and i’m guilty of this too!) we might just be able to make a difference.

i hope this wasn’t too long or boring, i tried to not repeat myself too much but i wanted to really make myself clear because i have a habit of not doing it so well.

Maeve // Posted 30 June 2010 at 10:58 am

Corinne, I agree with you, I too can’t believe in the ‘sisterhood’ thing. The truth is, most of the sexism I have experienced in my life has come from other women. But I don’t think so-called ‘sisterhood’ is what feminism is about – to me, it’s about equal opportunities of all kinds for women, and not being discriminated against because of gender. I personally find the sisterhood thing often very patronising, and sexist in itself. Women are not better or worse than men, they are just people. I think the sisterhood thing has sidetracked feminism – it was never about women being better than men, it was about wanting and deserving equal opportunities in all walks of life.

Jess90210 // Posted 30 June 2010 at 11:38 am

Grr sometimes I really doubt this being a feminist site – ‘most sexism comes from women’ is sexist itself. Chances are women who dismiss the sisterhood disregard all te sexism off men when one woman makes a sexist remark. It takes one woman to generalise the whole lot of us – it takes a world of men to generalise.

Ps I’m radical feminist, so couldn’t give a crap about the respect feminism has, whether you think women are bitches etc. Jog on with your wailing. Sick of hearing women hating on other women – then hating on how much women hate women. Yeah there’s no sisterhood – so let’s just all go about wanting to throttle each other shall we. This attitude makes so much sense. I know we all see men as the cool default and women as ‘the annoying uncool other’ but let’s try and get along! Goodness sake.

This site is more anti feminist than feminist or even neutral. I can’t believe I donated!

Jessica90210 // Posted 30 June 2010 at 11:49 am

Translation of maeve’s post – let me kiss your butt, patriarchy! I hate women but I want equal opportunities of men. Doesn’t work that way. We have to get along to have any strength in the movement at all. Men don’t just turn around to each other and grant us equal lives. Women, working together, have to work damn hard for any equal footing.

We bitch and wine about each other ( yes it’s easy, duh) – men seize on the opportunity, we’re back to the 50s in no time. So a sisterhood that doesn’t revolve around make up parties is quite relevant. Sisterhood first, equal opportunites second.

Also stop this ‘feminism is wrong because it thinks women are better’. If you acknowlege the oppression, just like racism isn’t about white people, there is no need to acknowledge the privileged oppressors along with the oppressed.

Maria // Posted 30 June 2010 at 12:29 pm

The best laid plans…! We can only hope they’ll work.

I grew up in a family with a controlling, bad-tempered father who was in no way feminist, and went to a Catholic school. My mother was a teacher, who went back to her job full time when we started school. She did EVERYTHING around the house. I played with dolls, trucks, cars and Lego. There were no overtly feminist influences in my life and no one ever talked to me about feminism. But my mother had a career and I just took it for granted that girls and women should be able to do whatever they wanted. I was always given the example (especially by my Grandad) that you should grab yourself as much education as possible so that you could be independent later on (married or not) and always treat others with respect. And not put up with any crap! I came to feminism by myself when I was a teenager, mainly by reading a lot.

I think the best things any parent can do is give their child as much love, education and good examples as possible. Also plenty of time to themselves, so that they can think and be free. I believe children learn mostly by the example of those closest to them, and they learn very early how people regard them and what expectations of them they have. Like, if your teacher tells you you’re rubbish at maths, you probably will be.

corinne // Posted 30 June 2010 at 2:10 pm

thank you Annabel for your comment and don’t worry it wasn’t too long. Maeve it is nice to know i am not trh only one who fels that way.

Maeve // Posted 1 July 2010 at 1:03 pm

Jess/Jessica, just seen your posts. I don’t need you to translate my words, thank you! Especially when it’s clear to me that you didn’t even read them properly.

I did not at all mean to ”kiss patriarchy’s butt’ and I certainly don’t hate women. I was saying what my experience has been, and in my experience a lot of women can be just as sexist as a lot of men are. That’s a fact. I do find the idea of sisterhood patronising and sexist. That doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist and don’t support women having equal rights. And if you get sidetracked into this ‘women are better’ argument, which I find equally stupid, sexist and patronising, you only get derailed into the kinds of irrelevancies you’ve mentioned. You’ve proved my point.

Feminism, to me, is equal opportunities and an end to discrimination on basis of gender. That’s what I believe. That’s the point I go from and the fact that discrimination and the patriarchy exists is not something I’m willing to debate.

Darcy // Posted 1 July 2010 at 1:49 pm

Jessica, of course women have to work together, and many of them do. But a hell of a lot don’t. You can work together without being expected to act like someone’s sister. It’s great if you want to, but you shouldn’t be obligated to! don’t you see how saying ‘women are better’ actually plays right into the hands of da patriarchy, who then place even more demands and expectations on us?! How is that ever going to get equal rights? Sisterhood is a term invented by the media, just as stupid as the bra-burning myth. Why is every woman supposed to represent the sisterhood when a man can just be his own person? It’s oppressive. Maybe if you calmed down and had a little think you would get it.

Denise // Posted 1 July 2010 at 2:12 pm

Jessica 90210, looks like you’re the only one here who wants to bitch and ‘wine”. Might be a good idea to read what people have written before you go off.

corinne // Posted 1 July 2010 at 3:05 pm

Jessica90210 you really should read the comments properly before making assumptions. from what i have read i do not think anyone here is sexist. Btw the only one being bitchy here is you. if you read Maeve’s comment properly you would have seen that she did not write ‘most sexism comes from women’ she was talking about the women in her life being sexist not women in general. The sisterhood thing is sexist in itself sexist, just because I am female does not mean that I am somehow your sister or can relate to you. The sisterhood thing eliminates men out of it and that is sexist. Patriarchy affects not only women but men as well.

Anji // Posted 1 July 2010 at 3:14 pm

I have to say, I can see both sides of this. I don’t think women can be sexist against men – sexism equals prejudice plus power, and women don’t have the power part of the equation. It’s the same thing as there not being any such thing as black people being ‘racist’ against white people, because they don’t have the institutional power required for it to be classed as racism. A member of the oppressed class can be individually prejudiced against members of the oppressing class, but it’s not racism or sexism, it’s just an individual prejudice for which there are some seriously compelling reasons and explanations.

Neither do I much care, in my feminism, about how men are affected. If men want to work for their own equality that’s fine, they can set up their own movement. Co-opting ours is just not on. When men are oppressed to the same level that women are, then I might care to work for their freedom too. As it is, with the balance of oppression swinging so far in our direction, I’m only concerned with women’s issues, thanks.

That said, I do feel that there is something to be said for sisterhood and I do feel something akin to sisterhood with my fellow feminists. If we’re not working together, we’re doing exactly what the patriarchy wants us to. United we stand, divided we fall, and all that.

Kristin // Posted 1 July 2010 at 4:17 pm

Anji, I feel a sisterhood with other feminists. But I don’t feel this with all women. My own sister included, unfortunately. She’s married with kids and I’m not – she calls me the ‘ol’ spinster’. I’m lucky enough to have a good job and have got lots of interests, but none of that counts, because as far as she’s concerned the only thing that matters is that I get a fella and start breeding! My brother isn’t married and doesn’t have kids either, but she never says that to him. I try to talk to her about her attitude, but she just laughs. It hurts more coming from her (my own sister!) than it would if any man said it. I think sexism in other women is a big problem. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with the oppressor. Whatever it is, it sucks.

Troon // Posted 1 July 2010 at 4:49 pm


Thank you for sharing your horrific experiences. I won’t comment on what should be felt by women about other women, feminism or feminists, but would like to make some comments on the post that ended ‘how can I raise my son to be a feminist/’, with its assumption this would hurt him.

First, I don’t really find a great deal of ‘man hating’ in feminist discussions. Most of the examples you cite are actually usually brought up by men, and seem to me about defining ‘proper manliness’, not about attacking men. The feminists I’ve seen use them usually do so in specific contexts to attack a stereotype, not to provide a new one.

Second, as others have said, your son will wish to find his own path in life, and may find cliched ideas about man’s roles damaging. There will then be a self-interest in challenging them.

Most importantly, however, you sound as if your experiences will make you value your son being a decent, gentle man, the kind who will stand up to bullying and violence. And, if he is the sort of person who puts himself on the line for others because he can see what is being done is wrong, he will find that in many cases their treatment is down to their gender, and that to resist that means working with others to challenge norms, not just delaing with individual instances. And this may well draw him into alliance with feminists, not out of self-interest, but out of a basic belief in being a decent human being.

Don’t know if that helps, but it fits in a lot with many other comments above which argue that ‘a feminist way’ is about such broad values and challenges, not specifics (which you somehow see as ‘man-hating).

Holly Combe // Posted 1 July 2010 at 5:44 pm

Hear hear, Anji, on there being something to be said for sisterhood and I agree about the need for feminists to work together. I always find that bearing in mind those who want us to fail is extra incentive to work through any differences of opinion (or put them to one side sometimes) and find common ground we can work on together.

I think women-bashing and constant framing of women as ‘the annoying uncool other’ is a problem regardless of whether it’s women doing it or men. Indeed, it does seem to “take one woman to generalise the whole lot of us” and, of course, that’s something we should surely be fighting against.

Kristin, I see what you’re saying about how hurtful it is to endure sexism from your own sister but, in terms of enduring it from other women in general, I think it’s important we don’t end up shooting each other down in flames for behaviour that is somehow accepted as par for the course from men. (Not that I’m suggesting I think this was what you were saying exactly.)

I disagree with the framing of the notion of sisterhood as somehow sexist but that’s very much with the caveat that it surely becomes ineffective if it gets in the way of us freely communicating and arguing with each other in a way that is taken as a non-remarkable given when men do it. IMO, too many critics of feminism in the media use “sisterhood” as a tool to bash us whenever we dare to raise our voices to one another. Personally, I’m all for ignoring them and carrying on arguing!

corinne // Posted 1 July 2010 at 6:14 pm

Anji I thought this article was about how to raise children in a feminist manner. By children i thought that included boys, if feminism is only about women’s issues how am I to raise my son in a feminist way. His issues are just as importat as my daughter’s.

“When men are oppressed to the same level that women are, then I might care to work for their freedom too” i cannot think of a more sexist thing to say. You have a son so i really find it hard to understand why you would say that. To me it is like someone saying I will only open a domestic abuse centre for men only when there is one for every woman who has been abused.

“Neither do I much care, in my feminism, about how men are affected” i hope this does not include your son when he becomes a man. Since feminism is only about women’s issues i think there should be another movement started that includes men, women. I think it should cover all the issues that affect men and women of different races and sexualities. feminism to me does not cover any of those issues. The feminists that I know are all straight middle class white females so they only cover issues that would affect straight white middle class females.

As for the racism thing I totally disagree.

Any bigoted person, prejudiced against another race, purely on the basis of skin color a person who uses racial slurs against other races, this also means black people.

if I treated my daughter better than i treated my son only because she is female in your eyes this is not sexism but if my partner treated my daughter with disdain simply because she is female this would be seen as sexism. How does that make sense?

“I do feel that there is something to be said for sisterhood and I do feel something akin to sisterhood with my fellow feminists” this obviously does not include feminist men. Now I remember why I gave up feminism, I am way too stupid to get it.

A J // Posted 1 July 2010 at 6:48 pm

@ Anji – “I don’t think women can be sexist against men – sexism equals prejudice plus power, and women don’t have the power part of the equation. It’s the same thing as there not being any such thing as black people being ‘racist’ against white people, because they don’t have the institutional power required for it to be classed as racism.”

Honestly, I think you are totally and utterly wrong on this one. Of course women can be sexist against men, and black people racist about white people or asians, or whatever. Power might generally be with men and white people, taking society as a whole, but that doesn’t mean that in individual situations power can never rest with women or black people (or any other grouping). If you want to completely redefine what sexism or racism means to exclude that, then well that’s your call, but it’s a rather pointless exercise. Ultimately pretending that anyone is inherently incapable of sexism or racism is highly damaging – they’re things that everyone has to guard against, not just exclusively one group. Especially given this topic is about raising children.

There’s no point just replacing one prejudiced power structure with another.

Anji // Posted 1 July 2010 at 7:20 pm

Corinne – I’m not saying I only care about women (I have a male child, a male partner and a male best friend ferchrissakes) but that my feminism is about improving the world for women. If as a side-effect the world is improved for men, that’s great. But they’re not the people I’m primarily concerned with.

I have a son. I believe that all the work I and others are doing as feminists will improve the world for him. How could it not? But every benefit you could frame as being for boys is actually a benefit for girls. We could say we’re working to allow men to go into jobs generally considered “women’s jobs” like childcare and midwifery. What we would actually be doing is improving the way female-centred jobs are viewed in society, taking them from valueless to valued. We could say we want men to be able to show emotion freely without fear of judgement, but what we would really be doing is changing the way emotion, generally seen as a feminine trait, is viewed.

And no, I’m certainly not opening a domestic abuse centre for men because the problem is overwhelmingly a female one. I’m not saying nobody should do it, but that as the ‘class’ with more institutional power they’re more than capable of setting one up for themselves.

if I treated my daughter better than i treated my son only because she is female in your eyes this is not sexism but if my partner treated my daughter with disdain simply because she is female this would be seen as sexism. How does that make sense?

That’s not what I’m saying; please don’t put words in my mouth. I haven’t said anywhere that I believe female-identified people to be superior to male-identified people, or that I believe female-identified people ought to be treated better than male-identified people. I’ve said that my feminism concentrates on female-identified people. That’s why it’s called feminism and not (my most hated term) ‘equalism’. The vast majority of the work that needs to be done is on bringing female-identified people their freedom. That’s not the same as saying “You should treat your daughters better than you treat your sons.”

this obviously does not include feminist men

I – and many other feminists – detest men claiming the term ‘feminist’ actually. It’s our movement, not theirs. The men in my life – and most of the feminist-minded men I have met both in real life and online – identify as ‘pro-feminist’ because they respect that.

Anji // Posted 1 July 2010 at 7:25 pm

A J – I don’t deny that women are incapable of sexism – against women. I’ve known many women to be sexist against women. But by my definition – and the definition used in most feminist circles – there is no such thing as sexism by women against men. It’s just individual prejudice. Please see this entry at Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog for a basic explanation of this.

Similarly in most anti-racism and POC groups, the prejudice plus power model is used routinely as the defining explanation of what racism is. I haven’t just made these things up as my own inventions, they’re the generally accepted definitions of the terms sexism and racism (and cissexism, ableism, heterosexism, and all other -isms).

Elmo // Posted 1 July 2010 at 7:42 pm

Have to agree with A J

A J // Posted 1 July 2010 at 7:47 pm

@ Anji – “I haven’t just made these things up as my own inventions, they’re the generally accepted definitions of the terms sexism and racism (and cissexism, ableism, heterosexism, and all other -isms).”

They really aren’t the “generally accepted definitions of the terms sexism and racism”! If you want to define them that way, and it makes you happy, then that’s your call, but it’s pretty ludicrous, and even on a prejudice+power analysis, makes no sense whatsoever. It’s a totally sexist and racist way of looking at human behaviour, culture and attitudes.

Anji // Posted 1 July 2010 at 7:51 pm

I should have qualified that with “generally accepted within feminist and anti-racist (and other anti-oppression) spaces”.

corinne // Posted 1 July 2010 at 8:50 pm

I am a black woman so i know for sure that there are racist black people. I am 26 and I am thankful that no one has never been racist towards me.

My secondary school was mostly full of black students and I remember a time when one of my black class mates mistreated one of my friends because she was white. she singled her out from the rest of my peers and especially during history when we were learning about the civil rights movement and about world war two she would make comments like “look at what your people did.” My friend felt like shit and felt intimidated by the bully, she would try to hide her emotions but i knew how bad she felt. They are as racist as it comes and for you to say that because someone is white somehow stops those from being discriminated against baffles me. I am pretty sure if she was reading this she would disagree. i am against racism and I would avoid any group who thinks all the years of suffering under the hand of white people gives us the excuse to do the same.

corinne // Posted 1 July 2010 at 9:48 pm


I wish there was a movement that helped with issues that affect black men. I have a son and i would hate for my son to grow up to be thought of as being dangerous, a thug, drug dealer or simply being too stupid to stay in school. I would hate for people to be intimidated or make assumptions about him because of his race. Reason why i worry is because this is how the media portrays them and this is how some people see them. As a mother when you constantly here about black on black violence you can not stop yourself worrying. I avoid letting him watch films which portrays black men in a negative light or let him listen to songs which show black people in a negative light but it is so hard because it is so hard to find positive black male role models shown on TV, in books, radio…

Anji when you are talking about how privileged men are be more specific and say white men because there is a big difference.

“but that as the ‘class’ with more institutional power they’re more than capable of setting one up for themselves”. So what you would rather help a woman who has been abused because men should help themselves when one of them has been abused. There are way more domestic violence organisations which help women than there are for men. i do not get this us and them attitude that many feminist have, i am sorry but if someone was abused regardless of their gender i would go out of my way to help the, not think stop to think if it is a feminist thing to do

Anji // Posted 1 July 2010 at 10:08 pm

If an individual man came to me and asked for my help, I’d probably give it. That’s not the same as saying I personally am not about to set up a centre for male survivors.

corinne // Posted 1 July 2010 at 10:32 pm


if you knew that there were male victims of abuse why wouldn’t set up a centre for them. all the reasons you give seem very sexist to me

Sandra // Posted 2 July 2010 at 7:11 am

My son is only three weeks and I’m already irritated by having to choose a boys or girls section if buying online for certain shops. (I got vouchers as maternity gifts otherwise I would probably just go somewhere else).

I think the biggest problem for us is simply going to be outside influences. It’ll be a constant battle try negate the influence of the increasing pornification of women and girls in the media. My husband pointed out that growing up as a boy now is going to be very different from when he was growing up especially with regards attitudes to porn which is so much more readily available and becoming increasingly accepted in the mainstream. A curious teenager or child can so easily access hardcore material long before s/he would have the emotional maturity to deal with it or understand all the issues behind it. It’s terrible that we have to start thinking about how to prepare ourselves for dealing with these issues when he is still so young.

Anji // Posted 2 July 2010 at 8:23 am

What is with this obsession with me starting up a domestic abuse centre? I didn’t say nobody should do it, I’m saying I’m not going to! That’s not the same as saying men shouldn’t have centres, it’s saying that I personally am not going to set one up!

corinne // Posted 2 July 2010 at 8:54 am

Sandra I totally sympathies with you because there is no way of escaping it. If they do not watch it in your house their friends will probably introduce them to it. I went to an all girls school and you can not believe the amount of porn sent to one another via phones.

Sheila // Posted 2 July 2010 at 9:13 am

Picking up on the debate about Anji setting up a DV centre for men (or not!), let’s not get side-tracked into the detail, the point that is being debated is whether MEN (all men) are oppressors and women (all women) the victims. We are saying men can’t be feminists, but they can be pro-feminist. We are saying women can’t be sexist because we are not oppressors (not sure if Margaret Thatcher qualifies). We are labelling all men as corinne points out and making them feel like criminals even when they’re not, we’re making them into oppressors and even worse still we’re making ourselves into victims. I’m not saying that there isn’t oppression, I’m not saying there are women victims of crime, of course there are. But do we really have to be so dogmatic about who are the baddies and who are the goodies? Surely we give our children a much better chance in life if we explain that many things in life are subtle, that prejudice (including the prejudice of many views expressed here about men) is bad and that sympathy for oppressed is a good thing as long as balanced with fair but not oppressive justice. Bring up your sons to believe that they can do good, not that they are biologically programmed to do harm. Anything else is prejudice – whether you deny that it’s sexist or not. Anji is effectively saying that provided she’s not sexist, ablist, transphobic etc, it’s OK for her to be prejudiced.

Anji // Posted 2 July 2010 at 9:34 am

Anji is effectively saying that provided she’s not sexist, ablist, transphobic etc, it’s OK for her to be prejudiced.

I’d like to see where I said or even implied that. Nowhere did I say that individual prejudice was a good or admirable thing, nor did I say that I hold those individual prejudice. I’m debating the semantics, not the morality.

Rebecca // Posted 2 July 2010 at 9:49 am

Anji, great post and I cannot (literally) understand some of the wacky “arguments”directed at you. Apart from one thing – someone made the point that a woman can’t be her own person like a man, but is supposed to be ”one of the sisterhood”. I think that’s where some of them are coming from. You’re a feminist and a member of the sisterhood, not Anji The Individual Person With Her Own Life, therefore why don’t you build a domestic violence shelter?! Logical!

A J // Posted 2 July 2010 at 10:36 am

@ Anji – “I should have qualified that with “generally accepted within feminist and anti-racist (and other anti-oppression) spaces”.”

Maybe, but it still wouldn’t have been true. An awful lot of anti-sexism, anti-racism, and anti-oppression campaigners would be appalled at the idea that racism or sexism could only ever occur against one race, or one gender. It goes against everything they spend so much time campaigning for.

Perhaps worse than the inherently sexist and racist view of the world that is implied by re-defining the words, though, is the torturing of the English language involved! It’s roughly the equivalent of redefining ‘green’ to mean ‘yellow’ – and about as useful. The widespread existence of male-dominated power structures, and the ways in which they oppress women can be understood perfectly well without taking ‘sexism’ and lopping off the greater part of its meaning. All that does is encourage lazy thinking, and ensure difficult issues can be ignored. It’s a way of escaping rigorous analysis of arguments, which hardly inspires much confidence in their strength.

More to the point in terms of this thread, though, it is incredibly damaging to teach female and male children that their genders are more important than their individual experiences and identities, and that sexist attitudes are something that only one of them has to guard against, and that only one of them can ever have the misfortune to experience.

I should point out that I, for one, really don’t expect Anji to be single handedly setting up DV centres for anyone though…! :)

Sheila // Posted 2 July 2010 at 10:44 am

@ Anji

When you said “But by my definition – and the definition used in most feminist circles – there is no such thing as sexism by women against men. It’s just individual prejudice.”

I’d like you to answer the main part of the argument though, rather than just pick holes – or as you so eloquently put it – divided we fall. How can you say that one sex is incapable of sexism towards the other?

Anji // Posted 2 July 2010 at 11:52 am

How can you say that one sex is incapable of sexism towards the other?

I’ve already explained why I think that. It’s because my definition of sexism is the prejudice plus power model. I’m not going to change my mind on that I’m afraid. What you seem to be missing is that I have repeatedly stated that women are perfectly capable of being prejudiced against men. I just call that prejudice rather than sexism.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 2 July 2010 at 12:09 pm

I guess another way of thinking about sexism/ racism is to think about the difference between structual power and individual power relationships between people.

Structural power is the power created by social institutions, beliefs, and even language that create power relationships between individuals. So for example, if when we say ‘women’, we associate this with ‘second sex’ or ‘less capable’ or ‘hormonal’ or ‘other’, whereas when we say ‘men’, we mean ‘capable’, ‘normal’, ‘individual’. Then we create a biased framework that informs on how we think about men and women and how we treat them. This might be reinforced by legislation, practices in schools or in the workplace etc.

At the same time, within this broad framework that informs how we think about men and women, we also have individual men and women who interact on the everyday and in the everyday, power is a lot more fluid and a lot less sure. In this instance, women could gain victories over individual men, could even bully or hurt individual men- and this would still be wrong.

Whether or not it is sexist, I would argue would actually depend on the context in which it happens. If it is a woman who wants to hurt or bully a man, because he is a man, then it would be sexist. If it happened for other reasons unrelated to gender, it wouldn’t necessarily be. If the structural context creates a situation where it makes men vulnerable to such bullying because of their gender, then it would be sexist regardless of the intentions of the bully.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 2 July 2010 at 12:47 pm

i tend to use sexist or racist on individual terms, and bring up prejudice as something that enforces the current structure, as one can be prejudice without doing anything directly misogynistic or sexist, but by simply not questioning the status quo and addressing why they think a certain way, ie people subconsciously finding white men more trustworthy to employ than a black man.

also i find if you bring up patriarchal structure then the semantics dont matter so much, because you tend to find that a lot of stuff thats is sexist towards men still puts them in the typical position of power, such as them being awful slobs that cant do anything for themselves meaning that a woman should think little of having to clean up after them. if the structure is implied then i dont think id want to take away what someone felt from their experience.

obviously i do think there are different ways of dealing with the oppressing class and the oppressed class’ problems, but i feel that the more of the oppressing class supported the better. they are the ones in power, and the ones listened to. to open their eyes to our oppression sometimes they need to have their individual cases addressed in a way that seems fair to them. this doesnt mean female feminist, or mixed groups necessarily putting their time into it, but i think it does mean not just supporting, but actively encouraging male feminist (or pro-feminist males) groups not only to do it, but to know that they can do it and that we understand the need for it.

a lot of people who get involved with activism feel enlightened in a way they just werent before. doing some things for ourselves just never came to mind, its like a light switching on. i think if we want more understanding then part of that is turning on lights, even though its stressful.

Troon // Posted 2 July 2010 at 1:01 pm

I don’t read anyone here saying they support discrimination, just that all aspects of discrimination are not an equal priority within feminist thought, and that some will be resisted but not on feminist grounds. Anji’s position on men’s roles in childcare is, for example, entirely my own: women suffer far more from the way norms are framed, changing those norms helps men (myself included), but the latter is not a priority for feminism. And I really don’t see why it should be, and certainly not why that makes it anti-men.

I know this will sound silly, but so much here is now circling around definitions of ‘sexist’, or the gender of those who may or may not commit individual oppressive acts. Surely, though, it is the actual forms of oppression that matter in fighting them, not the sodding label? Anji’s definitions seems absolutely sound on activist terms given that, even if we work on a case-by-case basis, it’s blindingly obvious that the inequities which seek to force an individual women into ‘her place’ exist on a far wider level, and that dealing with the individual case demands different actions and collectivities. Domestic violence, which somehow seems to have been forefronted here, is a case in point: it’s not only that women are the majority of sufferers, but that attitudes towards women’s place, their ‘ownership’ by men, their economic status, and a tolerance or rape and violence in non-domestic contexts all contribute to the way individual women are treated. Supporting women who suffer domestic abuse needs to combat this, in a way supporting male victims doesn’t. And tackling those is a feminist issue, which can coincide with tackling domestic abuse generally, which may in turn overlap with issues concerning male victims.

Feminists are so often held to ludicrous standards on the basis that a movement for equality is a movement for all, or it is nothing but hypocrisy. Men’s rights activists throw ‘sexism’ around casually using very narrowly and falsely framed examples, and now this thread (for different reasons) is doing the same. The irony is, and I’m not claiming this is in any way central, that it is this, not any stress on women’s superior rights within feminist thought, which has made me as a male feminist ally so hurt at times: it creates a climate in which it is impossible to see any man simply saying ‘this hurts women most and unfairly, I am against it’ without seeming to be a closet mra. I expect all feminists I know will unashamedly and proudly prioritise women’s needs in their activism, foster the collectivities which do so, and demand I recognise my place in those collectivities (even if that hurts sometimes). I and most pro-feminist men are quite happy to ally with this because it is right, and to rejoice in its success for all the women, personally loved and personally unmet, who will be helped, without pissing around demanding little old me is thought of and scuppering it by calling it ‘sexist’ if it doesn’t. We can also resist discrimination more generally, and would hope for support from feminists in doing so, even if they are not doing so as ‘feminists’ (if that makes sense).

Sorry, fear I may be impassioned but not thinking widely enough because this is a strange virtual forum and I’m pushed for time, please be gentle in your corrections if this is a horribly offensive intervention.

earwicga // Posted 2 July 2010 at 1:58 pm

Anji – I am following your arguments about racism/sexism and power inequality and it’s not something I have come across before. This may be a stupid question, but my understanding of your argument seems to lead towards the reality that a black man can be racist towards a white woman. Is that the case?

corinne // Posted 2 July 2010 at 4:21 pm

Thank you Sheila I cannot see the logic in that too. Racist is racist sexist is sexist there is no ifs or buts about it. My son is not biologically programmed to do harm which why I do not treat him differently to his sister and she is not a victim of anything. It would be sad if any anti-racism or anti-sexism group thought that it way different if they were sexist or racist. Troon i do not think feminism is anti male i just think that if i am going to raise my son in a feminist manner I would like some issues that young (black) men face in this society to be tackled.

Anji // Posted 2 July 2010 at 4:26 pm

Earwicga – I’ve gone over it and over it and I can’t see how you’ve come to that conclusion. Would you mind explaining how you got there to me? Obviously that wasn’t the end result I was looking to convey! ;o)

Troon // Posted 2 July 2010 at 4:59 pm


I just don’t see why you assume that in a ‘feminist manner’ is some exclusive term which means not dealing with any other forms of oppression he will encounter, just because feminist thought doesn’t prioritise them.

That’s, I think, the supposition behind so much of this thread and why it makes me increasingly angry. Feminisms developed around ending the oppression of women, and coined the term sexism to talk about that oppression. Now feminists are being forced to dance around simply because sexism has other meanings, and because somehow feminism isn’t devoted to fighting all other oppressions too. Why, except in terms framing ‘women’, should it be? I can see why you might be angered at individual feminists not being arsed about these forms of oppression, but just don’t see why feminist thought be held as flawed just because it doesn’t deal with all issues of oppression, or why a feminist can’t think of thinks complementary to feminsim.

This whole debate seems to me like trying to save some people drowning in the bath and some people being washed away by a stormy ocean, and then deciding somehow the coastguard are shit because they don’t try and end drowning full stop.

Anji // Posted 2 July 2010 at 5:03 pm

This whole debate seems to me like trying to save some people drowning in the bath and some people being washed away by a stormy ocean, and then deciding somehow the coastguard are shit because they don’t try and end drowning full stop.

Oh good gods, Troon, I think I love you. That so succinctly explains what I’ve been trying to say in far more words!

Jessica90210 // Posted 2 July 2010 at 5:28 pm

This is where the radical feminist view differs from the feminists who try to look pretty to their oppressors while whispering for equal rights: 

Women cannot be sexist. We can hate men in anger, (never allowed to express this anyway) but we don’t have the power system behind it. It’s not even a prejudice. Hating men is the equivalent of shaking your head at a sexist comedy show. It doesn’t compare against the overhaul of sexism, but we’re made to feel witches about any anger at the oppressors, any sign of sisterhood. Heaven forbid we hate our oppressors!

I’m not arguing with people who make it their job to not get it. I’m not paid to go round in circles when I have half a brain that already gets enough exercise. And this site is pretty crap, the feminists are great , but I don’t contribute where people join in with the every- day woman bashing and bemoan the rights of men. That’s pretty shitty on a feminist site. 

Ps i’m a man hater, an oppressor hater! here’s my head to put on a stake.  

earwicga // Posted 2 July 2010 at 5:44 pm

Sorry Anji, I’m still trying to get my head round it.

Men structrally have power over women. White people structrally have power over black people.

So a black man has power over a white woman in some ways but not in other ways. So, using your description (as I understand it) of racism and sexism above, why is it not possible for him to be racist to a white woman? Because he doesn’t have power in all areas?

There are so many differentials in power analyses such as class, race (i.e. Afghan, Bangladeshi), income, sexual orientation, gender identification, health, ability, or age such as child/adult etc. Or even basics such as prisoner/warden.

I’m having a problem with placing racism/sexism as separate from prejudice.

Jessica90210 // Posted 2 July 2010 at 6:18 pm

‘ men are the ones in power, and the ones listened to. to open their eyes to our oppression sometimes they need to have their individual cases addressed in a way that seems fair to them’

Haha  ‘Male rights’ are a ploy to please the oppressing class? This I knew. But biggest argument against mens rights ever. 

The thing about oppressing classes? They don’t get better if the ones they’re oppressing  are nicer to them. 

Oppression stops when there’s a reaction. Most feminists think presenting logic, being incredibly nice and docile to oppressors works great. Look around you! Just how fast are these rusty wheels of change turning? Logic, debating our oppression does no good when the state of our unfair and unlogical oppression has been determined by the oppressors.

It takes a reaction. No dancing about, no arguments; a sisterhood, agreed to be honest and angry at their oppressors. We also have a more traditional *ahem* power. This shouldn’t be hard. 

This way, and at this rate, we’ll be in this same hell in 2080 trying to oppress ‘annoying uncool others’ because we never had it easy in our day.    

Jessica90210 // Posted 2 July 2010 at 6:50 pm


Uhh no, a black man can not be racist to a white woman, he can be sexist to her! Duh. Understanding power systems is more important than grasping these socially created terms. Seriously, use your head, and think about the obvious before you get angry on a feminist blog about something that isn’t our oppression.

Anji // Posted 2 July 2010 at 6:59 pm

Jessica – if you hate The F Word so much, why are you still reading it? I’m not being aggressive, I’m genuinely curious. If a blog pissed me off to the same level that TFW seems to piss you off, I’d leave and never bother with it again.

Personally, even though the feminism of many of the writers and commenters here is not my feminism, I stick around because I think it better that we as feminists work together despite our differences than to infight which destroys the movement.

earwicga // Posted 2 July 2010 at 7:09 pm

Jessica90210 – so you know my race then? Your comment is quite presumptious.

I’m not getting angry here, as you assume, I genuinely want to understand what Anji is saying, and frustratingly for her, I don’t.

I admire your anger. Personally I don’t have the energy for it anymore, but all power to you!

A J // Posted 2 July 2010 at 7:10 pm

@ Troon – Feminists didn’t coin the term sexism. And sexism from the very start (even as used by early feminists) has never meant what you and Anji want it to. Sexism has a very well understood, internationally recognised meaning (as does racism). It’s just not the one that Anji and you want it to have.

You seem to be the one trying to turn this into a debate on what the priorities of feminism is, unfortunately, not anybody else! Knocking down straw men (or women for that matter) is a bit pointless.

Of course feminists’ priorities should be women – er, duh! But that doesn’t mean that it’s right to attempt to claim that men can never be the victims of sexism. And it certainly doesn’t make it right to raise a male child in the belief that no matter how badly he might be treated on account of his gender, he has no right to call it sexism, and a girl, that no matter how badly she may treat a man because of his gender, that she will never be a sexist. That’s just treating an individual as a gender, not a person.

If feminist arguments are strong ones (and in most cases they are) then it is pointless, cowardly and counterproductive to seek a monopoly on claims of sexism, and to try to exclude the terminology from other situations it actually applies to. Torturing the language in an attempt to boost your arguments always ultimately undermines the cause you are attempting to promote. Feminism has no need to corrupt its terminology to make its case.

Troon // Posted 2 July 2010 at 9:34 pm

@AJ (and others)

I don’t, frankly, give a stuff about whether ‘sexism’ can be directed against men. Personally, I admit I can see ways of framing discussions where Anji’s definition itself incorporates discrimination against men. A friend of mine for instance, was one of five boys in a 600-strong school (it went co-ed for one year) and suffered quite appalling bullying and sexual abuse, both individual and institutional. But I don’t care if my boys label some of the shit that might get thrown as them as ‘sexist’, or if my friend did. I care that they have enough respect for their own rights and those of others not to accept people treating each other like shit, the wisdom to understand if combating this treatment requires an understanding of broader gender issues, and the courage to fight against it. What use is it calling it ‘sexism’? It doesn’t help define a problem, because they would already have done so to use the term. It doesn’t help combat a problem, because it doesn’t mean the issues will magically become the same as they are for a woman suffering from sexism. It doesn’t, in fact, do anything, except in some liberal fantasy land where people think being sexist is a bit naughty and will stop if the name sticks. Which they won’t, whether they’re attacking men or women.

My anger, and I am really angry, about this thread, doesn’t relate to petty terminological disputes, but to the way feminists are somehow held to a high standard in order to attack them, and fury at the intent or the naivety of those who do so here of all places. Corinne discarding feminist influences in bringing up her son because she thinks they say nothing about oppression of young black men, for instance, makes no more sense than my partner giving up feminism in parenting because it says bog all about whether we should clean the potty with apple anti-bacterial spray. Those exercised about whether or not feminism should admit ‘sexism’ against men make a similar mistake-even if your definition is accepted, why the fuck should feminism have to be held accountable for fighting all sexism, what purpose does your nitpicking achieve in this specifically feminist forum? Is Anji saying she doesn’t give a shit? No, I think she’s just saying it doesn’t strike her as part of her feminism, or as her priority as a feminist.

It’s only feminists that have to put up with this crap, as if there’s no point just fighting against discrimination if it’s only for women. It’s only feminists who are encouraged to run around being nice, making sure they’re so frigging inclusive of anyone and arguing over whether others might suffer abuse which could be called the same thing, or what a ‘feminist’ position on other forms of discrimination is. That’s what I meant by the analogy, and I’m glad Anji at least understood: not that it isn’t sad that people drown in a bath, or that they shouldn’t be saved, but that the coastguard isn’t the problem.

I fear Anji will love me less now (succinctness certainly gone, and some disagreement over definitions). It was good while it lasted.

corinne // Posted 2 July 2010 at 9:39 pm

Troon sorry about getting you so angry

but i actualy agree with what you are saying it is just that many feminists claim that feminism helps men as well as women. they do not say that feminism is only about helping to improve the lives of women which is what it’s about.

Anji // Posted 2 July 2010 at 9:41 pm

I don’t love you any less, I love anyone who can make a good point, whether they’re wordy about it or not. :o)

Catherine Redfern // Posted 2 July 2010 at 11:15 pm

I like Troon’s analogy.

I think it’s Finn Mackay who uses a similar analogy, something along the lines of how absurd it would be if people who do work for cats (say, running a cat sanctuary) were accused of not caring about dogs (‘why aren’t you fighting for ALL animals?’ ‘why do you hate dogs?’ ‘you’re being hypocritical’ etc).

I think it’s useful to help explain why it’s ok that many feminists focus on women’s oppression/women’s issues. It’s not sexist or hypocritical.

corinne // Posted 2 July 2010 at 11:23 pm

A J you just read my mind.

again, sorry Troon for having a different opinion to yours and making so angry.

Jessica90210 // Posted 2 July 2010 at 11:29 pm

@Corinne, ‘you either agree the oppression of women is wrong or you don’t’ (the great Twisty Faster). I have never vouched that feminism is about men, so who is this official feminist body you’re talking to?

‘@Troon ‘It’s only feminists that have to put up with this crap, as if there’s no point just fighting against discrimination if it’s only for women.’

It’s exactly this. Our oppression seems to be conditional in this way. It’s a common trend to nitpick because she dared to be oppressed without considering x other *more important* oppression. If you look at how mods have pulled certain feminists down; and allow anti-feminist discussions, then i think it’s safe to say the site isn’t friendly to us annoying uncool women. As you rightly said, no other movements have these responsibilities.

Now Anji, I’ll be glad to go. Buutt I just don’t think this should be called the f-word. Rather, “we’ll throw the bait, watch the feminists come, then rip them to pieces!”

An awful lot of my posts expressing anger at sexism or derails have been mysteriously lost in the moderation queue. I’m angry about my OWN oppression, which is scary, mind-fucking, pretty terrible. I can’t watch a single advert without having ‘You are crap haha’ in my face so I don’t watch them. where the hell is the space for talking about this? By talking I mean *relating*, instead of, being made to doubt the sexism by three times as many posters always shitting on commenters and the articles.

As for the infighting, I hate it and to me it’s totally warped and makes me feel i’m in a twighlight zone with that train that keeps repeatedly going past. We don’t need to ‘get things right’ or ‘get things fair’. That’s all stuff to stall an actual reaction.

A J // Posted 3 July 2010 at 8:27 am

@ Catherine Redfern

I’m certainly not disputing that it’s right that feminists focus on women! That would be rather weird. In fact I think your piece on the matter a few years ago might still be apposite here:


All I’m saying is that I think it’s incredibly silly for feminism to try to claim ownership of the very word ‘sexism’, and assert that sexism could never occur outside of the bounds of those areas included within its own remit. Partly because to attempt to do so makes feminism look pretty ludicrous, and partly because to do so just encourage lazy thinking within feminism itself. None of that is challenging what feminism is doing, just arguing that there’s no need to torture the English language to do it. And certainly no need to teach children that it is primarily their gender that matters, not their individual identity and experiences.

I can see, though, that Troon / Anji and I are unlikely to come to any agreement on this, so we might need to just agree to disagree, I think! :)

Maria // Posted 3 July 2010 at 10:12 am


I want to say that as a girl who was raised with gender neutral clothing and toys, I think it that the objects and clothing that you identify with at an early age does have a huge effect on you. The tacit self-knowledge embedded in the connection with nearby objects and the understanding of the contradiction between yoru choices and standard choices, when explained by parents, can have a profound effect on your self-understanding and on the understanding of the inequalities in the world and what you’re doing to counter them even as a child. This can be, as I found it to be, hugely empowering. I felt my parents showed me what the standard was, how it was limited for the individual’s sense of self but why it was around, because of traditions dating back many years and how it was easier to conform but why it was worthwhile not to. Although this has caused some conflicts for me as an adult and as a teen, it has also given me the strength of self-knowledge and self-identification to walk through any obstacles caused by it.

As a god-parents of many young children, I find that the best thing you can do for little boys is to listen to them and encourage them to accept their feelings and the feelings of others, and to talk transparently and directly. One of the biggest problems I have seen in little boys is the fact that they often mask their errors (those that may hurt others or that they may get told off for) with hasty justifications and occasionally white lies (‘I didn’t do it’), which are often just accepted. When we encourage them to accept their feelings around these acts and to be accountable without necessarily punishing severely, just talking things through in a serious way, it helps to open them to accepting their mistakes in the future. Mistakes are just a way to learn and when we accept them we learn to get closer to people because we can learn to take account of how they may affect others.

With little girls, I find it harder because they are more heavily socialised by their peers to hide not their mistakes but both their non gender acceptable feelings and achievements, so I find encouraging a positive view of their intelligence and non-gendered view of achievements tends to be helpful in the latter. In the former, with feelings, I still have trouble finding an outlet for my own, so I also still find it difficult to help girls with theirs but I try and be accepting and encouraging. However, the socialisation of females around emotions and expression of emotions is so complex — allowing some limited expression but also explaining that this expression is a sign of feminine weakness. But many strong feelings are repressed because they do not find an adequate expression in everyday life. I find that it is a lot harder to bring up girls because the level of outside socialisation and expectation for girls is a lot more explicit than for boys, who despite the high level of socialisation, are accepted more readily if they are different than girls.

Troon // Posted 3 July 2010 at 1:38 pm


Thank you for the gracious and gentle reply to my anger. I am really not angry at you for having different opinions, just confused. I simply don’t see why you feel you cannot bring your son up to be both pro-feminist and anti-racist, for example, or why you feel that a movement primarily aimed at improving the lives of women should not also improve his in many ways. I’m angry because it’s this sort of ‘zero-sum, feminism must be about all equality’ thought which is often used to undermine it, even if that isn’t what you are doing.

@AJ. I’m not sure why you think I disagree with you, it’s just I wonder what the point is. It’s hard to credit that someone who writes as you do really thinks that this issue explains why the world lived in by most women remains so much more frightening and constrictive than that lived in by most men, or why you would risk aligning yourself on this issue with so many MRAs, just out of intellectual necessity.

Beyond huge anger at the way feminists are held to account, which is why I posted so many times, lies a real concern on my part on the way in which certain forms of oppression are treated within activist positions generally, not just feminist ones, and how that interacts with power structures they are designed to combat. On ‘sexism’, for instance, I feel drawn to Feminist Avatar’s position terminologically, but find it useless in practical terms. What use is it, either in describing or changing the world, to use one term, for instance, to describe my friend being told by the head after he had been physically abused and then forced to have sex that there wouldn’t be any trouble if he was more like a normal boy; the structures which support and encourage the violence Corinne experienced from women; Jessica’s anger at the TV; a woman’s fear of assault; and a woman being tortured and forced to die by having to remain pregnant? Surely that term is then as much an encouragement to loose thought as its confined use was in AJ’s opinion.

Alongside this, is a real concern that these terms are now actually being used by power to constrain change. At what stage, for instance, does legislation against discrimination become a means of usurping a rhetoric of change rather than a means of resistance? Men and whites are more likely to win sex discrimination and racial discrimination cases (there is one police force in which black men constitute 35% of those prosecuted for racially aggravated assault). In the wider world terms like sexist and racist have become seen as ‘bad’ but without a recognition of why (I’m not sexist, but…), and in at least one case in my professional life a clearly discriminatory policy has remained in place because so many of us stupidly pinned our hopes on proving it was sexist, when we then couldn’t (but it remains deeply unfair). I am becoming increasingly worried that the need to articulate why discrimination is wrong, that it destroys and takes lives, and to use the feelings of anger, pain, fear, and also hope and love for others which it can produce, has become replaced by a perceived necessity to define discrimination in terms which both lose its moral core through shorthand (this is sexist, therefore this wrong rather than, as I would wish, this is wrong and sexist) and which are defined by rather than in opposition to power.

But I accept this is just keeping a thread going in between working on the very same issues 800 years ago. Perhaps there is some comfort in the agreement that has been shown here, my anger aside, the common causes found. After all, if Jessica90210 can find it within herself to think positively on one comment from someone most here believe is an mra, there’s surely grounds for hope in the way we can co-operate?

corinne // Posted 3 July 2010 at 3:05 pm

Jessica sorry but i wasn’t talking about you. i was talking about the feminists that i have met and some who write on this site. If you hate this site so much, why are you still here? I do not know why you are stressing yourself out, not everyone is going to agree with you. And I do agree that the oppression of women is wrong but that does not mean I have to agree with anything you say.

corinne // Posted 3 July 2010 at 4:33 pm

I think it is nice to have so many opinionated people comment on this topic. i have learned a thing or two from these comments and i am grateful for that. Thank you Anji for including my comments because sometimes when i have tried to contribute to some other topics my comments weren’t included. i think this is because i disagreed with most of them so it is nice to have my opinion included.

Alan // Posted 7 November 2010 at 4:13 pm

If I became a dad in consensus of opinion with my partner, we would try and bring my child up in a gender neutral manner. Thuss we would avoid the glittery pink clothes for little girls, or the combat patterns seen so regularly now on little boys clothing.

I think it is wrong that both designers, and retail shops market particular colours, styles and items as either for girls and boys, for small children.

Equally it is wrong and inappropriate young girls to become sexualised by fashion by fashion designers. Children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood by parents being able to buy them suitable clothing so they look like children, rather than mini adults.

I think the genderfication and sexualisation of childrens fashion is another way that the corporate sector is making money out of ordinary hard working parents. It is equally sending a message that women are seen as vulnerable and helpless, by males.

It is also sending the wrong message to children such as boys being seen as a problem with emblems on clothing such as here comes troube.

If I had a young child, irrespective of gender I would want them to look cute, and wear clothing that is practical, and age appropriate to their life stage and level of cognitive development.

Thuss from toddler to school age, for play, fun/pastel/ primary colours for t shirts, in red/ yellow/ orange/ with picture of animals/ stripy patterns. They could have similar coloured shortalls/ short trousers, plain white ankle/ knee socks.

For footwear I would also favour traditional leather t bar sandles, in fun colours such as red or blue, or canvass t bar doodle for the summer.

Irrespective of gender I would also want to bring a child up to respect others, both men and women.

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