Feminist and Feminism are words that can make people run a mile but inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book ‘Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ this post will reflect on some of the conversations taking place around raising your child in the view of creating a fairer society between men and women. The book provides 15 suggestions but below are 5 key suggestions to reflect on. Although Chimamanda wrote the book in view of her friend’s daughter, it is valid to raising any child.
1. It starts with you: Parent Together
Whether you have a two parent household or a single parent household there is scope to parent together. The division of roles should be equal or as equal as is possible. Women have always been viewed as the natural caregiver but men can also change a nappy and bathe, feed and comfort their child. Showing your child that certain responsibilities are not attributed to either a mother or father shows no strict gender roles. Chimamanda advocates to be mindful of language. Your partner is not helping you or babysitting they are being a father and doing as they should.
2. Disregard Gender Roles
Try not to keep your child in the mindset that there are specific gender roles. Both boys and girls can and should learn to cook and take care of a household, if nothing else so they can be independent and take care of themselves when they are older. Pink or Blue are just colours. A little boy in a pink top is just as cute as a little girl in a blue babygrow. If your son reaches for the doll at their creche that is absolutely fine. If your daughter loves trains or helicopters that is also fine. She might just be an engineer in the making who knows. Gender roles are so deeply conditioned in society it can restrict children from exploring different activities and finding their true callings.
3. Teach your child to read and love it
Books open up a whole new world and way of thinking. Through reading, children can understand the world better and also question the way things are. Reading can allow for children to reflect on their interests and what they like and begin to shape their thinking and understanding of navigating the world.
4. Teach your child about difference
Understanding difference is very important in this day in age. Teaching your child that difference in religion, gender, sexuality, culture, race and the list goes on is ordinary and normal will not only help them to navigate a diverse world but do just that with respect for others. Lastly, it is important that their individual standards are their own and does not have to be universalised to fit with what is deemed the ‘norm’.
5. Allow them to have a voice and express their feelings
This is not a suggestion in the book but something that is of equal importance. Often young girls can grow up silencing themselves or being mindful of what they say for fear of not being liked. Young boys can grow up not being expressive of how they are feeling for fear of that impacting their masculinity. Children should feel comfortable expressing how they feel and know that it should not impact the way the world or society view them. Crying as a boy does not mean anything different than if a girl cries and young boys should not feel the need to man up or fight back tears. Everyone has feelings and everyone should be free to express them as they like.
Whether your are a parent to boys, girls or both, all of them deserve to live in a world of equal opportunity and whilst this is still a challenge there is a lot you can do in your own homes to start to change the world around you.
If these snippets of the suggestions have you intrigued here is a link to purchase the book on Amazon.