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How To Raise A Feminist Son, A Guide (From A Mother Of Two Boys)

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Claire Cain Miller And Son, Photographed by Sabrina Bot

We’re assuming that most women reading this consider themselves feminists (i.e. a person who believes in the full equality of men and women). And for those of you raising children—whether female or male—instilling this same belief in them is likely in the forefront of your parenting philosophy. Which is why we must call your attention to New York Times writer Claire Cain Miller’s recent and brilliant article, “How To Raise A Feminist Son.” Cain Miller, herself a mother to two young boys (peep her here), asked experts from a variety of industries to weigh in with the latest research to guide the way, coming up with a solid list of a dozen to-do’s that’ll help parents raise their sons to love and respect themselves and women in equal parts.

We’ve summarized a portion of Cain Miller’s list below, but be sure to read the entire piece right here for the rest.

1. Let Him Cry: The idea that “boys don’t cry” is terribly outdated. Make sure to stop this notion in its tracks and teach your son that boys—like girls—are allowed a full range of emotions. (Be sure to view the must-watch documentary The Mask You Live In to better understand the emotional stuntedness facing many of our boys today).

2. Give Him Role Models: Cain Miller points out that boys, even more so than girls, respond positively to spending time with role models. Make sure you give your son access to as many great examples of kind, responsible, and respectful people (both male and female) as possible.

3. Let Him Be Himself: Pink and princesses are obviously not just “for girls.” In the same way that firetrucks and the color blue don’t just appeal to boys. Make sure to expose your son to open-ended play and non-gendered activities, as well as expose him to options that might be deemed feminine (playing with dolls and dollhouses, dance class, books marketed “for girls,” etc.) and see and embrace whatever he gravitates towards.

4. Teach Him To Take Care Of Himself (And Others): As Cain Miller has previously reported, the gendered chore gap happens at a shockingly young age. To help halt this trend, make sure your son is taught to cook, clean, and look after himself early on. Also, teach him empathy by helping to care for younger siblings, and assist sick and elderly family and friends. Too often these responsibilities fall on the shoulders of girls only.

5. Share The Work: Be an example for your son by bucking gendered stereotypes at home and showing him that both mom and dad can—and are expected to—take on a variety of responsibilities, from cooking to cleaning to bread-winning.

6. Encourage Friendships With Girls: Cain Miller points to research that shows that by the end of preschool, kids start segregating their friend groups by sex. To help fight the bias and stereotypes that emerge from such arrangements, make sure there are plenty of girls in your son’s social circle, at birthday parties, on sports teams, etc.

Want more guidance on how to raise a feminist son? Read this mama’s case for reading her son books marketed “for girls.”

This article was originally published on June 6, 2017.

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