Last week Charlie and I were walking along Southbank when I saw three women pushing strollers walking towards us. Three mums, three strollers and three little girls. One of the mothers was wearing a T shirt that said “The Future is Female”. They were talking animatedly and laughing at one another and they looked the image of empowerment, friendship and feminism. I smiled at this girl gang and thought how great it is that they are raising daughters in this era of renewed attitudes and watershed moments. Where there feels a shift, a revolution of sorts.
I also thought how lucky they are to get to buy girls clothes from the Seed Kids range.
My mind is often a wild mess of thoughts when it comes to motherhood and this includes what kind of person I hope to raise. I want my son to be emotionally intelligent, resilient and happy. I want him to be compassionate. I want to raise a feminist son who is respectful to all, not because that’s what the rules are but because it is his nature, it is the core of his self. I want to expose him to all that is good in the world and protect him from all that is wrong. I want to teach him to ask questions, to be curious and accepting and tolerant. I want the narrative of his life to be because it is the path he chose it to be and not because some crazy societal expectation. I want him to be kind.
Right now I also want him to eat more vegetables but worrying about his antipathy towards green food is nothing in comparison to worrying if he will be a kind and happy.
I thought back to the “Future is Female” T Shirt and so now I’m confused.
The thing is, I recently bought a necklace that is heart shaped, rainbow colour and says “Feminist” on it. I have “shiny pretty thing” syndrome and when I saw it I loved it and so I bought it. T Shirts and Necklaces are just marketing and merchandise, the message is more important and the more the message it out there then that can only be a good thing. But is a T Shirt that states the “Future is Female” in contrast to what feminism is about? Because fundamentally, feminism is about gender equality, freedom and choice and if I want my son to know that boys and girls, men and women are equal then how does the T Shirt fit into that? What if I had both a son and a daughter, who were old enough to read, saw the T Shirt, what message would that then send to them both? Slogans may just be words be we would all be (rightfully) losing our collective shit if the shirt says “The future is male.”
I look forward to the day that it won’t matter what the T shirt says.
I don’t want a world without feminism and there is so much more to feminism beyond hashtags, necklaces and platitudes. I know that my son will benefit from feminism. What we are advocating for means that in years to come he will be able to have flexibility at work without the expectation of being the breadwinner and that leaving work to do school pick up (assuming he wants and has children) will have no impact on how he is perceived at the office (assuming he wants and has a career that involves an office). I want him to want to be a hands on dad in a time when being one doesn’t come with a round of applause. My point is I want him to grow up without limitations and restrictions around gender stereotypes and feminism allows this. Last week MM was called upon to relocate a spider that so kindly thought to shower with me. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad feminist, it just means I don’t like spiders, in particular those that are the size of a saucer. Charlie sees both of his parents going to work and sharing household responsibilities and that the roles we have at home are no better, just different. Notwithstanding the odd hairy spider, he sees parity.
He also sees the way his dad lovingly and respectfully treats his mum and that is far more importantly than who looks after pest control.
The “Future is Female” T Shirt is empowering for women but it should not throw shade over the decent men. Because those decent men (not the sexist, anti feminist, idiots, abusers and all round jerks) don’t know if they should open the door for a women or not. I fully expect my son to treat women with respect and this includes opening doors not because it’s a “man’s job” but because he has been raised to be good and to be kind. I hope that the woman he opens the door for doesn’t feel patronised but simply sees it as an act of courtesy.
I hope he opens doors for men.
It’s exciting and it’s extraordinary and it’s about time that the future is also female, but let’s also remember that what is more important is that the future is where equality transcends gender.