By Babalwa Nomtshongwana
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 2 of VARSITY News.
In a day and age where collective movements are giving womxn who’ve had their voices silenced an opportunity to come together and speak up on their experiences of injustice, discrimination, marginalisation and violence at the hands of men, it is becoming more apparent that there needs to be a shift in paradigms. It is not enough that little girls are raised to be feminists. We need a conscious shift in the way we raise young boys and men. It is not enough that we have begun teaching young girls to imagine their futures in their own terms – not when they continue to face the threat of a violent patriarchal system that is reinforced by the lack of accountability and questioning of the systems in which society operates.
Trying to educate grown men and getting them to see how their presence and behaviours can negatively affect the womxn around them is a small part of the solution. We need to look at how young boys are being socialised and where it is that we can work on raising young people as feminists, and not just one part of the group. Contexts in which young people are raised may differ, however, there are universally applicable lessons we can teach our sons to ensure they positively contribute to society in a conscious manner.
Firstly, we need to stop reinforcing the idea that displays of emotion are a sign of weakness, unless it is aggression. The idea that the only emotions that males can have are happiness or anger is unhealthy. We often praise womxn for their ability to deal with their emotions and open up about their feelings, an essential part of the human experience, yet there are very few spaces in which men can do the same without judgment or toxic masculinities threatening their own identities.
We change how we socialize boys. Allow them to show emotion, like what they like, be compassionate, passionate and empathetic.
— PhilippaMaQuente (@eroauthorPMQ) January 13, 2019
Secondly, we need to consider our own views. No matter how you identify, you need to look at whether your own words and actions affirm the beliefs you are trying to instil in the young people around you. If we are to raise a future generation full of conscious and intersectional feminists, we need to make sure that we are living out our own lessons. After all, children learn through having a role-model or an example to take after.
To raise a feminist son, means to instil in them values that are representative of your beliefs. This means, that our sons need to be able to recognise that the aim is for equal opportunities for all people regardless of gender. They need to be able to recognise that at the moment, there is a large disparity around the world with regard to the safety, education, and opportunities presented to their male bodies in relation to femme bodies. Our sons need to be able to see that the work done by an individual is not determined by their gender, but by their skills and capabilities. And until our sons are aware of all that and more, we cannot say we have successfully raised feminist sons.
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