Our 21-Point Manifesto On How to Raise a Feminist Son

It's okay to be different than other boys. Actually, it's great…

Co-authored by Samir Sheth

This post was inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's letter, "A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions". After reading it, we thought of messages we want to pass on if we ever have a son.

First years

  • Though you may not understand the word feminism when you're young, you will one day understand the concept that all men and women are created equal.
  • "Boys will be boys" is never an excuse or a reason you will hear from me.
  • Don't think of toys or hobbies as designated for boys or girls. If you like dolls, I'll give you dolls. If you then want cars, I'll give you those, too.
  • You will learn and contribute to all of the household chores. And yes, that includes cleaning, cooking and taking out the trash.
  • Colours don't define you. Decide for yourself if you like blue or pink or green or yellow.

Growing up

  • What you see in the media—TV, movies, the internet—is not representative of how most people behave or how most people should behave.
  • Speak up when you hear someone being inappropriate towards another person. Bullying is not ok. Disrespecting girls, whether that's by judging their appearance or by not appreciating their boundaries, is not okay. When you speak, you give others the power to do so too.
  • It's okay to be different than other boys. Actually, it's great to be different than other boys.
  • Having different biology is not a reason for superiority. It's not a reason for certain behaviour to be acceptable.
  • Similarly, having a different skin colour than the person next to you is not a reason for superiority or an opportunity for denigration.
  • You will hear people tell you not to do certain things because they will make you "less of a man". Don't worry about being more or less of a man. Strive to become someone who respects himself and others. Challenge what the world has defined as masculine. And please remember, stifling your feelings does not make you more of a man.
  • It's okay to want appreciation. But don't let your desire for likeability override your self-respect.
  • No means no—whether that's physically, emotionally or verbally...whether that's from a man or a woman...whether it's from someone old or young.
  • Work on developing a strong relationship with yourself. This is something that will require daily work. It will allow you not to be threatened or influenced by others.

Adult life

  • Fail. Learn how to recover from that failure. The world does not owe you anything but if you work hard and keep an open mind, it will give you a lot.
  • Do not allow societal pressure force you into a job. Be whatever you want—teacher, entrepreneur, stay-at home dad—or all three at different points in your life. Learn to listen to your own inner voice and make choices that align with your values. Don't chase prestige. It is a hollow prize, one that will not fulfill you for long.
  • Expose yourself to people who are nothing like you, both within and outside the communities that you live in. Learn their stories. Talk to them. Conversations create change.
  • Don't be so insecure that you are threatened by a powerful woman. Observe her. Learn from her. Support her.
  • Lust is cheap. Easy. Find someone whom you connect with on multiple levels.
  • Don't be afraid of being in a relationship with an ambitious person. Embrace it. Support each other's ambition. Help each other be the best you can be. Be your most authentic self and demand no less for you or the other person.
  • Make a conscious decision about having a child. If you do, be a true co-parent with your partner. Be a model feminist to the next generation through your thoughts, words and actions. Teach them what you've learned and adapt it for the environment in that day. Add to/edit these points and pass them along to the next generation.

Saumya Dave is a resident physician in psychiatry at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and Global Post, among others. Samir Sheth runs business operations and growth at the startup News Deeply. They're married and reside in New York City.

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