• Is being a feminist mum a form of sophisticated nagging?
As the feminist mum of two teenage boys with a male partner, I am drowning in testosterone. How do I rate my Feminist Mum parenting, asks Catharine Lumby.
By
Catharine Lumby

8 Mar 2016 - 9:26 AM  UPDATED 8 Mar 2016 - 9:53 AM

Some years ago my then eight-year-old son hoisted himself up on my shoulders at a Sunday lunch party and announced: “Hey look everyone. I just climbed Mount Feminist”.

My feminism is a source of endless amusement in our family.

For my sins, I’m drowning in Y chromosomes - two teenage sons and a male partner who all love nothing more than cracking wise jokes at my expense.

Once, when we were on holiday in Paris, I took the boys to an exhibition of 70s feminist art at Centre Pompidou. They wandered behind me shuddering at all the paintings celebrating vaginas. I left feeling very pleased with myself for exposing them to the cultural origins of second wave women’s lib.

My son hoisted himself up on my shoulders and announced: “Hey look everyone. I just climbed Mount Feminist”.

They got their own back pretty swiftly, however.

On returning to our apartment I automatically began tidying up. I was just sorting the socks when I heard a voice behind me say: “Turn around Mum and say hi to the viewers”.

One of them was pointing a Handycam at me.

“What viewers?” I asked, irritated.

“We’re making a new reality program called 'The Feminist Mum show'. This episode is called: Feminist Mum Cleans Up The Apartment”.

 

Hmmm. There are certainly days when I want to strangle the three of them for refusing to take me seriously. I’ve been known to lose it over the dinner table when I can’t get a word in or when a discussion of something political gets derailed by a sudden desire to watch people do stupid things on YouTube.

My partner, by the way, is worse than the kids in the Let’s Watch Someone Make An Idiot Of Themselves stakes.

I know feminists have a reputation for lacking a sense of humour.

But, actually, I like to think my kids got at least 50 per cent of their irreverence from me.

I think feminists have to be ready to laugh at the rubbish that’s said about women – otherwise we’d be perpetually crying into our overalls while going on boring marches.

The real issue feminist mums face is how many other cultural cues are out there. There are still very conservative education messages about ‘becoming a man’ and what women’s role in society should be.

So how would I rate my Feminist Mum parenting? And what have I learnt?

Number one for me is that I never, ever lecture them. I try to walk the walk and expose them to ideas osmotically. Kind of like hiding the courgettes in the rice when they were little.

We have lots of friends over who talk politics – gender and sexuality are often topics of conversations. And the boys are always invited to the table.

Secondly, I trust them. We had discussions about online porn when they were young. I told them there were images of people ‘sexing’ (their term, not mine) and that some were okay and some were unethical and horrible.  Now they're in their teens I don't check their computer histories. I trust their values will guide what they choose to intentionally view.

The real issue feminist mums face is how many other cultural cues are out there. There are still very conservative education providers going into our schools with homophobic and sexist messages about ‘becoming a man’ and what women’s role in society should be.

In the 21st century, that’s hard to believe. But there remains a long way to go in countering what the second wavers called ‘patriarchy’. I still use that term – just to ensure my kids have a chance to smirk and ask: “Is it also phallocentric?”.

I have a hunch they’re both closet feminists with a sense of humour.

 

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @catharinelumby.

 

Image by Nate Bolt (Flickr).