When my son Rory was born, I spent a lot of time imagining what this little person would be like when he grew up. Now, as he turns 18, I have my answer.
Rory is compassionate and curious. He’s intelligent and well-read and deeply informed about the wide range of issues that interest him. He’s a great son and a great brother. He’s inherited his parents’ obsessive love of puzzles. But one of the things that makes me proudest is that Rory is a feminist.
I’m not even sure that feminist is a word I would have chosen to describe myself when I was 18. It frankly wasn’t on my radar. My parents taught me that my sister and I could do anything our brothers could, but gender equality wasn’t exactly the kind of thing we talked about around the dinner table. They were more focused on giving us the confidence to fly than discussing the barriers that might hold us back. Sure, I knew that women faced challenges that men didn’t, but I hadn’t spent much time reflecting on the less overt ways that cultural norms and gendered expectations shape our lives.
By the time I started my own family, I had a much deeper awareness of just how detrimental these gender norms can be — not just to women and girls, but to society as a whole. Bill and I had always known that, like our own parents, we would raise our children to believe they could do anything without their gender limiting their options. We also decided over time that, for the sake of our son as well as our daughters, we were going to be a family that readily talks about gender equality at the dinner table.