The holiday season is upon us, and that therefore means that the winds of change for the new year blow ever stronger as we draw ever closer to year end. In reflection of 2016, I cannot help but celebrate it as the year that truly was for the Woman. Yes! The Year of the Woman. I celebrate the efforts of women (and some men) across the globe to advance us towards gender equality and squashing gender roles bit by bit.
Ladies, do not get me wrong, I know we have not yet reached our final destination. We have not yet achieved all of our goals, and the road is ever-covered with blind spots. For a moment, let us simply celebrate the successes – and indeed the failures – that have shaped the plight of gender equality for 2016. So yes, let us celebrate YOU, for changing the world by loving your family and raising your kids right. It truly is the first step towards the world becoming a better place.
So, for 2017, I pledge to affirm my stance on gender equality right at home. I’ll do this by not waking up early every day all on my own, but rather letting my partner pull those early morning shifts, drive for carpool and make goodies for bake sales, in equal measure. Did you ever wonder why bake sales are primarily a mom thing? Well not anymore! At least not around here. Oh yes, ladies! I mean progressive! Equal shares of making dinner, juggling kids, and all that jazz!
This radical change goes against the traditions of my mother’s generation. A man’s position in the family is very established where I come from. But for my family, this is a new world order! I am grateful, because my husband agrees with my radical changes.
And so, committed to our resolve and in the spirit of setting an example to our brood, here is to wishing you a gender equal Christmas, and a prosperous and progressive 2017!
Wish us luck!
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania.
A couple of weeks ago, shortly before Toronto schools let out for the summer, my ten-year-old son talked to me about an older boy who was bothering him in the school yard. This kid was trying to take his basketball and saying things like, “You’re such a woman.”
We helped my son through that situation, and the last few days of the school year passed uneventfully. That incident didn’t stop bothering me, though. With all of the gains we like to think we have made when it comes to gender equality, we still live in a world where boys use the word “woman” as an insult.
What message does that send to any girls who happen to be standing around listening? How are they supposed to feel about themselves and their roles in society?
What message does it send to boys like my son? How can I raise him to be respectful toward women when the attitude that men are superior is already present in elementary school?
This morning, something else happened that concerned me. My son and I were part of a cluster of parents and kids waiting for their summer school bus to show up. The adults were chatting and drinking coffee; the kids were playing hopscotch and kicking soccer balls around. It was all fun and games, until a little boy ran up behind a little girl and bonked her lightly on the head.
Now, the little boy was just goofing around, but the little girl was very upset. She ran up to her mother and told her about the mean boy bonking her on the head. Another parent standing nearby said, “Oh, that just means he likes you!”
This may seem harmless to many people, but it really isn’t. It plants the seed in our kids – boys and girls – that abuse is an acceptable demonstration of affection. It teaches girls that in order to be liked, they have to put up with people treating them badly. It teaches boys that they can be jerks and get away with it.
As parents of young kids, we often try to avoid thinking of our kids eventually dating. But the reality is that eventually, our kids will date.
And they way they will treat their boyfriends or girlfriends – and the way they will expect to be treated in return – will be based on the interpersonal skills they are learning now, at the ages of eight, nine and ten.
We live in a society where, in spite of enormous progress when it comes to gender equality, women are still routinely discriminated against. We are told what we have to look like in order to be considered beautiful. We are blamed for injustices that are committed against us, like rape or domestic violence. We are paid less than men in equivalent positions, and even though so many of us work outside the home, we still bear the brunt of household responsibilities.
As the mother of sons, I feel a responsibility to do my part to turn the tide. As they navigate their school years, I want my boys to treat the girls they encounter with respect. I want them to speak out against injustices that they see, and to stand up for girls who find themselves in difficult situations. The school yard incidents that I have seen are the reason we have a problem. I want my sons to be a part of the solution.
Are you the parent of boys or girls? How do you teach them about gender equality and fairness?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Jonathan Rhodes. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny).
Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels.
When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum.
Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world.
Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!
The other day I went to my teenage son’s soccer tournament, and because his game was delayed, I watched a girls’ match finish on the other field. Actually, thanks to the British history in Abu Dhabi, I should say that I went to the “football fixture,” watched the girls play “on the other pitch,” and then at the end of the day took my son to the sports store so he could buy a new pair of “boots” (not cleats). Who knew when we moved here five years ago that one of the ways we would adapt is learning to speak a different version of our native tongue?
As I watched the girls’ match, two girls maneuvered the ball across the pitch, their teammates shrieking encouragement. One girl—a headscarf covering her hair, and leggings under her athletic shorts—passed the ball to her teammate, whose long ponytail was streaked light blue. They brought the ball down the pitch—passed left, passed right—and then Ponytail shot for the goal. The ball bounced off a goal post, looked like it was going to go wide, and then sank into the back of the net past the goalie’s outstretched hands.
“Nice shot,” murmured my son. “Really good pass, too.” Neither of us knew the girls who were playing, but his comment made me happy nevertheless. As the mother of sons, I collect “girl power” moments like this one to remind my sons that they do not have the market cornered on sports excellence. Now that he’d seen for himself, I wouldn’t have to risk being Tiresome Mom by pointing out that those were girls playing pretty kick-ass football.
It’s easy to see in this little episode a lesson about hijab not being the symbol of oppression that so many non-Muslims are quick to assume it is. This girl left her opponents in the dust as she raced down the field, and she pounded her thighs in elation when the ball went into the net. Her war whoop as she ran to the sidelines to celebrate with her teammates would be recognized anywhere as the screech of a happy athlete.
But that’s not really the point. The point has to do with the fact that my fifteen-year-old son didn’t notice the headscarf or the leggings—or the blue ponytail, for that matter—he noticed the football. He noticed what the girls were doing, not what they looked like. As my son moves closer to manhood, a process that seems to be unfolding faster and faster despite my attempts to keep him “my boy” as long as I can, I wonder if my feminist politics have rubbed off: will he become a man who sees what women can do rather than how they look or what they’re wearing?
Isn’t that the question we ask ourselves as our children—those firm little packages of flesh that seemed at one point soldered to our hips—move out into the world: we want to know if our lessons have sunk in, if they’ve been listening even as they seem glued to the Snapchat world in their phones. Does my darling son talk about girls as “hotties” when he’s with his buddies; does he chime in when the conversation turns to which girl has the best body and why?
I don’t know. All I can know is that the other day, what he saw was two people playing great football.
Who knows. Maybe if enough children grow up appreciating what people can do, rather than what they look like or what they do (or don’t) wear on their heads, the world might become a more level playing field pitch.
How do you create awareness about gender equality for your children?
After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.
Every organized mom knows that the key to getting things done is a good to-do list. That goes for parents of toddlers or teens…and for world leaders, too! That’s why I’m so excited that this past week in New York City, world leaders at the United Nations committed our planet to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. It’s a to-do list on a massive scale. Known simply as the Global Goals, they are 17 goals to help us all achieve three extraordinary things in the next 15 years:
1. End Extreme Poverty
2. Fight Inequality and Injustice
3. Fix Climate Change
That’s a tall order, but that’s precisely the point. We have a lot to get done if we want our children and their children to inherit a world worth living in. As it stands now, 1 in 9 people go to sleep hungry, 6 million children die before their fifth birthday each year, and 2.5 billion don’t have access to basic toilets. That’s simply not acceptable. We have a lot of work to do to make our society and planet stronger, but it’s our moral obligation as global citizens taking up space on this Earth to pitch in and help.
If EVERY family in the world teaches their children about these goals, we will help our kids become the generation that changed the world!
What do you, as a parent, need to tell your kids about the Global Goals? First of all, take a look at this graphic to get an overview of all the goals.
Pretty ambitious right? From good health to clean energy to living sustainably to fighting inequality to climate change, these goals have something for everyone. They aren’t just “nice ideas” either. These goals will have measurable targets and reportable data to go along with them. What they are missing is YOU and your family working together with other families all over the world. The only way we can achieve our global goals is if we all work together on them…globally.
The first thing you can do is to sit down with your kids and watch this 6 minute video called “The World’s Largest Lesson.” It will help explain that we all need to make these goals famous by telling everyone about them AND we each need to pick at least one goal and take actions – big and small – so that together we can reach them by 2030!
Make the Global Goals your to-do list as well! Pick one…or two…or three goals and take on what you want to change in the world. It’s hard for me to choose favorite children or favorite goals, but my personal top three are:
#1 End Poverty
#3 Good Health and Well Being
#4 Quality Education
I pledge to work on these three and I am so thankful that other people are coming on board who will be moved to work on the others, too There are more than enough of us to save our planet and all the people in it if we all pitch in and work together.
What is(are) your favorite Global Goal(s)? Come on and #TellEveryone ! You can start by leaving yours in the comments below…
Cynthia Changyit Levin is a mother, advocate, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.” A rare breed of non-partisan activist who works across a variety of issues, she coaches volunteers of all ages to build productive relationships with members of Congress. She advocated side-by-side with her two children from their toddler to teen years and crafted a new approach to advocacy based upon her strengths as a mother. Cynthia’s writing and work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, the Washington Post, and many other national and regional publications. She received the 2021 Cameron Duncan Media Award from RESULTS Educational Fund for her citizen journalism on poverty issues. When she’s not changing the world, Cynthia is usually curled up reading sci-fi/fantasy novels or comic books in which someone else is saving the world.