Why parents should teach Feminism

Feminism has been on my list of topics to write about for at least a month, in fact since I went to a talk on Feminism at the Changing Britain lecture series at the Southbank Centre.  I have been a bit nervous about writing this post.  I am not entirely sure why.

It could be because Google Analytics tells me that 56% of my readers are male (which I can’t quite believe!) and I am worried that my readers will be switched off by a post about Feminism. There is a perception, after all, that Feminism is about hating men.

It could be because, to me, the Feminist brand carries an air of superiority and appears eager to smack down dissenters. 

It could be because I am a bit confused about what Feminism actually is today and I am worried that anything I write will be shot down in flames by Feminist academics for being inaccurate, inarticulate, too militant, not militant enough, or addressing the wrong issues.  Please go easy on me! 

why parents should teach feminism

According to the National Organisation for Women Feminism fights for:

  1. Reproductive rights and justice
  2. Economic justice
  3. Ending violence against women
  4. Racial Justice
  5. Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transexual rights
  6. Constitutional equality

These causes are very noble and I don’t mean that in a condescending way.  No one could argue against them, but to me, some of these issues are so entrenched in societies around the world, and these societies are at such different stages in the Feminist struggle that I am not sure how we measure progress or success.

I feel that we as parents in democratic societies need to focus on the issues that will affect our children. They are the future.  The issues below are undeniably ‘first world’ problems.  In far too many countries around the world, women still lack basic rights;  patriarchy is unshakable.  I accept that.  I recognise that the situation of women is much worse in Syria or Afghanistan under Islamic State or the Taliban.  It is horrific. But this is no excuse for ignoring the issues that impact our children in our country today.

These are the issues that Pen / The Single Swan thinks that we, as parents, should be fighting for.  This is why parents should teach Feminism :

1.     Sexual consent should be included in the National Curriculum.

When I was at school I received lessons on the mechanics of reproduction and how babies happen.  I was actually quite lucky to receive a class on different contraception methods from a female teacher who I have to say was stern, but certainly not a prude.  She divided us up into mixed groups and made us put a condom on a banana.  I remember the diaphragm (the cap) in her hand pinging across the classroom as she tried to put spermicide cream around the perimeter and explain how it was inserted. 

But that was in the 1980s.  These days the internet and social media are ubiquitous.  All children have access to, and can therefore receive pressure including sexual pressure from, the internet and social media.  This is why I think that sexual consent should be included on the national curriculum.  Children need to be able to identify sexual pressure, coercion and sexual bullying.  Children need to know that consent means a ‘yes’ and that yes has to be an explicit ‘yes’.  It cannot be drunkenly offering little resistance or lying back uncomfortably because they are too scared to say no. Our children should be able to identify and resist online grooming and coercion. 

This isn’t just about teaching girls to say ‘no’.  I retweeted an excellent article by Louise Ridley published in the Huffington Post about SurvivorsUK and a new online support service for male rape victims. Reports of men being raped have risen 120% in the last two years in London alone.  Male rape victims rarely speak out fearing they are ‘less of a man’.   Our sons are potential victims of rape in the future as well as potential perpetrators. 

There is more to sex education than just sex.  I firmly believe that sex education should include education about healthy relationships, the effects of pornography and the nuances of consent.   

There are two excellent websites about the campaign for sexual consent to be included on the national curriculum.  These are:



Unfortunately, the Conservative party was the only party not to mention Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) or Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) in its manifesto.  I fear this could be a difficult struggle. 

2.   Tackling sexism on the internet and social media

OK, so this is a massive issue and I don’t really know where we should start.  The anonymity of the internet has given rise to misogynist and sexist cultural practises and these practises go unchecked.

Feminists enjoyed a great success recently with their ‘No More Page 3’ campaign, when, using social media and internet campaign tools, they managed to force The Sun to stop printing photos of topless women on page 3.  After 44 years this is a fantastic achievement, but this achievement is limited to print media. 

Like I said, I don’t really know where we should start.  As parents I feel there is a difficult balance for us to strike between:

a)    restricting access to all kinds of sexism, sexually explicit or pornographic material on the internet and

b)   allowing supervised access but with a conversation / a lesson about why and how the material is sexist and why it is wrong.  When my son is not even a year old it is easy for me to be idealistic, but I would like him to be able to identify sexist or pornographic material and understand the impact that it has on him, his peers and on society. 

3.    Investing in education

A while ago, I read an excellent blog post by Modern Dad from Modern Dad Pages on the importance of teaching your boys about Feminism.  Now obviously, I applaud Modern Dad for teaching his boys about Feminism, but I also sympathise with him when he says that, as a stay at home Dad, he knows what it is like to feel alienated because he is not the norm. 

Feminism, sexism and gender stereotypes impact men as much as they do women.  Gender is a binary: man/woman, masculine/feminism, ying/yang, black/white, sun/moon.  Men are bound and constrained by gender stereotypes as much as women are.   

These gender stereotypes and this sexism permeate our parenting styles, education and the workplace. 

In the workplace, academic research has shown that we overestimate the competence of men relative to women and consequently can hold women back from achieving their potential.

An article in the Economist entitled The Weaker Sex suggests that boys are underachieving at school because it is not cool for them to be clever and to perform.  Boys are conforming to gender stereotypes and a version of masculinity that rejects academic achievements.  Gender stereotypes and inequality hurt men too! 

UN Women launched the HeForShe campaign in September 2014.  You may have heard Harry Potter star Emma Watson’s speech to launch the campaign.  She called for men and boys to take action against gender inequality and sought to encourage engagement from men and young people as advocates and agents for change.  This is really important.

Through education both in school and at home, we can encourage our children to challenge the status quo, to think about what they say and what it means.  We can encourage them to challenge what they accept as social norms: some Daddies stay at home, whilst Mummy goes to work, just as some Mummies stay at home whilst Daddy goes to work.  Often both parents go to work.   

We can discuss the reason for the absence of women in certain fields and in certain areas of public life (the dearth of women in politics for example, or we can question why their head teacher is male). 

Feminism is about not limiting peoples’ opportunities and this is why parents should teach Feminism. 
Parenting Linky

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


    • thesingleswan
      May 29, 2015 / 8:36 pm

      Thank you!

  1. May 29, 2015 / 5:08 pm

    To me… Feminism is about having EQUAL CHOICE. That doesn’t necessarily mean I want to do all the things a man can do, but it’s nice to know I have the choice to.
    So many “feminists” these days seem to think women are superior to men and that women shouldn’t do anything feminine. I think the meaning of feminism got lost on them somewhere amidst the man-hating.
    Emma Day recently posted…Beat Camp Review: Street Dance, Junk Drumming, Poi Spinning & Theatrical Performance for ChildrenMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 29, 2015 / 8:36 pm


      I agree and it is such a shame that Feminism has got such a bad name. they are fighting for such good causes.

      Thank you for your comment. xx

    • thesingleswan
      June 1, 2015 / 8:33 pm

      I totally agree and #effitfridays is a great linky. Thanks

    • thesingleswan
      May 30, 2015 / 7:46 pm

      Thanks Michelle and thank you for hosting #ToddlersAndTeens

  2. May 31, 2015 / 6:30 pm

    You make many great points. There is more to sex education than just sex! And I agree, we as parents should teach our kids, no matter their gender, feminism.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!
    krista-lee-pfeiffer recently posted…Grudges: Let Them Go!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 1, 2015 / 8:21 pm

      Hi Krista,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I think Feminism has a bad name so it is really important to boil the discussion down to the key issues that impact all of us.

      Thanks for reading


  3. May 31, 2015 / 8:39 pm

    Great post. I agree with you. We need to teach our children and not just girls. I point out to my sons some of the inequalities and my eldest has learnt some things historical about the treatment of women. You are spot on, it is an issue for men and women alike and has nothing to do with man bashing.
    Kirsten Toyne recently posted…Fantasies of MotherhoodMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 1, 2015 / 7:47 pm

      Thanks Kirsten,

      I think too many people see Feminism as a dirty word. It is a such a shame. It needs re-branding really. It isn’t anything to do with man bashing and has an impact on both men and women. Thank you for reading and for your comment.


  4. June 2, 2015 / 8:26 am

    Great post! Some really good points here; especially teaching kids that there are no rules when it comes to gender, work and family. Equality can’t happen until all these norms are blurred away.

    I want to encourage you not to be shy about feminism. They are important issues and there is no cohesive feminist block, hive mind or anything of the sort. I started my blog six months ago because I felt alone in my thoughts regarding feminism (as I am a feminist but think family comes first and was under the impression that wasn’t very feminist) but have found quickly that there are as many different versions of feminism as there are feminists.

    As long as we continue to have the conversation, we’re getting closer.
    Renegade Feminist recently posted…What do natural childbirth and global warming have in common?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 2, 2015 / 10:22 pm


      Thanks for your post and the tipper for your blog. I haven’t come across it before but am on my way over there now. What you say about there being no cohesive Feminist block is very true. I do wonder whether if we were more of a cohesive block then we’d achieve more…I don’t know. Because there is so much negativity around the term Feminism, I personally feel that honing in on the important issues is the way forward.

      thanks for your post.

  5. June 2, 2015 / 12:49 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I agree what a shame that Feminism can be seen in a negative light…man hater I am not. And yes to teaching. Social roles tell a reductive story. And yes to rebranding! Let’s rebrand!
    Lucy @ occupation:(m)other recently posted…Marathon Ready? Birth Thoughts Part IMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 2, 2015 / 10:18 pm

      Re-branding options:

      – womanism
      – femalism
      – femalese
      – gender neutralism
      – masculinism – interesting that masculinism is not the opposite of feminism don’t you think?


  6. June 7, 2015 / 3:36 pm

    I do love this post! 🙂 thank you so much for the mention in it btw 🙂 and thank you for always linking up! I appreciate that so much! #wineandboobs
    Modern Dad Pages recently posted…#letterstomychildren JuneMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 7, 2015 / 8:59 pm

      Great, I am really pleased that you like the post. No problems re the mention. I really enjoyed your post too. I will be linking up again soon.

  7. July 2, 2015 / 1:46 pm

    So refreshing to see the F word being used! It feels like the empowerment agenda has been hijacked by the “I am so empowered that I have the right to present myself as a sex object” agenda for a very long time now – I was beginning to think I was the only one who wasn’t fooled…. 🙂
    Anita Cleare recently posted…Book Review: The Optimistic Child (by Martin EP Seligman)My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 2, 2015 / 8:20 pm

      Hi Anita,

      You are right. The girl power movement has done something strange to Feminism: it has conned girls and women into believing that they are in control because they are able to turn men on. What we so often fail to realise is that sexuality doesn’t equal sexual agency. We are still sex objects rather than being equal. Thanks for your comment.

  8. August 4, 2015 / 5:23 am

    I finally got a chance to read this! I remember a while ago I read something about the message we’re sending girls in school when we police what length of skirt they can wear etc. as if they’re bodies are a distraction to the boys and that’s more important than the girls’ autonomy over their bodies etc. I caught myself thinking, ‘Wow, I’m actually really glad I don’t have daughters because complicated issues like this aren’t something I have to deal with.’ Then I thought about it and realised ALL parents should deal with it. It’s not good enough for parents of boys to ignore these issues because, actually, they affect everyone.

    • thesingleswan
      August 4, 2015 / 9:11 pm


      I think these issues are complicated for all parents, not just mothers of daughters unfortunately. If anything, I think it will be more difficult for us mothers of sons. It is easier to empower a girl to challenge gender norms than it is to teach a boy to do the same.

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  9. October 29, 2015 / 7:31 pm

    I agree with this post so much. I am a feminist and identify as agender, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ll teach my daughter about feminism, when a lot of people suggest that agender people cannot be feminists because they’re ‘ashamed of being women’. I am proud of my biological status as a woman, and don’t believe that I should be disadvantaged or at risk in any way because of that status, which makes me a feminist – however I also don’t think that my biological sex has any bearing on my personality, hobbies, sexuality or anything else that makes up the social construct of gender, therefore I am genderblind/agender.

    I totally agree with you about education; I think once we’ve got a really good emphasis on consent and the nuances of relationships in the education system, we can really start to impact on the big issues.
    The Speed Bump recently posted…How Honest Should We Be?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 1, 2015 / 10:33 pm


      Thanks for your post. I am really interested in your agender status. I am about to hop across to your blog now to read more.

  10. February 5, 2016 / 7:45 pm

    Superb post. It seems that there is such nervousness around talking about sex and intimacy that opponents miss the the relationship element of SRE. The recent debate about mens role in reducing violence and women had some impressive stats about how effective it was elsewhere but there is such resistance to it being part of the curriculum. We’ll just have to settle with the tea / consent analogy for now!

    • thesingleswan
      February 14, 2016 / 10:15 pm

      Thank you for your comment. It is quite depressing sometimes isn’t it?

  11. December 10, 2016 / 11:37 pm

    I totally agree! This is an amazing post! #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      December 11, 2016 / 10:07 pm

      Thanks! Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      December 11, 2016 / 10:05 pm

      Great. Glad you enjoyed it. Pen x

  12. December 13, 2016 / 11:04 pm

    To me, feminism is about equality. A lot of food for thought in this post. You truly thought long about it and I think you have many points here. I wonder if other parents think about that kind of things that much… it’s so important! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

    • thesingleswan
      December 14, 2016 / 9:28 pm

      Thank you. I will be back next Sunday! All the best Pen x

  13. December 14, 2016 / 8:29 pm

    I think this is one of my favourite articles ever. You have nailed it. I totally agree with your approach! xx #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      December 14, 2016 / 9:23 pm

      Well thank you very much Claire. Pen x

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