I find that children are such an emotional subject. There is something about their own vulnerability that allows us to empathise. Something about understanding that they have their whole life ahead and that they are not to blame, that they want us to fight for them.
I am a mother, so I guess a lot of time when I say "children" I am really seeing the face of my own. But I was also that eager about the new generations when I didn't have kids. I know a lot of child free people that would not only rationally see the importance of protecting the childhood but emotionally feel it too.
I recommend in my book that we intentionally live a life away from stereotypes for the good of the children. I recommend everyone to set stronger boundaries, and to have a fulfilled life because of the children. I know that we wouldn't be willing to give that to ourselves for our own sake, but we would consider it for the children.
The truth is that we were all children once. We were brought home from the hospital and expectations and decisions where thrown around us. We were put into moulds and, depending on how lucky we got with our parents, those moulds gave us enough or not space for us to move around and try to feel our true shape.
During an event yesterday I was asked about chivalry. Is it dead? Should we stop opening doors for women. My reply, as a lightbulb to keep me focused, was "would you do it to a man?" "Would you say it to a man?". If you would open the door to anyone just because it's the nice thing to do, a kind offer of making people feel seen, then please don't stop just because it is a woman. But if you don't with a man, if you find it patronising or awkard, please give the women the same treatment.
We will always get things wrong, because not everyone likes the same things. I hate being touched when I am anxious, whilst most people really appreciate a hug on those moments. I know that people that hug me get it wrong, and I do too when I patiently wait for someone 1 meter away from them instead of at least holding their hand. We all mean well, but we all mess up.
By having a very easy question to tap into when you are not sure if your acts/questions/words are indeed sexist we are taking the "I would like it" out of it. Sure, we might still get it wrong, we might open the door to the man and make him uncomfortable, or not open it for the woman and come across as rude. But we will have a why. We know that whatever we did or said was away from the expectations and boxes that we get into.
As always, when I reflect about a feminist topic, I think of the children first. How great would be if we raised our kids like that too. Would I put that huge flower on my son's head when he is 2 hours old? Would I pierce his ears while a baby because he would look more beautiful? Would I call my girl big instead of beautiful because I am afraid she is going to become soft? Would I justify her for certain behaviour? Would I praise him for this other?
The answer is we wouldn't. We don't treat the kids in the same way. We don't read them the same books (and when we do they don't see themselves equally and diversely represented). We don't dress them with the same clothes. We don't give them the same role models. The language we use is different.
Of course we mean well! Of course we are trying to make them fit into a world that exists. But every time the world has changed for the better is because people decided not to fit in, and decided that the others shouldn't either if that was their choice.
I want my kids, and yours, and all the kids that we don't know but make us get into warrior mood to be treated as children. As individual lovely children full of choices, and options and space to find their own shape.
I wrote a whole book about it, one that makes me proud (make sure you check it out if you want to understand more about how deep stereotypes run in childhood, how much it matters and what can we do about it). In that book I give you to permission to say no, to stop measuring yourself against cruel expectations, to find out what are your ready to let go because no longer serve you. If you are not doing it for yourself, do it for the children! Who is thinking about the children!?