Because gender equality is not only an issue for women and girls.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formed the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history just two years ago, and has helped make gender equality a dinner table topic for many Canadian families, including his own—and mine.
That’s because I’m raising my son with feminist values and I’m happy to hear the leader of my country is doing the same especially because it hasn’t always been that way.
You see, I grew up in a Canada where discrimination and toxic masculinity were everywhere. Where teachers told us hockey was for boys, and where those boys were permitted to harass us girls because such actions were just “boys being boys.”
So, from the moment I found out I was pregnant I planned to raise a little feminist. Unlike the name my husband and I picked for our child, that didn’t change when the ultrasound revealed we were expecting a boy.
But, as Trudeau admits in a new essay for Marie Claire, his revelation about the importance of raising feminist boys and girls was a bit slower coming.
Writing about a moment when he was teaching his 8-year-old daughter, Ella Grace, about gender equality, Trudeau says it was his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who pointed out that is also a necessary lesson for their sons, 9-year old Xavier and 3-year-old Hadrien.
“I was talking about teaching Ella that she can be anything she wants to be,” Trudeau wrote. “Sophie said, ‘That’s great, but how are you raising your sons to be strong advocates for women and girls, too?’”
It’s a question all parents of boys should ask themselves, because—as Trudeau notes in his essay—women and girls still face violence, discrimination and have fewer opportunities than men, both in Canada and around the world.
Society is changing, but we still have work to do for our girls. That work involves our boys.
“Gender equality is not only an issue for women and girls,” Trudeau continued. “All of us benefit when women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys—and it’s on all of us to make that a reality.”
According to my prime minister, our sons have the power and responsibility to change Canada’s culture of sexism. And I agree. As much as we need to boost our daughters’ self-esteem, we need to boost our sons’ awareness of the value of others, including women.
My boy won’t be that boy who believes the march toward gender equality doesn’t affect him. I hope he’ll be the kind of man who understands, to paraphrase Prime Minister Trudeau, that when we recognize that everyone is equal, everyone is more free.
Trudeau’s feminism isn’t perfect or inclusive—and neither is Canada—but baby steps are better than nothing and I’m happy he’s taking them at work and at home. “To raise our kids feminist is to honor their future, because they have the responsibility—and the power—to shape it for the better,” Trudeau wrote.
It probably shouldn't have taken a comment from his wife to make the PM realize his boys need feminism as much as his girl, but I’m glad he knows they do.
His sons and mine will be better men because of it.