My infant son owns several feminist onesies, many of which I made for him. But I’d like to believe that he stands behind the messages. One says “ask me about my feminist agenda.” No one has asked yet, but here’s my feminist agenda for him:
I want you to play with and wear and like whatever your heart desires: trucks or dolls or toy kitchens and Legos. Hell, you can have a tea party with dinosaurs and robots and read comic books in a princess dress for all I care. I want your favorite color to be whatever you choose. And when some snot nosed kid on the playground or some loudmouth adult in Target tells that something is “for girls” or “for boys” I want you to have the self-assuredness to raise your little voice and tell them that there is no such thing; it’s all just made up anyways. I hope that when that snot-nosed brat calls you a sissy or calls you gay for liking something that has been arbitrarily assigned to be “girly” you will still stand up and say “so what if it’s gay, so what if it’s girly, there is nothing wrong with being either.”
But I know that you won’t always be so self-assured and it will hurt when people say these things and you’ll cry hot embarrassed tears and wonder if you should try to fit in because it will be easier. But I hope you won’t try to fit yourself into some made up mold or hide those tears because “boys don’t cry.” I hope you’ll understand that boy and girls are both just people and people cry and get mad and need to talk and need to be alone.
Speaking of girls, I really hope you’ll be friends with girls from as soon as you start making friends. It’s the best way to understand that they are complex, interesting, smart, and funny people just like boys. And I hope that when you do like a girl the adults in your life are smart enough to not start hetronormatively hyper sexulizating you. I want you to be a little kid for as long as you need to be (OK technically I want you to be my little boy forever). It’s already started. No, you are not “flirting” with women in the checkout line. You are a baby. That’s gross. There’s little you can do about this, but I’ll try to correct it when I can.
By the way when it comes to your interactions with girls, you will treat them the same as you treat boys. They aren’t princesses, they aren’t breakable, and it isn’t your job to save them or explain things to them. But it is your job to respect them, it is your job to realize that the odds are still stacked against them, and even as you treat them fairly the rest of the world may not. You are a white male in America born to middle class white parents, you have a mountain of privilege and with it comes responsibility.
If when you grow up and are attracted to girls you won’t treat them like objects, you will have watched your mother take catcallers to task, and you’ll stand up and do the same. You won’t be complicit in rape culture, and you won’t perpetuate it. When you hear other men say lewd things you’ll tell them it’s not cool. At work someday, you won’t ask the women to take notes. You’ll bring in the cookies. You’ll take paternity leave. You won’t critique women’s voices “abrasiveness” in a different light then your male coworkers or judge their skills on how “likeable” they are.
Because you’ll have watched your father take on an equal share of household tasks and you’ll do the same. Yes, my son, you will do your own laundry and cook meals and do the dishes. You’ll know that there is no such thing as “men’s work and women’s work” there is just work. Work for all of us to join in.
This is my infant son’s feminist agenda whether he knows it or not. This is what I want for him. I wish it didn’t matter if I had a son or a daughter, but to the world it does. No matter how many glittery leggings I buy from the “girls” department for him, he’s going to have to go out in a world that still very much divides humans based on their biological sex. But he’s my kid so he’ll know better.