If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it’s pretty clear the old boys club that is patriarchy is alive and well. And even if you don’t engage in “locker room talk,” getting your kids to recognize gender equality is an important next step in human evolution.
Jessica Bennett is a New York Times contributor (oh look, here’s her piece about Donald Trump’s debate performance), and the author of Feminist Fight Club, a hilarious manifesto for dealing with workplace sexism. As someone who’s had endure alpha males in the newsroom, Bennett has a few key thoughts on how to raise confident daughters and more in-touch sons.
You Might Be A Feminist, But Then There’s The Rest of The World
Bennett grew up in Seattle in the 80s, which was by all accounts, “a liberal utopia.” She didn’t even realize sexism was still an issue until later in her life. “My feminist parents told me I could do whatever I set my mind to and I outpaced my male peers in school, like so many women do,” she says. But then as a young writer at Newsweek, she started realizing she made less than her male colleagues, and taking note of who was getting the most bylines, cover stories, and senior management positions (and, not for nothing, Newsweek was also part of a landmark anti-discrimination lawsuit in the 70s). “That was my ‘click moment,’ as feminists say — when I realized that the problem wasn’t just me, but it was part of a larger system that holds women back.”
The world has come a long way since the Mad Men days , but Bennett points out that the wage gap is definitely still a thing. She cites a Harvard Business Review article that found that fewer than 5 percent of businesses worldwide have a female CEO, and almost 60 percent have an all-male board. “Yet research shows that businesses with women in positions of power are more profitable than those without female leaders,” she points out. (That’s a hot stock tip for you.)
Don’t Know Much About History
You don’t want your daughter to feel defeated by what she’s up against, so highlight how far women have come. But don’t sugarcoat the struggle. “I think it’s really important that we have these conversations, openly and honestly,” says Bennett. For example, “I think we have to make sure future generations know how and when women won the right to vote and that there was a time when women couldn’t vote in the United States.” You can also talk about how laws were passed to prohibit hiring on the basis of gender, and (are supposed to) guarantee equal pay. If she needs an illustration, have your daughter do her chores. Then pay her 80 cents on the dollar.
Teach Your Son How To Share (The Credit)
Bennett says that men often don’t realize how disproportionately they interrupt women in the workplace, but the research proves they’re doing it — a lot. Apparently, women are twice as likely as men to be interrupted by co-workers of either gender, and even more so if they’re a woman of color. “This matters because if you’re being talked over all the time, the reaction could be to clam up, lose confidence, or cede credit for our work,” says Bennett. So girls, no need to always raise your hand. Guys need to stop, collaborate, and listen. Because Bennett also says “oftentimes the simple act of repeating a woman’s idea can mean the man who repeated it is attributed with the idea — and the credit.” Just ask Ada Lovelace.
Check Your Own Privilege
No matter how woke a dude you consider yourself to be, there might still be some little habits and biases you have to deprogram. If you’re going to set an example for your son, you have to accept that, and be more self-aware. Chapter 5 in Feminist Fight Club is what Bennett calls a PSA — Penile Service Announcement. It’s a list of simple things men can do in their everyday work lives to improve things for women, from interrupting interrupters to interviewing more women and people of color for jobs. She also advocates for men taking paternity leave, and “setting a precedent that it is a family issue.”
And finally, when you leave work, equality has to rule at home. It’s important that your kid sees mom and dad as equal partners, both cooking, both cleaning, and both saying no to cookies before dinner.