how to raise a feminist son

How to Raise a Feminist Son?

Jason’s version

If you read The Upshot in the New York Times, congratulations, you are well on your way to raising a feminist son.  If you read The Upshot and articles about how to raise a feminist son speak to you, congratulations, you are several steps ahead of the average on your way to raising a feminist son.

Why that is?

Because children tend to take after their parents.  In other words, about half of who you are, assuming you were not raised in abject poverty, appears to be a result of what your parents passed down to you in the form of genes.  This is on average mind you, and of course the amount in which you are who you are because of your parents varies depending on the trait being measured.  But, as a whole, it is safe to say that about half of who you are comes from your genetic stock.  And assuming you and your spouse are more alike than different (which tends to be true), and assuming you are both staunch feminists, your boys already have an unfair advantage over boys raised in a more traditional household.

But here is the interesting part.  What science shows us is that the rest of who you are doesn’t seem to come from what your parents taught you, or how your parents raised you.  In social science they call that the “shared environment”, or what is common between yourself and your siblings.  But shared environment (or nurture) is not the only kind of environment.  The other kind of environment is called the non-shared environment, or experiences that are not shared between siblings.  And here is what’s crazy (and totally uncontroversial among the experts):  non-shared environment seems to matter far, far, far more than shared environment.  In other words, outside of what got passed down to you by your parents (your genes), what your parents taught you or how they raised you (assuming they didn’t physically abuse or starve you) seems to matter only an incy wincy bit.

What’s an example of non-shared environment that you can work with?  Apparently, peer group, among other things.  Children tend to want to fit into their peer groups more than they want to fit in with their parents.  And that makes sense, given that parents tend to love their children no matter what, while rejection from a peer group is quite traumatizing.  This is why children of immigrant parents adopt the native language and host country accent to the chagrin of culturally proud parents.  For more on this I recommend The Nurture Assumption, by Judith Rich Harris (because you don’t want to take my word for it).

But in the end, if you want feminist children give them feminist friends.  I make no gauntness as to outcomes (especially if your spouse is a raging MRA), but I can promise you that it’s based on the best available evidence about what makes us who we are.

Otherwise, you can disregard what I say and continue to pretend that 2.8 million years of evolution seems to matter only a distant second as to whether you gave little Johnny an opportunity to play with dolls when he was two.