International Women's Day: An open letter to my son on being the ally we need

International Women’s Day is reserved to celebrate the many awe-inspiring and incredible contributions and accomplishments of women over the decades.

From shining a light on the famous women in history (opens in new tab) and focusing on how to raise a strong girl (opens in new tab), we also need more male allies to push the message. Here our Family Editor Stephanie Lowe (opens in new tab) writes an open letter to her son.

Dear Ted,

It’s International Women’s Day 2022 and you are four years, 2 months and 3 days old. You say Marmamite, wear my hot pink hat with a smile and love Paw Patrol. And you think I’m the funniest person in any room and I’m your ‘bested friend’. 

And, while I sometimes wish I could keep you like this,  and soak up the innocence you carry, wrapping you in hope for as long as I can. I know that you are at an age where you can start to understand why it’s wrong to treat people unfairly. The world, and society as we know it, hasn’t gotten to you yet. And I dread the day it does.

I would love to say that when I found out I was having a son I made the fierce decision to raise you as a proud feminist. As an ally for women. But, the truth is… just figuring out how to raise you was my only worry. 

It’s only now as your own little personality emerges, led by your curiosity, that I know just how much I need to teach and model for you. Especially when innocent lines like; “it’s pink mummy, you like it” start to surface. 

I model and teach by playing Paw Patrol so that that ‘pink pup’ Skye is just as able, fierce and smart as the other ‘boy’ pups. By not saying ‘let's ask daddy to help’ if I can't open something. Instead I will narrate out loud how hard I’m finding it; “This is hard for me to do. What other ideas can I try to open it myself?’ I model my struggle and how I find another way. 

I don't demand blind compliance from you. I let you make your own choices, and learn from them. In addition, I tell you every day that my number one job as your mummy, is to keep you safe. And I do that with clear set boundaries.

Image of a toddler on a pebble beach

Credit: Future/canva

But, the only true way I can help you stay safe throughout life is to show you that you have a voice, to understand your own body, and trust your gut instinct. To stand by your decisions, even when there are consequences. 

At your age this teaching may look like you not eating your dinner because you're full and me, as your parent, trusting you and your body to make that decision. Or when we’re tickling and you say ‘stop mummy’, I not only stop but I reinforce it by saying out loud that I stopped because you asked. Both of these small gestures are teaching consent and empowering you to use your voice.  A voice you will one day use to help the voiceless.

The small steps count, poppet. Small steps can make big changes. And your own voice holds more power than you can begin to yet understand.

It’s only a matter of time before someone makes a mean comment about your pink hat or you're teased about your love of dancing. Or before you start hearing the whispers of “boys don’t cry, be a man.” And it’s only a matter of time before you’ll feel pressure to exclude others from your groups. I know it’s coming.

And its because of this that your dad and I try not to not shy away from the trickier conversations at home. We approach things in an age-appropriate way; but above all, you’re a person, and you deserve to be allowed in on the conversation.

Alongside this, I'm obsessed with setting you up with the emotional skill set, language, knowledge and confidence you need. These will help you to stand with the women of the world in the ongoing battle toward equality. A battle I'm sad to say I think will be raging when you’re older. It’s a slow burner. 

The truth is, that regardless of how much we women march and shout, the road to equality feels endless. We cannot do it alone. It will be your responsibility to use your privilege as a man to lift women up, offer them opportunities free of discrimination. To support women's choices and intentions, and treat them respectfully and without bias. Don't speak over them, do give them the space they deserve at whatever table you're at.

And, above all, to challenge the men in your life who don’t do any of this. It’s not enough to be a good man on the inside, you have to actively be a good man every day and show up with your voice.

You’re going to grow up to be a brave and compassionate man who stands for things bigger than yourself. You’re going to be a voice and an ally to those who need it. You’re going to be a force for progress. 

My darling boy I know you will because, as your mum, I will lift you up and support you in doing this. My little feminist, we need you in this fight on International Women's Day, and every day. 

Love, Your mummy

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