How does a feminist mother prepare her 3-year-old for gender inequality?

Monday, August 19, 2013

“Having the Sexism Talk: Lessons for My Daughter”
In this short post for The Nation, Jessica Valenti, known to many of us as the founder of the Feministing website and author of several books related to issues feminists care about, says that her three-year-old daughter is already picking up traditional ideas about gender.  Jessica writes: ““Friends have assured me that this is the age when children see things in a very binary way—they’re attached to boundaries and rules, and gender becomes a part of that. But it’s hard not to see that even at such a young age—and even with a feminist mother—my daughter is picking up on sexism.”  The comments that followed her post show that readers have strong feelings about the topic—all kinds of feelings.  How do you feel about it?   As I see it,  I don’t think we need to have “the talk” about feminism and sexism any more than we have to plan “the talk” about sex. (And I realize Jessica may not have written the title to her post; she says in the article that she knows there will be many talks.)  In raising children—whether girls or boys—teachable moments occur constantly, and gender equality can be both modeled and discussed in a way that is relaxed and natural (even laid back and matter-of-fact) from their earliest days— and occasionally at what might seem the oddest times.  I wonder if worrying too much about it and trying too hard might sometimes be counter-productive.  Just thinking.

 Having sexism talk lsessons my daughter

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.


  1. Hi, EEWC friends! I’ve been swirling in my work world and just took the time today- on a day off- to look at this post. I think that Jessica Valenti has infinite opportunities to allow her daughter to explore what she wants to about being a child, and a girl, and not become overly distressed about her daughter’s ” feminist education”. I was a child of the 70’s, a member of NOW, marched for the ERA Extension while working for a radio station in PA. I have a daughter who is now 29, and every bit a feminist- but more, a compassionate human being. Neither one of us is “bossy”, though we are both strong people who happen to be women. While I live my own feminism in my own way, I did not and I still do not think adults need to impose some kind of intense philosophy, religion or politics on pre-school children. This is the age of trying on things, clothes, identities and imagination. Letha, I agree with you that there will be many opportunities for learning, in relation to the real world experiences Jessica’s daughter will have. As a librarian in training, working with children and families, I have opportunities to share stories about many kinds of women, their choices and their perspectives, and for how they handled challenges in their lives. Thank you for this link, this chance to think. EEWC this is why I love you all- you help give me a pause to consider and be grateful for being a woman, and for all the ways we can share and learn in our world.


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