Mark Rutledge, a father of three, and John Glynn-Morris, a father of two are raising their sons and daughters to be feminists.
With one in four women experiencing physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and both men realize the importance of their role as fathers and parents.
We all hope that the kids in our lives will grow up to be caring, empathetic and respectful adults. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on this happening naturally, since everywhere they look are harmful messages about what makes a man a man and a woman a woman.
They’ll see these toxic messages in movies and in the 3,000 ads they take in each day. They’ll hear jokes about harming women and be told that, “Real men don’t cry,” or that as a girl they are prettier when they smile.
Teaching kids about gender equality, respect for women, and healthy relationships is one of the greatest services that we as parents, relatives, mentors and educators can do to make this happen. And, it’s one of the biggest roles we can play in ending violence against women in our community.
“I think it is easier to talk to the youth and change their mindset at a young age,” says Rutledge. “When they are young, they are more adaptable to change, they have a greater understanding. They’re our future, and I think this is where we need to (focus).”
Rutledge is a member of White Ribbon Yukon, an organization led by men that works to end violence against women and girls. As a father, he has an open dialogue with his two sons and one daughter about gender equality and respect.
“With my kids I talk to them on a daily basis,” he says. “I think that is key to a lot of these problems – to have open dialogue, to talk, and to have really frank discussions. Even when they are young, you can still have a great conversation.”
Glynn-Morris is also having conversations with his son and daughter. He leverages teachable moments where they arise – often in children’s books.
“With my daughter where I really noticed it was in stories,” he says. “The gender stereotypes are just unreal and there is indirect violence against women in language… We spend a lot of time explaining things like this book talks about firemen, but you can be a firefighter, too.”
Glynn-Morris and his wife try to role model gender equality and respect in their home by sharing household tasks and talking to their young children about harmful stereotypes when they come up.
“I remember my son saying something about dad is out working because dads work,” he says, “and we talked about that.”
While Sarah Frey doesn’t have children of her own, as a leader for Girl Guides and a member of the Yukon Consent Crew, she believes that all adults have a part to play in teaching kids about gender equity.
“Anyone older is an authority figure and is a role model,” she says. “(So) to conduct yourself in a manner that respects women and stands up for women has a major influence on young men.”
On the Consent Crew, she tries to engage young men, where she feels there is big gap in our global conversations around violence.
“I think young men can be the biggest ally,” says Frey. “It just comes down to education (and to) understanding what their words mean and how their language contributes to rape culture and how it hurts women as a whole.”
Sarah Murphy, program coordinator of Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, also wants to invite adults without children to take an active role.
“When we’re talking about challenging harmful social norms, everyone has a role to play,” says Murphy. “Our messages and our actions resonate throughout society, and whether we interact with children regularly or not, they are impacted.”
She highlights the importance of challenging stereotypes that are ingrained in our media and accepted as natural – these stereotypes can do harm for boys and girls.
“By talking with youth about gender equality we are working to create a generation of people who will not stand for it,” Murphy says.
Each year, the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre and Les EssentiELLES team up with other local organizations for the 12 Days to End Violence Against Women campaign. This year, the campaign focuses on youth and the role all adults can play in teaching them about gender equality and respect. There will be 10 days of free events offering tips and fun ways to engage with the kids in your life.