“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” is one of the more popular definitions of feminism. By that definition, you might think there would be many self-described feminists; male and female. In fact, some young boys are already absorbing feminist definitions. Charlie, a 7th grade boy in Kentucky, describes feminism as when “females have power and they can do whatever anyone else can do and they’re not less-than people, they’re equal.” His friend Diego, also in 7th grade says that while he isn’t 100 percent sure of the definition of feminism, he would say it is “believing all men and women should be equal.”
It turns out, kids are quite aware of fairness and equality from a young age, says psychologist Dr. Bobbi Wegner. Anyone who has had a conversation with a 5-year-old about sharing dessert with a sibling knows that. They are also astutely aware of when they are being left out, or feel like a friend or sibling is getting something they are not.
Which brings us to another feminist phrase; “The Future is Female.” That saying has been spotted on T-shirts across the country, and was even used by Hillary Clinton in the wake of the 2016 election. The phrase actually started decades ago, but like a lot of things retro, is back in style.
Harry, a 16-year-old sophomore in Colorado has seen the shirt at his school. He says that the movement overall is positive, but “honestly, it feels like a little intimidating and a little bias towards men.”
Harry, like many kids, is aware of being left out. In the wake of #MeToo it seems like there’s even more momentum to empower women and girls.
“Entitlement is being challenged in ways it’s never been challenged before,” says Ted Bunch, co-founder of A Call To Men – a non-profit focused on changing perceptions of manhood and reducing violence against women. “What we’re seeing is men being held accountable for things they have always gotten away with.”
It’s a change many women, and some men, would say is overdue. But it’s hard not to also understand where Harry is coming from when he says “I understand the context but I do feel like what about me, where am I? I don’t feel like a community or group is out there that empowers young boys.”
So how do we support our girls, without alienating our boys? We asked the experts for advice. Here’s what they had to say.