Author Elizabeth Rhodes Releases ‘Feminism Is For Boys’ As A Tool To Dismantle Toxic Masculinity

We’re experiencing a cultural flashpoint right now across the globe. The #MeToo movement, initially started over a decade ago by activist Tarana Burke and brought to the mainstream in the past couple of years thanks to amplification from celebrities such as Alyssa Milano, conversations around sexual harassment, gender equality and how we as a society take responsibility to these issues have become so vital.

Along with the notion that sexual abuse and harassment, most notably in the workplace (as exemplified by numerous high profile cases involving Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby and more) needs to be exposed and dismantled, is the idea that we need to get to the foundation of the problem – gender inequality. What are boys and men being taught from a young age for them to go through their life thinking it is normal or acceptable to treat women in such a manner? Who is responsible for teaching them such things?

It really does start with the messages kids hear in the home from a very young age and parents and guardians really do have a big job to make sure they are instilling positive and empowering messages into the minds of today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders. One woman who is taking this responsibility very seriously is author Elizabeth Rhodes, whose new book ‘Feminism Is For Boys‘ is exactly the kind of tool we need to see more of in order to dismantle toxic masculinity and build up healthy ideas of what it means to be boys and men in a world that instills such narrow and harmful tropes upon them.

With eye-catching illustrations and a powerful message of acceptance, ‘Feminism is for Boys’ is the perfect way to introduce young readers to the concept of universal feminism. This vibrant new board book demonstrates that boys can confidently pursue nontraditional interests such as playing sports with girls, wearing dresses, cooking, playing with dolls, expressing emotions, as well as seeking diverse friendships and believing unapologetically in true equality. Elizabeth is an active feminist author and parent based in Portland, Oregon, who has been featured on Minifeminist and Future Feminist‘s podcast. We asked her a few questions about her book and what she hopes to share with readers as they delve into each page.

How did the idea for the book come about?

Russell (my partner) was the first in our family to call themselves a feminist. When I first met Russell I was still oblivious to the complexity of the ways our society was failing me as a women. I was still at a place in my life where I thought I needed to change or hide the parts of me that didn’t fit into our cultures expectation of what it means to be a woman. My relationship with Russell was the first where I felt I was met as an equal, where I was met with acceptance, respect, and encouragement of my true self. Russell became a huge part of my emotional and mental growth. He helped me to have confidence in who I was, and to use that confidence to stand up against unfair treatment.

In 2017, we became parents for the first time. We filled our child’s book shelf with feminist and inclusive books and read them as often as possible. One thing we found is that many parents we knew (even those who identified as feminist) where having a difficult time understanding how to teach Feminism to their boys. Additionally, we found that many men – friends and family – didn’t understand that they too were welcome in feminism. We found this to be a huge problem. You see, if we wanted the world that our child was growing up in to be successful in achieving equality, we knew there had to be a bridge to help people close the gap on their understanding of who feminism was for – which is everyone of course. So we decided to build a piece of that bridge and came up with the concept for the ‘Feminism is for Boys’ book.

With so many discussions around toxic masculinity stemming from the #MeToo movement revelations, how do you hope your book will be a tool for parents to raise the next generation of boys in a more empowering way?

Awesome question! We believe the underlying problem that connects toxic masculinity and the #metoo movement, is that they stem from an era of narrow-minded gender roles and expectations. When we suppress children’s emotional growth by not allowing them expression and support, we create adults that are not only still acting out their emotions (instead of dealing with them) but also inflicting their emotional pain onto others in physical ways. To solve these issues, we must look at the problem as a whole, and the way we raise our boys has to be a part of that equation.

Our culture has failed these victims and boys for far too long, and we are relieved to see these issues finally getting the attention and seriousness they deserve. Although this book is not the key to ending this cycle, we hope it will be used to help bring light to the conversation of raising gender equitable boys as well as to help parents to open themselves to a healthier and more fluid way to view all kids – their interests, their emotions, their empathy, and their capability to participate in equality. Our ability as parents to raise our children in a healthy world is connected to our ability to also insure other children are raised with this goal in mind.

What reactions have you gotten from readers or people you’ve shown the book to so far?

Overwhelmingly positive! We are finding so many people connecting to even just the title, that Feminsm is for Boys. It’s incredible to see how many people needed to see or hear that phrase. As a feminist, so many of us have come up against people who disagree with feminism because they believe it is anti-man. This book is giving people a statement to better approach this opposition. It has given us the opportunity to also engage negativity on our social media outlets – and surprisingly enough, they often end on a very positive note. Many of the people seem to be caught off guard by an account that supports feminism AND boys, all at the same time. They may not always agree with our understanding of the term feminism, but we can find common ground in supporting children’s emotions, interests, friendships and belief that we all deserve to be treated equal. Hopefully the work we have done engaging these people will help to set the ground work for them to be more open to hearing the reality of the inequality issues that exist today.

Why is it important to teach kids more inclusive values from a young age?

Inclusive values are our key to equality. Starting from a young age allows our children to be confident in expressing the truest versions of themselves – no matter their gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, race, age, class, ability, culture, etc. It gives all kids the capacity to grow in a home that is built on acceptance of self, which grows to a community of acceptance of others. When we teach all children to value each individual – as whole humans – we can create a future that comes together in a mutual liberation of all people.

You can purchase a copy of ‘Feminism Is For Boys’ by clicking here.

One Comment

  1. We eschew gendered words like fireman, policeman, in favor of police officer and firefighter.

    Some even now reject the word “gingerbreadman.”

    I agree and this good. Gendered words should be rejected.

    So if the principles of gender equity are for boys, too, then we must abandon the word feminism — for it is gendered — in favor of a word like “egalitariansim” that is not gendered and applicable to girls and boys.
    I am not a feminist.

    The very word is gendered and privileges women: and, thus, sexist.

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