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Feminist Discernment in the Family
Transforming Romantic Partnerships, Parenting, and Consumption

created and written by:
Emily Knurek & Cecilia Yu

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Feminist Parenting: An Introduction
Transforming the Parent-Child Relationship

Traditional Parenting Can Reproduce Gender Oppression in Children :

The late feminist political philosopher, S. M. Okin, asked in 1989, “If families are not themselves governed by principles of justice, how can they morally educate citizens fit to sustain a just society?” (1)

Second Wave Feminism began to address how family life was reproducing gender oppression. Many feminists saw the family as a “gender mill” where parents taught their children to act out their ascribed gender. (2)

Children learn gender oppression from their families through two main venues: the hierarchical husband-wife relationship and the hierarchical parent-child relationship. This page focuses on transforming the parent-child relationship. To learn more about transforming romantic relationships, click here.

The traditional parent-child relationship can be characterized by two paradigms: the Subservient Mother Paradigm and the Authoritarian Parent Paradigm. Both of these hierarchical approaches are marked by patterns of domination and submission. In the discernment process, feminists are learning to question the myth of "Natural" Motherhood and to consciously and deliberately raise their children with positive Feminist Family Values.


Parenting From a Feminist Perspective

“The feminist movement is pro-family.”
                        -Bell Hooks (3)

Feminists have been questioning the existence of patriarchy and domination in family life since the beginning of the movement. Feminists recognized that the traditional sexual division of labor within the home is not fulfilling to many women who specialized in homemaking. Additionally, women who worked in the home raised questions about the devaluation of their important caring labor.

Parenting is an issue underdiscussed in society at large and within the feminist movement, until recently. (4) Nancy Folbre has argued that children are our nation’s social capital and that we should adequately support the caring labor needed to raise healthy, educated, and socially conscious future citizens of the world. (5) Julie Matthaei envisions “socially responsible parenting,” in which feminist parents encourage their children to discover their unique selves and to serve society. (6)

Feminists have begun to rethink and redefine parenting and this is at the heart of the Feminist Discernment Process. Feminist parents recognize that transforming the traditional parent-child relationship can help to heal themselves and their relationships with their children, and to break down the reproduction of oppression and hierarchies in the next generation. The following quotation by feminist theorist, bell hooks, demonstrates how feminists have begun to rethink and redefine parenting and the benefits to doing so:

 "Children need to be raised in loving environments. Whenever domination is present, love is lacking. Loving parents, be they single or coupled, gay or straight, headed by females or males, are more likely to raise healthy, happy children with sound self-esteem. In future feminist movement we need to work harder to show parents the ways ending sexism positively changes family life. Feminist movement is pro-family. Ending patriarchal domination of children, by men or women, is the only way to make the family a place where children can be safe, where they can be free, where they can know love." (7)


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  • Created By: Cecilia Yu
    Page Created: May 21st, 2007
    Last Modified: October 11th, 2007