Why I'm Raising My Kids to Be Feminists
In an exclusive essay for MarieClaire.com, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opens up about wanting his sons to "escape the pressure to be a particular kind of masculine that is so damaging to men and to the people around them."
I am in politics because every day, I get to work to make the world a little better—for my kids, and for yours. I’m proud of the dedicated work our team is doing to make Canada more open, more inclusive, more just—and gender equal. But some of the most important work I do is not as a political leader, but as a parent. Every day, at home, I have the astonishing and humbling opportunity—together with my wife Sophie—to nurture empathy, compassion, self-love, and a keen sense of justice in our three kids.
I am so exceptionally proud of my daughter Ella-Grace. She’s growing up kind, super-smart, a passionate debater, open to the world around her. I love Ella, and I worry—because as a father, son, husband, and citizen, I witness the unequal obstacles women and girls face every day. It’s 2017, yet in Canada and around the world, women and girls still face violence, discrimination, stereotypes that limit them, and unequal opportunities that keep them from achieving their dreams. It is maddening to me that my brilliant, compassionate daughter will grow up in a world where, despite everything she is as a person, there will still be people who won’t take her voice seriously, who will write her off—simply because of her gender.
I can—and do—work every day to shift those inequalities, even incrementally. But I also know that the most powerful medicine will come from Ella herself. Sophie and I can’t be there with Ella at every hard moment of her life—to protect her when someone makes her feel small, to advocate for her when someone isn’t listening—even if we wish we could. (Parents will relate.) So the best thing we can do is to help Ella learn, unshakeably, that she is enough, exactly as she is. That she has immense power, and intrinsic worth, which no one can ever take away from her. That she has a strong voice, which she can use, and trust.
That means raising her feminist. Full stop.
I'm eternally lucky to have an amazing partner in that project. Sophie continues to inspire and challenge me, and a few years ago, she helped me reach a turning point. I was talking about teaching Ella that she can be anything she wants to be. Sophie said, “That’s great—but how are you raising your sons to be strong advocates for women and girls, too?”
Gender equality is not only an issue for women and girls. All of us benefit when women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys—and it’s on all of us to make that a reality. Our sons have the power and the responsibility to change our culture of sexism, and I want Xavier and Hadrien—when he’s a little older—to understand that deeply. But I want, too, to help them grow into empathetic young people and adults, strong allies who walk through the world with openness, love, and a fierce attachment to justice. I want my sons to escape the pressure to be a particular kind of masculine that is so damaging to men and to the people around them. I want them to be comfortable being themselves, and being feminists—who stand up for what’s right, and who can look themselves in the eye with pride.
Feminism is not just the belief that men and women are equal. It’s the knowledge that when we are all equal, all of us are more free. It’s a relentless commitment to look for ourselves in each other, because that’s how we start to build a world where everyone is treated with respect and recognition. And it’s the unwavering conviction that all people have the same rights and freedoms—that my rights are your rights, and it is only when your rights are fully protected that mine are, too.
That world doesn’t exist yet. But it can be built—by people who have a strong sense of justice and empathy, who stand up for the rights of others, and who seek out their own unique ways of creating more inclusive communities.
That’s the world we want to live in. That’s the world we want our kids to live in. To raise our kids feminist is to recognize that they ALL have a part to play to build that world. To raise our kids feminist is to honor their future, because they have the responsibility—and the power—to shape it for the better.
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