Skip to main content

Parenting Leah McLaren: Why I'm bringing my four-year-old son to a Women's March

On Saturday I'm taking my four-year-old son James to his first feminist march. It's the London version of the Women's March on Washington, in support of people marching on Capitol Hill to protest the inauguration of U.S president-elect Donald Trump.

A bunch of the mums from my son's class are going. The march has become so de rigueur in my London postcode – the highlight of the January social calendar, blowing out the bake sale and the rep cinema "baby and carer" screening of La La Land – that my husband, Rob, has started gently mocking it from the sidelines.

When I showed him the brand-new "This is what a feminist looks like" T-shirt I'd bought for James to wear, he snorted. "What are you going to chant? We want smashed avocado on gluten-free toast! We want free Pilates!"

Story continues below advertisement

I rolled my eyes and stomped out of the kitchen. I had some important placards to make with my glue gun on the craft table.

But seriously folks, it is an important march. And I'm bringing James because I want him to know that. Also, I just can't help myself. I have plenty of friends who seem to want to shelter their children from the messiness of politics, but I am certainly not one of them. One war correspondent I know makes sure his iCloud account is cleared in case his six-year-old daughter might glimpse any carnage photos. I, on the other hand, have been trying to get this same war correspondent over to our house for months to explain to James and Freddy that war is not, in fact, just a video game. "Look kids," I want him to say, "war is real and dangerous and terrible and it tears families apart in the most appalling way." I want my kids to look at my friend's carnage photos and get upset and angry and then I want them to do something.

It's no secret where I got the urge to indoctrinate my kids with progressive politics. As a geneticist might say, I didn't lick it off a brick. I inherited it from my mother – a woman who is, right at this moment, spearheading the "Stop Kellie Leitch" campaign in her village of Creemore, Ont., which also happens to be in Leitch's riding. The Conservative MP is running to be her party's leader on a platform that includes screening potential immigrants for undefined "Canadian values."

Outside my mother's house there is a sign saying "Leitch: Not my MP." She started a Twitter hashtag of the same name, which trended nationally.

When Leitch didn't join the Santa Claus parade in Creemore this year (presumably for fear of being booed by angry constituents sick of her divisive, far-right rhetoric), my mother considered it a personal victory.

During my childhood, Mum was much the same.

She took me to various meetings and consciousness-raising groups and lectured me endlessly about the importance of feminism and the dangers of nuclear arms.

Story continues below advertisement

I have a very clear memory of her giving a sharp tongue-lashing to a small-town bank teller who dared to suggest that what the famine victims in Ethiopia really needed to stop the cycle of poverty was a good dose of birth control. In Zadie Smith's new novel Swing Time, the main character's mother is recognizable – a pushy, ambitious young woman intent on improving herself and her recalcitrant child through the world of books and ideas. "I was used to my mother's speechifying," she writes.

"I tended to tune out whenever it was happening – and I was familiar too, with the way she would drop whatever she happened to be studying into ordinary conversation."

"Oh God," I thought when I read it, "that's my mother."

And then I had a second, more terrifying thought: "That's me."

Mortifying as I found it at the time, my mother's progressive bombardment worked. As an adult and now as a mother myself, I hold all the same basic convictions she did.

How did that happen?

Story continues below advertisement

Because she relentlessly drilled them into my head.

The fact I also happen to believe they are factually and morally correct is almost beside the point – they are the inescapable moral soundtrack of my childhood.

In the same way some children grow up with their mother relentlessly applauding their tap dances or criticizing their hair, I have the sound of my mother's voice lecturing me on the importance of multiculturalism and the evils of income inequality. And now my boys will have the same experience in turn.

When he's older, James will either sign up for Trump Youth to spite me, or submit to that moral soundtrack in his head.

For now, this is what a feminist looks like: A four-year-old boy in an oversized T-shirt at a women's march. What could be more hopeful?

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter