You may or may not have heard about the controversy surrounding a certain barf-inducing sexist shirt for girls on sale at a certain major retail store. I won't get into the details here, but rather refer you to the most articulate and well thought out commentary I have read about it by Liz at Mom-101.
It is useful to note that she approaches the issue from the perspective of a mother of girls. As a mother of boys, I will need to approach the topic of sexism with my children from a slightly different angle. I will confess I'm still sorting out in my head how I am going to do this.
My 3 year old son has remarked on the giant billboard on the freeway near our house which shows four scantily clad women with bare midrifs. The photo is cropped to just above their necks - the photo is literally a bunch of faceless bodies. He thinks it is hilariously silly that there's a giant picture of a bunch of tummies. He has also deduced, in true 3-year-old logic fashion, that since the tummies in question are clearly those of women, and clearly flat (versus his own mother's huge round pregnant tummy) that these "mommies" have already pushed out their babies and that is why their tummies are now flat.
I have no idea how to address this in an age appropriate way, other than to say that they may be mommies and they may not be mommies - I don't know because not all women are mommies. I have not touched the whole objectification of women's bodies issue, nor have I touched the idea what constitutes female attractiveness in our society and how that contributes to unhealthy body image and behavior.
I don't know when is the right time to start talking explicitly about these topics. I do believe it will be critically important for me to talk to my sons about it though, because teaching women to empower themselves is only half the equation. As one of Mom-101's commenter's put it, "You know who will help stop sexism? MEN. Men standing up and saying THIS IS BULLSHIT." I want my sons to be two of the men who recognize sexist BS when they see it and stand up and call it for what it is.