Friday, June 14, 2013

What's the purpose of fathers you ask?

As per the usual method of operation when Father's Day approaches folks just can't get their fill of stories that do everything from questioning fathers to outright dismissing them. Well this year the New York Time took a swing at it.

"What Are Fathers For?"

Just who in the hell do they think they are asking some stuff like that?

Have we really gotten to the point were now that fathers aren't expected to fulfill their traditional scripts we have to justify their existence?

They start off the discussion by asking, "We’re approaching the holiday that celebrates dads, but do fathers bring anything unique to the table?"

Why do they need to bring anything unique to the table in the first place? From what I understand the advent of women taking on a larger role in the workplace showed us one thing. Women's roles in the family were not limited to the subset of family tasks collectively (and probably sexistly) known as "woman's work". They can do whatever jobs and roles that are needed in just about any given family.

So why aren't fathers afforded that same courtesy? Other than the obvious of bearing children is there any task that (most) fathers are somehow incapable of? They can be internal providers (as in providing the care that's needed inside the home). They can be external providers (as in providing the care that's needed from outside the home). Yes men have been locked down in the role of the external provider for a long time but times are changing and there is no need for us to be limited like that anymore.

What good are they now? Well there's plenty to be done in any modern family unless someone wants to argue that women are quite literally better off doing it all alone (yes I know they CAN do it alone but that doesn't mean we need to start pushing dads away just yet).

Particularly the Michele Weldon portion of that debate bothered me because she seems to think that by promoting fatherhood and trying to get fathers into children's lives groups and organizations are advocating for abusive/neglectful/unfit dads to be in their kids lives.

This is bullshit.

Oh and at the end she brings up the old Fresh Prince of Bel Air episode where Will's dad appears, promises to take him with him, and then abandons him again:
In time for Father’s Day movie bonding, Will Smith stars in “After Earth” with his real-life son, Jaden. But a 1994 episode of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” shows a much younger Will Smith in a scene that is more real to many American boys. The Smith character’s father runs out on a promise to take his son on a trip, and Smith shouts: “I’m gonna get through college without him. I’m gonna get a great job without him and marry me a beautiful honey and have me a whole bunch of kids. And I’m gonna be a better father than he ever was.” And then he chokes, “How come he don’t want me, man?”
I know there is no possible answer to that question. But I also know it is time to stop damning the children who need to ask.

If she is trying to use this as evidence that dads really aren't worth then I wonder if she was paying attention to the rest of the series. Hell was she even paying attention to the rest of that scene. Throughout the series despite all the back and forth he had with him Will acknowledged Uncle Phil as the man that helped him become a man.

Yes there are bad dads out there. Bad dads that don't give a man about the children they helped create. Bad dads that run out on their responsibilities. Those are not the dads that those organizations advocate for.

Those are the kinds of dads we push for. Those are the kinds of dads that need to be in children's lives. Those are the kinds of dads that we need to produce for the future.

But thankfully there are other responses that are more uplifting (I especially like W. Bradford Wilcox's "Fathers are not Fungible" response).

Overall I think even asking this question sort of confirms the sexist notion that dads really are only good for their wallets and now that that is not necessary anymore we have to act like they are now useless.

And make sure you go give a read to the more thorough response by Scott Behson at Good Men Project (at the least read up his challenges to the "In almost half the American households with children, mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners. " claim at the start of the debate).