“OK, it’s nice for politically correct reasons to blame Europe for everything, imperialism, colonialism, slavery, but my God, Europe did give – and let’s be proud of that – something wonderful to humanity: the idea of radical egalitarianism, of radical democracy, feminism, etc. This is at the core of European identity, and that is what is at stake today.”
Slavoj Zizek, speaking at the “Subversive Festival” in Zagreb, Croatia, 2013
Today’s NY Times contains another article that is full of disrespect for fathers and the kind of illiberal victim-blaming that used to be reserved for women and religious and ethnic minorities. Lucky us! We’ve arrived in the “Contempt Club.” I added a comment to this one, in which I was trying to describe how this author has it backwards, how her editorial perpetuates market values that turn us into superfluous consumers of vulgar and dehumanized images of what it means to be a man or a woman.
Despite her claim to the contrary, parents who know what parental love is don’t think and feel in the way this author claims. We don’t want our kids to take care of us; we want the power to take care of our kids. The Times’ use of the discussion of gender is deeply laced with sexist and consumerist ideologies. The denigration of men and fathers is an ever-increasingly rote recitation of debased values that are indifferent to the short circuiting of inter-generational inheritances of love, expressiveness, language, and social and cultural life. Everything that is tragic and comic in human experience, which can only be transmitted by loving, intimate, inter-immersive parent-child experience, is hereby discounted. Fatherless, culturally deprived children are to make their brains maximally available to attention-dominating, hyper-industrialized technological pastimes and distraction, and marketing becomes the central function of social development.
Well, to hell with that!
According to the Times, the brunt of the blame is to be shouldered by fathers “unwilling to work” and ‘be parents.” Hanna Rosin, the author of this actually quite mean-spirited piece, fails to consider that in condoning the breakdown of parent-child relationships, the reversal of generational hierarchy that is imposed on us by economic disempowerment means tragic loss of identity for masses of children, as well as their parents.
The only thing worse than the editorial itself is the topical question that elicited the essay to begin with: “Room for Debate: Children are better off with a father than without one.” Thanks, New York Times, for elevating the discussion so brilliantly.
Well let’s see just how stupidly we can answer a stupid question! As one dear friend suggested in her response to this “debate” topic, here is an alternative:
“Children are better off with two legs than one. Discuss!”1
Here is the Times editorial, followed by my comment:
In an age when more and more mothers are sole or primary breadwinners, do fathers bring anything unique to the table?
Fathers Need Their Children
I’m not sure whether a child needs a father. Sophisticated studies on single motherhood show that the circumstances surrounding such families – poverty, instability – can be rough on children, but not that single motherhood itself is an issue. And from my own decade or so of mother experience and intuition, the answer to what children need seems fairly obvious: at least one loving adult who is a stable, reliable presence; a few more loving adults hopefully thrown into the mix; and enough resources not to be constantly struggling. Beyond that, I leave the question of what comprises a family up to the ever-evolving American imagination.
But what I’m pretty sure about is that men need fatherhood. The great tragedy of the last 30 years is how a certain segment of men have fallen off the map. A series of recessions made it hard for working-class men to find work, and they haven’t quite adjusted to the new “college degree required” work force. The result shows up in the new statistics about female breadwinners. Women head their households because they think the men won’t be all that helpful. The phrase I’ve heard most often from single mothers describing the fathers of their children? “Just another mouth to feed.” And the tragedy has its own momentum. Men don’t work, so they can’t support their children, so they have nothing to work for.
The sociologists Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson have a new book out called “Doing the Best I Can,” following fathers in the inner city. Edin and Nelson are trying to counter the portrait of the cocky deadbeat content to sow his wild oats and walk out. But the reality they uncover is even more heartbreaking. The men they profile desperately want to be fathers. They talk about quality time and tender moments and yearn so much to do it right that you realize the yearning is just as essential in them as in any mother. But they can’t.
So what do we need men for in modern families? To save the men.
Join Room for Debate on Facebook and follow updates ontwitter.com/roomfordebate.When Children Are Better Off Fatherless MICHELE WELDON
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Here is a stolen quote, from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll:
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
1. Francesca Long, who -being two-legged – knows what she’s talking about. 🙂