Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Fathering and Feminism

This was sent to me by one of my bestest friends and I thought it was really good so I am posting it...

Post-Midterm paper: Fathering and Feminism

The question posed is Why is fathering a feminist issue, and the first thing that comes to mind is that perhaps the phrasing is reversed. Fathering is such a fundamental element of this society that few if any lives could be considered unaffected by it. Because of this, it could be said to be a feminist issue in the same fashion that it could be said to be an issue concerning any other aspect of society, but it might be more appropriate to ask how feminism is affected by the issue of fathering.

The reason that improper fathering can be felt so intensely by the feminist community is because the male and female genders are not independent of one another. The glaring lack of understanding of the male psyche that causes strife in the male population has repercussions and manifestations which are felt directly by the female population. Unfortunately, as much as feminism has advanced since its humble beginnings, women cannot help men to understand themselves except indirectly, by acting in a fashion which presents a mirror to show to men who are willing to see it.

Beyond that, it is the responsibility of the man who is aware of the current state of affairs to educate himself about the true nature of his own psyche and apply that education to living as an example, as well as more directly educating others. It is clear that previous examples and standards of manhood are obsolete, and while feminism has had long overdue successes in raising the societal awareness of womens lives it has also made headway in changing the acceptable societal roles for women. In doing so, many of the roles in which men are traditionally necessary are losing their gender specificity, and men are beginning to realize that the roles they were socially conditioned to fit into are being called into question. In stark contrast there is the degree to which males are socially prohibited from playing any other role, thus disenfranchising males who have sufficient awareness to perceive their social standing. This can cause a variety of reactions, from Conservatist backlash where males try to reinforce their social standing and "keep women in their place", to Liberal sycophants who emasculate themselves in hopes of pleasing the women in their lives.

As with anything, there are three sides to any situation, yours, mine, and the truth. There is a third reaction amongst males when the societal imbalances become clear. They know that Conservatism opposes change, and to refuse to adapt follows the way of the dinosaurs. They see that jumping on the feminist bandwagon is also shortsighted, because while feminism must be supported, equality cannot be achieved if both sides are not equally researched and developed.

This third reaction, the "Third Man" if you will, sees that the roles of women are changing, and that once change has begun it cannot be stopped, and that for the change to run its course men must change in accordance with the world around them. How this affects the concept of fatherhood is fundamental. Women are traditionally called upon to care for the home and hearth, and are increasingly being allowed to step into realms of politics, war, business, and athletics. Men, who traditionally have been called upon to participate in politics, war, business and athletics, now must relearn how to care for home and hearth. As they begin to carry less demand to play the role of breadwinner etc., the Third Man now has the opportunity to experience the life for which the bread was being won.

At this time, social conditioning is still enforced enough that many men do not feel that they are allowed to step into these traditionally female realms. It can be seen in the media, the majority of commercials which involve a family situation portray men as uncomfortable and incapable, often with their wives saving them from their own ineptitude. But change is in the works, as there are a rare few commercials showing men cooking breakfast for their children. While a few commercials are a fairly minor thing, it is a beginning that can be nurtured, it is a sign that the marketing executives are recognizing the change that is slowly taking place and in a primarily capitalist society, the marketing executives are the forces which shape public opinion on everything from politics to sexual preference.

The more feminism achieves success, the more males will be able to find their own place in this new social dynamic. Feminism has admirably set the stage for the change to occur, all that remains is for the male population to figure out what their new role needs to be. Women around the world are slowly but surely finding where their true strengths lay by looking honestly at what they actually think and feel without regard to what society tells them. Men will not find their strength by denying strength to women, nor will they find it by running with the women who run with the wolves. Only by demonstrating the same courage, to look into their own truth without flinching, by acting in accordance with that truth no matter the sacrifice, only then will we have fathers again.