“There is a loss of fatherhood as a role for men to aspire to, which is troubling.”

This is a comment by Alastair on the post “The End of Fatherhood Means the End of Civilized Society”.

Alastair said:

I think that the loss of fatherhood operates on two different levels. There is the absence of particular good fathers and their positive role modelling and support for their growing children. However, in many quarters of society there is increasingly also the loss of fatherhood as a role for men to aspire to. This is far more troubling and dangerous in the long term. Men without the cultural role of fatherhood to aspire to will often pursue masculinity in far less healthy ways.

The loss of fatherhood is easily blamed on male failure. The claim that men are ultimately responsible for the loss of fatherhood is definitely not without a large measure of truth to it. However, they are certainly not the only ones responsible. I think that it is only natural that fatherhood is being lost, given the sort of things that our society values and the sort of things that it dislikes.

Our society celebrates independence and autonomy. However, the father figure represents authority, a figure that to a far greater extent than the mother, from whom we were born, stands over against us. A society that values fathers values authority and a social order to which we are called to submit ourselves, within which we can become more than we already are. Given the common distrust and hatred of authority, the strong father figure will not be viewed in a positive light.

The whole fathering function within society in general has fallen into bad repute, stigmatized as ‘patriarchal’ and repressive. In the society that results from the downplaying of any fathering function, fathers tend to be reimagined as the support staff for the mothering function, muted figures who have limited role of their own, but exist as ancillaries to their wives. These figures are portrayed as belovedly incompetent, relatively passive, childish, bumbling but affirming sidekicks to the women in their lives, demoted to the position of handservants to the feminist dream of women having it all. Frankly, this is an emasculating role to which few men aspire.

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  1. The children of many wealthy folks were and are raised by nannies. Do you think the prez and Michelle work 9 to 5? There is a reason grandma moved in.

  2. A father doesn’t have to live in home to be effective.Simply saying his absense is absolutely the primary determinant in how a child will turnout is grossly overrated.If a child is performing one have to courage to ask whats going on in the home.

  3. Mr Supertypo says:

    “The problem is that kids growing up without fathers have a greater chance of having sub-optimal lives, which means crime, drugs, promiscuity, lousy school history. All of which become social difficulties costing society, which means the taxpayer, at least money. And of course being victimized by the criminals thus originating.”

    yes I do agree that. I think the lack of role models is the factor, Kids without fathers they end up seeking male role models elsewhere and often in the wrong places( but not always) . But I disagree with the ones who claims lack of fathers is equal with criinality or abusive behaviour.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Excellent. Now we’re getting down to brass tacks.

      The assertion: an increase in the percentage of single-parent households translates into an increase in crime. Crime has been getting worse over the past few decades because there are fewer two-parent homes.

      This makes a lot of sense to me. It’s logical and plausible, and certainly it feels today like crime is getting worse. It’s a great hypothesis because it’s very testable.

      The problem? The crime statistics don’t really back this up. Contrary to popular belief, the overall crime rate has actually been going down for the past 40 years. If there’s such a close correlation, then as the single-mother households triple the crime rate should also shoot up over time, but it’s been level or even in decline. Where is the tripled percentage of people in trouble with the law?

      Contrary to popular belief, kids today are not actually turning to crime more often than they did in the past. Hard to believe, because there’s no incentive to believe it. A decline in crime just doesn’t capture enough attention or rally enough votes or sell enough security hardware. We’ve been surrounded by hysterical messages for the past 40 years telling us that crime is on the rise in America, when on the whole it’s not.

      Maybe I was overestimating the role of “nostalgia.” Fairer to put it more generally, that much of the public has very inaccurate ideas about the recent past or about recent historical trends. For example, a lot of people have forgotten or simply never realized how freakin’ violent America was in the 1960’s and 70’s. Another example: many Americans also don’t know that rates of gun ownership have been in decline since the 1960’s – fewer guns per household today than in 1960.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    The problem is that kids growing up without fathers have a greater chance of having sub-optimal lives, which means crime, drugs, promiscuity, lousy school history. All of which become social difficulties costing society, which means the taxpayer, at least money. And of course being victimized by the criminals thus originating.
    And since one of the bases for some social engineering is that “your free choice” costs the rest of us, it would be easy enough, were anyone interested, to approach the problem as with seat belts. “Your free choice” not to wear seatbelts costs the rest of us money to support you in your paraplegic state.
    Now, I don’t suggest we approach the problem in the same way–among other things it would be impossible–but the your-choice-costs-the-rest-of-us theme would be hard to discredit, since it’s used so often in intruding into our lives in other ways.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Drugs and promiscuity are quite pleasant parts of life. I’d stay away from crime and poor performance in school, though. Unless the crime is something white collar that you can get away with, and for that you’ll need to do well in school.

      I grew up in a married, two-parent nuclear family household in the suburbs, and it made me a pretty jaded reprobate…..

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        As I said, it costs society. Drugs and promiscuity lead to crime, STDs, more unwanted pregnancies, more fatherless kids.

        • wellokaythen says:

          And, I’d totally expect these social outcome as well. Or I used to, anyway. I was just as surprised as anyone else to learn that ever since the 1960’s, despite what people say about any increase in drugs and promiscuity, that the crime rate has been going down since then, not up.

  5. wellokaythen says:

    It’s only a problem if you don’t aspire to fatherhood and have children anyway.

    If I don’t aspire to being a father and therefore I am not a father, then what’s the problem? No children are being harmed by my not being a father to them, because they don’t exist.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    Before I can agree about the “loss” thesis, I would like to see what the evidence is that fatherhood is actually significantly “in decline” compared to previous eras. Everyone says it, and it sells a lot of books and gets a lot of votes, but is it actually true? I agree that fatherhood could use a lot more respect today than it gets. That’s different from saying that fatherhood is in decline or that civilization (leaving that undefined for the moment) has always been based on a strong, respected role for fathers.

    In previous generations, fathers also abandoned their children, mothers abandoned their children, people failed to take parenthood seriously, they let other people raise their kids, they abused their children, etc. I would not be surprised if the evidence suggests that our society does these bad things more than previous generations, but it’s not like it’s a black and white difference. Try to find the golden age of parenthood and you’ll be searching forever. (What you find: Spartan infanticide, foundling hospitals, orphanages for children whose parents are alive, child slaves, ritualized abuse, etc.) The nuclear family with dedicated parental roles may be an ideal for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s always been the predominant form.

    As for aspiring to become a father, that may be even more common today than it was in the past. For a lot of men in past generations, fatherhood wasn’t something you aspired to, it was just what you were supposed to do whether you wanted to or not. Aspiration requires some thought and some attention to your own wants. It assumes there’s a choice in the matter. Nowadays people make a little more of a conscious choice to be parents or not.

    The biggest difference is that today if you don’t aspire to be a father, you actually have more of a choice than you did before. It’s a big improvement that we know a lot more about the science of human reproduction and can take steps to prevent parenthood if we don’t want it. Whatever we do to elevate fatherhood, let’s not destroy the right to aspire to NOT being a parent.

    There’s something in American society that is deeply nostalgic when it comes to family life. Even when the nostalgia may not be accurate. Maybe especially when it’s not accurate….

    Maybe I’m just being obtuse, but we’re not going to get anywhere if we are comparing the present with a past that may not have existed. If we’re comparing the present with a mythologized past from _Father Knows Best_ and _Leave It to Beaver_, then we may as well not even bother. Let’s not try to get back to a time that didn’t exist.

    And we don’t have to, anyway. If the best goal is to make something that has never existed before, I don’t see anything wrong with that. New isn’t bad just for being new.

    • @wellokaythen …. You asked for data ….

      § According to a U.S, Census Bureau report, over 25 million children live apart from their biological fathers. That is 1 out of every 3 (34.5%) children in America. Nearly 2 in 3 (65%) African American children live in fatherless homes. Nearly 4 in 10 (36%) Hispanic children, and nearly 3 in 10 (27%) white children live in fatherless homes.[i]
      § From 1960 to 1995, the proportion of children living in single-parent homes have tripled, increasing from 9 percent to 27 percent, and the proportion of children living with married parents declined.[ii]

      § Between 1960 and 2006, the number of children living in single-mother families grew from 8 percent to 23.3 percent.[iii]

      § 34 percent of children currently live apart from their biological father.[iv]

      • wellokaythen says:

        Excellent. Thank you. That’s good data right there about a change over time, or at least the two middle ones show a change over time. The other two are snapshots of the present, which may be better or worse than past moments in time.

        So, there are more single-parent families, more children growing up in a residence that is separate from their biological fathers, and more single mother families. That’s clearly something to do with a change in fatherhood. Makes sense that this looks like fathers are around less than they used to be. But, there are different kinds of presence.

        What I’m suggesting is that those earlier figures may not fully represent the kinds of fathers those men were. Receiving my mail at a house doesn’t make me present at a house. Spending most of the year on the road but still having a permanent residence doesn’t make a man an active father. You can be an actively engaged father living separately or a completely checked out father living in the same house. A dad doesn’t have to be divorced or moved out to be an absent dad. Being married and living with your child makes it easier to be a father to that child, in general, but it doesn’t mean that you’re a respected father.

    • It has nothing to do with nostalgia. It has everything to do with the fact that too many kids have no dads in their lives and the cycle is not changing. I would venture to say that most adult males don’t even know who the Beavers were much less be familiar with the TV shows back in the late 50’s. But what many adult men do know is that they don’t have fathers in their lives or at the very least many of the fathers aren’t great role models.

      Why is it so hard for some people to understand that it’s a growing problem?

      You’re right, if you don’t make kids then it’s not an issue but unfortunately many are making kids. Let’s turn all these kids over to the dads and see what happens? Ya think that women would tolerate the injustices that happen to men? Don’t have to worry about it, it will never happen. Men are lucky to get limited visitation much less shared custody.

      Take a look at the stats on fatherless kids. Those numbers are not made up. Wellokaythen, if you don’t want to be a dad that’s cool but there are many dads that want to be dads and are denied the ability. There are a lot of dads that want to be a dad but don’t know how to simply because they had no dad figure in their life.

      • wellokaythen says:

        There are multiple possibilities, and I think would be best to weigh the pros and cons of all of them. It’s possible to have a great father, an average father, a bad father, or no father. Where the rubber meets the road, in some situations the question is whether a particular child is better off with a bad father or no father. I tend to think a child may be better off with no father than with a really bad father, but I know others disagree.

        I hope someday our society will see moms the same way, that sometimes kids are much better off with a single dad than with a father and a horrible mother. I won’t hold my breath on that anytime soon.

        Sometimes it’s a good thing that a biological father has limited influence on his child’s life, and sometimes it’s a good thing that a biological mother has limited influence on a child’s life. In previous generations, there was a lot less choice in the matter. I think we would both agree that where there’s a lack of a father, it would be best to fill that job with a good dad. A really bad father figure might actually make the situation worse.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    NAJ. Among other things, the “rule of thumb” canard has been debunked. I suggest you have a couple of words with whomever set you up with that one.
    Why the appeal to history? What’s the point? Do you know anybody who wants that? The only thing I can think of is that anybody who says something, anything, might have been better fifty years ago is instantly accused of wanting to return to Jim Crow. It’s kind of a reflex. Some folks can do it in their sleep.

  8. @ NAJ … I would be interested to know where he got his information? Why is he not responding himself? This is “The Good Man Project” and I would think that if anywhere, he would feel comfortable speaking up in this forum.

    Each generation of dads try to be better then their dads before them. I did some things differently as a dad. He was a blue collar worker whereas I and my brothers became professionals in the corporate world, just as an example. But I have to say that my dad provided a great foundation as to how I would raise my kids. We live in a society where many men did not, do not have dads in their lives. So what do they have to tap into as a frame of reference? In a society where dads roles are often minimized, what is there that these men and boys may even want to aspire to be a good dad?

    I hear all the accusations that dads in generations past were nothing but power hungry abusers but in the many years of my life, I’ve never met any of these men. Did they exist? There is no doubt that they did but were they the “norm?” Not at all, at least not where I grew up.

    • My friend has his own demons. Among them betrayals which have left him unwilling to engage unless he knows the people in the discussion and knows they speak honsestly and thoughtfully. I only posted this because I was certain he would not return to the site. His father and his relationship with his father was … “less than good.” However he is very intelligent, very well educated and a very deep thinker, even when his thoughts are colored by what an ass his father was.

      One issue left unstated is the impact of PTSD. It is estimated that nearly 100% of the boys in urban environments will suffer some level of PTSD. Among other issues PTSD changes how one views life. My experience is that it “shortens” one’s view of life and “lowers” one’s expectations of life. Example: I (and others have shared similar views) was surprised to reach 40. I’d simply assumed someone would shoot me or blow me up before that. So I never considered marraige or family.

      • @NAJ . I completely understand what you’re saying and what you’ve experienced. I work with a lot of inner city kids and have heard them say the exact same thing. Helplessness and hopelessness. But should that be enough to throw the idea of fatherhood out the window or should it be motivation for change?

        I’m known as the “hard ass” on my unit. Many of the kids come out of the gate hating me yet at the end of treatment, they come to me and thank me for caring for them. Caring enough that I would hold their feet to the fire and not lower my expectations of them. Unfortunately, their short stay with us is no more then a snap shot of what they can experience in life.

        One young man will for ever be in my heart and mind. A Mexican youth that was with us for over 6 months. At the end of his stay he said that he’s never had so much fun and experienced so many good things. He felt taken care of and safe. Two weeks after his discharge on his 16th birthday he was gunned down on the west side of Chicago. Long story short, he attempted to get out of his gang. So yes, I can understand what you’re saying. Things have to change and one of those changes is to bring fatherhood back into the picture and make fatherhood a viable step toward change.

        You and your friend are in my prayers.

  9. A friend who has no interest in participating in a debate with people who do not know him sent me a response after a shared the article with him. There is a great deal of anger in that response. I’ve copied it here without the name simply because I respect my friends intelligence and insight.

    I read it and I find its conclusion to be misogynistic clap trap. Feel free to continue to be disappointed and disillusioned by the failure of intelligent discussion with courtesy and thoughtfulness on FB, but there it is. The spirit embodied there is a cry for the good ol’ days of someone’s fantasy world.

    Let me tell you about fathers back then. They could beat their wives and children with impunity. Does the ‘rule of thumb’ mean anything here? At that time Marital rape was simply called a woman’s duty to fulfill the legitimate needs of her husband.

    These delightful fathers could abandon their families without a lick of social much less legal stigma. Court ordered child support had no enforceable legal standing. The ‘good men’ stood around and tut tutted about the pity of it, but would never think of paying this disposable mother a living wage. Damn that feminist agenda that said salary had nothing to do with genitalia.

    These wonderful authority figures put on white robes and pointy hats in some corners of society, while in others they simply enforced red lines and refused funding for certain schools of the same district. At least the pointy hat crowd was honest in its racism.

    These upstanding fathers resolutely refused to acknowledge and disowned their gay sons until they were laid in their a grave. Some sons were not even allowed to attend the funeral for fear of soiling that glorious man’s memory.

    These are the fathers in India and Pakistan that have their daughters murdered for the high crime of being the victim of rape. No we didn’t do that in America, but how many daughters were reminded and shamed until their old age that they must have ask for the rape. Killing them might have been less painful.

    Is everything perfect now? Not just no, but hell no. At the same time many fathers are trying to find a new and better path. Will they stumble? Not just yes, but hell yes. But I for one will take an occasional stumble from thoughtful father constantly reevaluating his role in the family over the hard boiled “God gave me the balls, so I can never be wrong” guy.

    My response:
    Actually I was hoping some would comment at the site. I consider the article interesting primariliy for the discussion. I agree with your statements, as far as they go.

    Your kids have been blessed with someone I consider an extraordinary father and friend. (No, you don’t get to dispute that opinion.) I was similarly blessed with an extraordinary father, if nothing else because he was so different from his father! Certainly my father was a product of his time and place but he trancended that, at least enough to ground my sister and I. There is also no doubt part of what made him a good father was my mom. I know she tempered and honed him. (Neither of them would ever consider putting it that way.)

    However it seems undeniable that good fathers are essential for healthy society, not perfect fathers, but good ones. The boys I’ve worked with who have poor or absent fathers give testimony to that. Irrespective of the worthiness of a single article the discussion is important

  10. The way I see it is that there is a push to re-define fatherhood opposed to enhancing or expanding it. It’s outstanding that there are more men as primary care givers to their children but at the same time there is a large population of men who are not interested in that role as described. I’m not knocking stay at home dads, I’m simply stating that fatherhood shouldn’t be defined as XYZ.
    We live in a society where it’s perfectly acceptable that fathers not have to be in a childs life. Men are denied access to their kids, people automatically think that dad is a dead beat and mom has valid reasons. Dad has custody and mom is restricted. Family court cares about one thing when it comes to fatherhood and that’s the $$ he should be shelling out.

    Child support is for the child, not the mom. I would be curious to see what the courts would do if a dad documented every cent he spent on his children. I would venture to say that even if that amount exceeded a fixed child support amount, that the courts wouldn’t accept it. Shut up and pay up.

    Yeah, fatherhood in 2013 means what exactly?

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    Problem with having it all is one of the laws of physics: Nobody can be in two places at the same time.
    You can’t have it all with a big-time job–how many of those are there, anyway?–and be a full-time, or even much of a part-time mother. To have the big-time job, either your husband is a SAHD, which means he doesn’t have it all or you use daycare to do your mothering for you. That presumes you have a husband.
    Nobody can have it all unless the definition of mother does not include, say, fifty hours of the kids’ waking time each week. And that’s not having it all unless having it all means having borne kids and farmed them out for half of their waking hours.
    So, like a lot of things, it depends on the definition, not the reality.

  12. Except MANDA: Fathers are still supposed to be responsible for all the things they were responsible for before this ‘new age’, look at crippling CS and Alimony (though rarer, it is still there). They are still expected to have a job , both by society thru what I will call peer pressure and thru laws such as child support and alimony.

  13. Essentially you’re complaining that the patriarchy isn’t as popular anymore. So what?
    I think you’re defining fatherhood pretty narrowly here. I agree that society has made a running-gag of the “clueless, second-child of a husband,” and it’s pretty lousy and incredibly degrading. However, I don’t think that these silly representations spark a need for a rewind into the days where a father would have unquestioned authority over both his children and partner.
    You refer to the “feminist dream of women having it all” and state that men’s part in that ideal is as the “handservant”. I’d like to make it clear that the idea of “women having it all is 1) In response to the notion that women must choose between being a good wife and mother or having a career, and 2) is only possible with equality.

    So no, fatherhood may no longer be a position of unreasonable power, but it is a really great opportunity to share and learn new responsibilities with some one else you (hopefully) love and trust.

    • @Manda … Believe it or not, there were countless women who enjoyed living in patriarchy. Patriarchy, contrary to what the feminists wanted to portray it as, did not mean that women had no say in their families. To the opposite, through the years women very much ran the roost, raised and took care of the family. My father was the patriarch and died when he was 62. My mother who reaped the benefits of his hard work lived another 18 years after his passing. I’m not taking away any of the benefits that my mom enjoyed but you make it sound that patriarchal households were no more then abusive.

      What’s the old saying? Careful what you ask for, you may get it? Women wanted the freedom to do whatever they wanted. Have an education and career and family. They wanted it all and now they have it and there are a lot of women that aren’t too happy with it. Men didn’t ask for the situation we’re in … it’s a result that came from what women pushed for and got. Now men are supposed to re-define what fatherhood is and that re-definition is supposed to adhere to what women want it to be.

    • Mr Supertypo says:

      I dont really understand what you are talking about Manda. I dont see anybody wanting to go back to the so called good ol days, I dont see any MRA claiming such and I dont see anybody here saying that. Perhaps some traditionalist anti evolution flat earth beliver. Sure, but we are not talking about them.

      The point is fathers ARE IMPORTANT. Men know this, women recognice this. So whats the problem? well society is slowlæy bein ingrainet to make dads irrilevant. Just a burden, a burden about bein a father, who for today stndart is either a doormat or a paycheck. And there is no way to justify this.
      So we need to work together to change this, but it requires TO work together no against each other.

      And its important to keep all the tales about abusive fathers of the past away, they make just so much sense like abusive mothers. So they dont belong in the discussion.

  14. The reason is misandry & excessive feminism


  1. […] This is a comment by Tom B on the comment of the day: “There is a loss of fatherhood as a role for men to aspire to, which is troubling.” […]

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