Why Dads Matter: A Feminist Mom’s Perspective

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About Anne Theriault

Anne Theriault lives in Toronto with her husband and young son. She spends her days teaching yoga, reading in cafés, and trying to figure out how to negotiate in toddler-ese.


  1. Kari..I might also add that even today feminism still continues to lump all men and all women together in it’s analysis, as if there is no distinctions among groups along the socioeconomic and political fault-lines that have always, in the Western world, divided people.

    What you refer to as male bashing was in actuality male hatred, I know because I lived under it’s thumb.The negative consequences of this bashing has never been measured and it seems to me that feminists have not been held accountable. And that is my biggest issue -lack of accountability for the mistakes that have been made–and they are numerable.

    For instance,dv and rape among women, which lesbian feminists tried to do in the 70′s but were shut out by mainstream feminists, is still being mishandled by feminism. Why not just say, ” We blew it on this issue.” Dv and rape are not part of some widespread conspiracy used by men to control and subjugate women.It is an human issue that cuts across all social barriers. be cause this hasn’t been done, society-men and women- continues to suffer unnecessarily. Ironically, these same people want men to vote for them and believe in them as leaders. It seems to me that if leaders consider themselves above those they lead they are unworthy of support. This is perhaps my biggest complaint about feminism, they hold others to a higher moral standards than hold for themselves. Remember, old school feminism, my mothers brand, is dominant in Western cultures.

    • ogwriter -
      First, as an unofficial representative, let me offer a sincere apology for all the suffering you have endured in the name of Feminism. As a human rights movement, I can say that we do not condone negative treatment of any person. I am truly very sorry the individual feminists in your life have been hateful people.

      Second, I think maybe it’s important to distinguish between feminist theory, feminist advocacy, and individual feminists. (Please forgive me if you know all this already.) Theory looks at the lived experiences of real people and ties to understand the trends and commonalities as well as the exceptions and form a coherent discourse. This can often include over-generalizations and exclusions (along race or class lines, for example). Advocates take theory and turn it into arguments for why (and how) the legal/political/social structures ought to change. This is often where the most vocal spokespeople use the starkest language (like man-bashing) and draw the most uncompromising lines in the sand. Once structures change, then real life individuals have different experiences which informs the next level of theory and the cycle repeats. Of course, real people range from compassionate to abusive and every other personality. It sounds like you encountered people who chose to hate. As Anne said, they don’t represent the movement as a whole.

      As I mentioned, critics (both within and outside the movement) pointed out the classism and racism and heterosexism of Second Wave Feminism (the Betty Friedan / Gloria Steinem era). Then just like prohibition fractured the First Wave of Feminism, pornography fractured the Second Wave. Right around the time I was in college, there was a split. Some feminists started saying, “Hold on, some women are quite “masculine” and some are quite violent. If Feminism is a human rights movement, why are you ignoring the abuse and violence women inflict? And just because I can DO everything a man can DO, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t to BE a man. I like being a woman. And I like men. And I like having sex with men. I even like pornography. And if Feminism is supposed to be about increasing women’s freedom and equality, why are you Second-Wavers denouncing and judging and denying our sexual choices?” (Hence Denfeld’s title “The New Victorians”). It sounds to me like a lot of what you and Dan Flowers are talking about is the last vestiges of Second Wave Feminism. It’s slowly going away, I promise.

      Today, we’re starting to see the beginning of the so-called Third Wave of Feminism. At the level of theory, postmodern feminism got to the point of “no more generalizing” – including no more casting all men in the same light. And our discourse is much clearer about the class/race/sexual orientation limits to whatever trend we’re dissecting. However, theoretical feminism is struggling to come up with a coherent discourse around women’s bodies to better understand the lived experiences real women have with regard to sex and motherhood. Danica Patrick is like a perfect poster child – she’s a NASCAR driver AND a sex symbol. Or the Italian MP who brought her baby with her to vote in the EU Parliament – she’s a lawmaker AND a mother. And the recent contraception debate here in the US is a great example of a little backlash to this Third Wave.
      In terms of advocacy, feminism (even if not “named” as such) is certainly behind some of the new attention being paid to human trafficking and rape and female circumcision. And I think maybe the reason why these aren’t labeled “feminist” issues, as such, is because advocates are trying (even subconsciously) to do a better job addressing the complexities and not polarizing the issues.
      And then there are real women like Anne and myself you are living our lives and making choices and struggling with disappointments and just doing the best we can. And we love the men in our lives and we try to build a better place for our sons *and* daughters.

  2. Dan Flowers says:

    Neither gender roles nor most stereotypes appear out of thin air. Men definitely have a role in child rearing, but whoever came up with the idea that it would be equal in the first year was smoking some serious dope. As you figured out there are some things that men simply cannot do, and they should not have to bear slings and arrows because they can’t. You seem to be fairly understanding about this fact, and it is refreshing to hear you admit some unreasonable hostility because of it. Because men can’t breast-feed, are not always as nurturing and choose to work outside the home does NOT mean they are not good fathers. Children need to see a variety of social models during their early development, and I believe that seeing more traditional gender roles helps them categorize types of people and caregivers and leads them to learn important social skills such as how to deal and interact with parents or others in differing roles from the “squishy” primary nurturing caregiver, to the loving but stern authority figure. I think many children grow up today confused and socially delayed as young adults because of not having had clear-cut but very different behavior models to learn from. Homogenous parent figures, especially in couples that elevate the child as the unchallenged supreme member of the family unit, do not necessarily do that child any favors. Children should never question that they are loved, but it should not be transparent to them that the most important family-unit decisions (like whether Dad works outside the home) revolves around them, lest you create a self-absorbed, egocentric, and therefore socially crippled adult. I had a great Dad who showed me the meaning of responsibility by working outside the home to support us. He did more than his share and never complained. He was a strong role model in so many ways, he was there when I needed him but he didn’t coddle; he would set me straight when I needed it. I would NEVER trade a great man like him for a man who would quit his job to stay home and kiss boo-boo’s and try to fulfill a role he was less suited for because of my mother’s pre-conceived notions about what “equality” in child-rearing means and when it starts. If you have any boys, how about letting Dad handle the talks about how to handle bullies, how to hit the inside fastball and what to do on a first (or fourth) date…

  3. Kari… Having lived through and been a part of the Civil Rights era, the feminists movement, the black nationalist movement, and probably a few more that I have forgotten. I no longer believe in movements pre se. No movement has cornered the market on freedom and equality. As an individual human being, I give love and respect and expect it in return. That at the end of the day is all there is for me. For the most part, when people try organize respect and freedom as political ideals, eventually the weight of the politics overwhelms the sanctity and blessings of the idea. This creates a big fucking mess! I think women like you and Annie and Joan are way above the norm and I respect you and admire you. I would even if you weren’t the f word because of your values.

    • Aww, thanks! I’m kinda chuckling though at the thought that my values and my feminism are separate. And your comment that you were troubled that Anne calls herself a feminist because she’s levelheaded, as though these are absolutely incompatible. Made me smile.

      • Kari…I am glad I made you smile.However,I still contend that the freedom and or equality humans seek do not belong to political bodies,but is the natural state of humanity.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      I think that movements, be they anti-racism, anti-homophobic, anti-sexism, are still very much needed! I have been inspired by watching the Idle No More movement happening here in Canada and around the word as the Indigenous population of Canada fights to have their treaties recognized and to have fair treatment at the hands of the government. As long as there is inequality, social justice movements are for sure important. I wish I could rely on everyone else to just be a decent person and treat everyone equally and fairly, but experience has proved that this just won’t work.

      I find it odd that feminist seems to be a dirty word around here. I’m making it my mission to prove that feminists aren’t crazy, man-hating bitches. I mean, some of us are, but most of us are just smart, normal ladies who want equal rights and treatment for women.

      • I find it odd that feminist seems to be a dirty word around here. I’m making it my mission to prove that feminists aren’t crazy, man-hating bitches. I mean, some of us are, but most of us are just smart, normal ladies who want equal rights and treatment for women.
        That’s because you mileage has varied from what some of the folks around here have experienced from feminists.

        I do appreciate that you want to prove that instead of just wondering why we don’t just ignore our very real experiences that feminism isn’t just sunshine and rainbows. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard the, “You just didn’t give feminism a fair chance.”, “You should read some real feminists instead of straw feminists.”, and excuse after excuse meant to maintain that illusion of a perfectly positive monolith of sunshine and rainbows.

      • “I find it odd that feminist seems to be a dirty word around here. I’m making it my mission to prove that feminists aren’t crazy, man-hating bitches.”
        Anne – count me in on your “mission”!

  4. Kari…All the theories in the world can’t hope to improve upon a simple standard of being and living called the golden rule.

    • Well I learned in the first year of marriage that the platinum rule is better: treat others the way *they* want to be treated. :-)

  5. IS ANYONE even remotely disturbed that a post that starts with,”Your an idoit,” made it throught moderation!? And damn,where are the females voices saying ain’t cool to call a man a name?!

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Sorry — no name calling should be allowed to go through. Somehow it slipped passed the filters, but now other people have responded to that comment so it will stay. But you are absolutely right — we will adjust our moderation filters accordingly. Thank you for calling our attention to it ogwriter.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      Sorry! I am waaaay behind on answering comments on this post. Would have called it out had I seen it in time!

  6. Yeah, name calling and personal attacks are not cool and are usually a distraction so you don’t notice the weakness in their argument.

  7. Lisa…You are right,NO ONe should be called names.

  8. I would argue what we can do for fathers is elevate them to equal legal standing. As long as our country’s laws, federal and state, do not treat fathers as equal to mothers, we can expect the culture to reflect this disparity.

  9. hOrOd…I hadn’t thought about that aspect of it,good point.Our policies reflect our beleifs and values.

  10. Kari…you’re right,platinum is wwayyy better.

  11. Kari…i assumed,from Karyn’s post that, she was a feminist.

  12. Anne…I know.How’s your fam?

    • Anne Thériault says:

      They’re great! I’ve been kind of under the weather, and one of my sisters moved in somewhat unexpectedly (got a job offer in our city, so of course she’s welcome to crash on our couch til she finds a place of her own), so it’s been a bit hectic, to say the least :)

  13. @Anne … many of the things you mentioned such as formula, breast feeding in public, development of childbirth options are not exactly ground breaking issues and in my opinion, would have been developed irrespective of feminism. I’m not sure if here in the USA, feminism would even take credit for such things and if they did, I would have to say that they, like Al Gore with the internet, are misleading people.

    You appear to give a lot of credit to feminism where it relates to “motherhood” yet in the USA, feminism has been a contributor to fatherless homes and over worked mothers. 30 years ago, when we had our kids, my wife as a stay at home mom was the odd women out. She was often belittled for not wanting a business career. Feminism in the USA has done little for the women who wanted to be the stay at home moms and continues to nurture that view.

    There were campaigns that promoted women in business and little for women who didn’t want the so called career. There was little done for “motherhood” other then accommodating motherhood where it relates to career and by all means feminism didn’t see motherhood as a career.

    Feminism is a bad word in places like this. Why? Because places like this have many men who have seen feminism in many ways destroy their lives. From affirmative action to the court system, men have been left behind in many ways. How can you see feminism as helping women when there are so many fatherless children …. Single working moms?

    Early feminism painted an unreal view of the oppressive male and continues to paint men the same way. No matter how much women, feminists want to paint a different view of what feminism is today, I’ll open my door to it when they truly walk the walk and demand things change for men.

    • Tom B –
      “Feminism in the USA has done little for the women who wanted to be the stay at home moms and continues to nurture that view. . . . There was little done for “motherhood” other then accommodating motherhood where it relates to career and by all means feminism didn’t see motherhood as a career.”
      I’m a stay-at-home mother and a feminist. I listed in an earlier comment some of the ways I feel that Feminism has improved my life *as a mother* beyond my potential career opportunities. As far as I see, what happened to your wife 30 years ago is not the norm today. If anything, the pendulum has swung the other way where motherhood is held up even higher and expectations of “intensive mothering” are more the norm – which, as you can imagine, can put working mothers on the defensive. While these so-called “mommy wars” get hyped up in the media, my experience has been that real women are usually pretty supportive of each other’s choices and feel solidarity regardless of labels or lifestyles.

      “No matter how much women, feminists want to paint a different view of what feminism is today, I’ll open my door to it when they truly walk the walk and demand things change for men.”
      But you’ve already encountered a number of feminists on this thread alone who “walk the walk” and are here at GMP precisely because they care about changing things for men. Addressing the conditions of working fathers was the core of the piece I published in 2007 and it’s gaining traction more and more (like here: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/10/work-life-balance-as-a-mens-issue-too/264273/ ). The feminists I know and work with are devoted to unraveling gendered constraints from *both* sides, not at the expense of men.
      So I guess I’m curious – I can see that you are deeply wounded by Feminism, which I totally understand (see my earlier comments). It just seems like it is going to take something more than this before you will make peace with the movement today.

  14. Considering we are at opposite ends of the social/political spectrum (I’m quite conservative) we have a lot of common ground. I heartily agree that we NEED engaged fathers who are involved with their children and that society as a whole looks down on fatherhood (in a broader sense, what I would call manhood).
    I think we will disagree on the details of what it might look like but in my opinion, there’s common ground there too. I really appreciated your article as it was a breath of fresh air in the baiting, name calling world that we live in.

  15. Adam Blanch says:

    I’m glad that you thinks that dad’s matter. Now could you please tell it to your feminist colleagues who have worked so damn hard to strip separated fathers of all their parenting rights. We would really appreciate that. Oh, and when you talk about changing the public’s conception of male roles, consider that most men have no opportunity to spend much time with their kids because no one gives them 12 months off work, and the bills have to be paid, mostly by the majority of male workers who slave away in the majority of industries where no pay gap exists.

    Actually, just turn around and take a good hard look at the feminist lens through which you’ve made your assumptions about men and ask yourself if they really stack up against your experience. Dad’s don’t just matter because they are good for the baby and the mother, which is typical of feminism’s female centric narcissism. They matter because they are human beings and they are dads.

  16. Adam Blanch…I don’t think Anne meant anything,shems a good person.But I get your point.


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