This is a comment by Alastair on the post “The End of Fatherhood Means the End of Civilized Society”.
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.
Photo credit: Flickr / Beau Maes