“A father who becomes awakened to the issues of women because of the tiny life that he has helped to create has become, by any measure, a better person,” writes N.C. Harrison.
Earlier this week, I happened to run across an article about another article on a popular and rather influential feminist blog. I suppose that this state of affairs would make this an article about an article about an article–which will have references to the original article and others as well–and that sort of multi-layered meta-construction makes the part of me that misses graduate school happier than the proverbial pig in slop.
The articles in question examine a problem which has bedeviled and provoked many on the gender and social justice blogosphere. The original work is a satirical piece, wherein the author (a woman) poses as a man who has not cared about women’s issues, health or safety until he found himself a father and–in light of that state of affairs–comes through the person of his little daughter to discover that the well-being of humanity’s other half is very important to him. The original author, by dint of the hyperbolic narrative she spins in electronic drag, seems to view this as a terribly ignoble method of having one’s consciousness raised. This attitude is made explicit in the short article sharing and expanding on the original piece, with the author observing that this attitude leads to the reliance of a woman on a male caregiver.
However, I believe that the harshly satirical nature of the original piece and the even further anger of the commenter are rather missing the point of the many fathers, brothers and sons that they are blithely insulting. Relationships are important to the development of empathy, more than anything else. No one is born as a fully fuctional, empathetic human being–Ken Wilber describes human infants and toddlers as being like “emotional meatloaf” for much of their early years–and stimuli and how one reacts to them must help a person evolve in fits and starts until full maturity is achieved. Stimuli such as the personal relationship that a man might develop with his daughter, for example.
To be perfectly blunt, few people in the real world give a damn about statistics. Instead, they care about people, especially those who are connected to them intimately, much more than faceless masses reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. Mordin Solus puts this well, during a conversation with Commander Shephard about their fight against the evil (or maybe just pitiful) Collectors in Mass Effect 2. The galaxy-spanning consequences of their mission are boggling even to his prodigious intellect, and so he thinks instead of a favorite nephew of his. The personal relationship which he enjoys with this relative underscores the importance of what he and his fellow heroes are doing. Likewise, after contemplating his work on a biological weapon and the horrible results of what he has helped to bring about, Professor Solus remarks in his peculiar way, with voice actor Michael Beattie rendering both the wryness and disgust in the character’s remarks, “Hard to see big picture behind pile of corpses.” His actions may have been the best for the galaxy as a whole, at that moment, but it is hard for him to remember that in the face of the pain that he has caused to individuals. The statistics may call him a hero, but others (including the professor himself) call him a monster.
And so almost anything which helps a person to develop their capacity to be empathetic towards others is a beautiful thing. Jesus, in His famous parable of the Prodigal Son, describes the concept of unconditional love through that which a father feels for his child using a concrete image to punch through the conscious mind and into the deep places, where the soul lives, instead of entangling things with abstract theorems. Furthermore, Deuteronomy 10:19 requires that the people of Israel treat sojourners with kindness because they, so recently, were strangers in the land of Egypt. They are not told to do so because it is the “right thing” in a transcendant sense, but because they were recently in the position of homeless wanderers themselves. Their previous circumstances determined the moral compass by which the children of Jacob would live.
And so, by this token, a father who becomes awakened to the issues of women because of the tiny life that he has helped to create has become, by any measure, a better person. He might look at other women, ones he might have catcalled or insulted at some previous time in his life, and remember that someone loves them in the same way that he does his own daughter. A quadrilateral develops along lines and points of love and empathy; the world grows brighter likewise.