Fatherhood and feminism. It’s an odd mix.
One of the things James Houghton, the co-founder of the Good Men Project, and I talked about a lot was the expectation of us as men, unlike our dads, that came from having feminist moms. We were expected to be sensitive, caring, feeling, present, and feminine in a certain way by our moms while still being the rock-solid manly men of the world. It put us at cross purposes with ourselves in a way that we both frankly still struggle with into our 40s.
At the very beginning of my column I wrote a piece about a new kind of feminism for men that embodied our attempt at a balanced life. I am not sure I would write so sweepingly now (I have given up the royal we for one thing), but it did begin a conversation that continues on today about what we are supposed to do in a world that doesn’t seem to recognize the male desire to be fully engaged both at work and at home.
As we gear up for Father’s Day I found it interesting to read back through the comments on the piece in which I asked guys to describe their dad in two words (my favorite is still probably “Vodka and charm” by author Nick Flynn) and reflect on this concept of a new feminism. I saw a lot of pain in the comments men and women had about their fathers. It reminded me of how much is lost when dads are unable, whether or not it is within their control, to connect with their kids. It made me both sad to read and hopeful that perhaps what we are doing will make some impact on how men are perceived in our culture and how our kids would describe us in two words when they are grown.
Responses to “The New Feminism”
“Right on, bro! I completely agree with the entire premise of this article. I am for better or worse a stay at home Dad with a set of triplets and an 11-year-old mercurial big girl who is on the edge of puberty! I do the majority of kid’s work- driving, chauffeuring, nurse maid, homework, staying home for the summer, cooking dinner etc while my wife works full time. It is unbelievably fulfilling and degrading at the same time. At school pick up the Women mostly snub me as one of the two or three Dads there, my wife’s old fashioned family doesn’t understand that their sibling/daughter is a very successful woman … I feel somewhere between a social outcast at most functions with the guys cause I don’t have a ‘real’ job yet I lead many big fundraising projects at school. The Women snub me, the men ignore me, but luckily the only person that really counts-my wife- gets it and so do the kids!”
“I work with lost boys, but want to add that another teacher has a parallel class for girls who struggle. Our lives harmonize when we achieve a balanced perspective of genders, cultures, ages, and personality types—when we’re human together, as Desmond Tutu said.”
“Maybe what is needed is a new masculinism—focused on the breaking of social stereotypes and barriers, rather than legal barriers. Men and women have long colluded to keep ‘men in their place’ just as surely as the reverse has been true.”
“Tom, your premise is a great one. What I do see, is that it highlights the tendency for everyone to start cleaving to one side or the other, whether its the SAHD vs. Caveman, Superwoman vs. Stepford Wife.
I am the father of preemie twins, both deceased, and if weren’t for the encouragement of the NICU nurses, I wouldn’t have started writing down what was going on in my head back in 2003. And if not for that, I’d probably have been hospitalized by now. I started blogging as an offshoot in 2008, and found out I was storytelling about grief and depression and trying to be a good dad. Sometimes, yeah, maybe it devolves into whining … but mostly it helps me get a grip on what it means to be a man. And by that, I mean ‘what it means to me,’ not societal ‘norms.’
All pain and worth is personal, and if someone wants to dismiss me as unmasculine because I say how I feel, or cry when I hear ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bagpipes … to that I say: F*** you. I am who I am, and who I want to be is the best man I can be for my daughter and for my friends and family. Stop judging others for accidents of biology. Be the best PERSON you can be, man or woman.”
“I really liked this article. I’m a college student—just finished the spring semester taking some gender and LGBT classes—and I just loved the fact that as I read your article I kept on thinking: ‘Damn, this guy is SO RIGHT!’ I just have to give you props for that.
I’m just glad to see someone seriously talking about the changing face of masculinity. Recently I’ve personally been under the belief that too many men try to wrap themselves in this macho, aggressive manifestation of masculinity that is not only counter-productive for society but dangerous for people in general. I keep on thinking of my high school graduation where about 100 or so more women graduated than men in our class (we had around 900 people graduating in total) or how my college—a large public university—is nearly three-quarters female.
Something’s clearly wrong here. I’m just glad that someone else is seeing it too.”
“It’s hard for anyone—male or female—to balance work and family. But that’s the nature of the game. We know that going in. So why are we complaining about it now like someone owes us something?
I don’t want to emulate women. I think those talk shows and networks are a waste of time. If I need some support, I have my friends or this online network of dads. Why do we need more?
Maybe I’m being caveman-esque, but I think dads just need to keep on keeping on and be thankful we’re not all sitting around watching Ellen & talking about our feelings all day.”
“I was lucky enough to have great male role models growing up. When I entered college, I decided to study women’s studies. By the end of four years I had two degrees, one in literature, the other in what I have now begun to call gender studies. Why? Because I focused on constructions of masculinities, how they are affected by social constructions, and, using literary figures, mapped ways that characters sought to reproduce or dismantle masculinity. I learned quickly that men are under just as much pressure to live up to stereotypes of what a “real man” and “breadwinner” should be. You don’t come out of the womb with these attributes; they are taught, learned, and embedded. And more often than not, they can may interfere with one’s ability to be a great man.
While I don’t agree with everything in your article…you are more on the nail then most things I have read. We don’t need a new feminism. We need a genderism that examines everyone’s roles in becoming better people and understanding our issues to make a better place for the children of the next generation.”
“The philosopher Plato said it best: ‘I am human, and nothing human is alien to me.’
I think I am in the social minority, being a ‘tough guy’ dad that takes a very active role in parenting. I am a former Marine, a gun owner, an unapologetic carnivore, I swill beer and scratch myself at inappropriate moments, and drive a gas-guzzling 4×4. I’m also usually the only dad at my daughter’s Girl Scout meetings, the only dad at her dance classes, and usually willing to attempt the hair style she wants to wear to school. (Most of the time. I don’t braid.) I live in a small town, and those things are often looked at with suspicion. I don’t really care. I’ve always thought that the most masculine thing in the world was to be a good husband and father. I like my traditionally ‘macho’ role, but I’m not afraid to show a softer side. Even the ancient samurai in Japan were expected to be proficient at the now ‘feminine’ pursuits of art and poetry. Why shouldn’t modern men do the same? It’s OK to be in touch with your inner caveman, but keep him on a leash.”
“I am man, hear me whine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I, too, would not want to ‘sit around all day and talk about my feelings,’ but I would like the exploration of our (men) feelings to become at the very least a part of the male lexicon. How we feel about stuff is the engine that makes us all run, and we need to acknowledge their existence and the central part in our lives they occupy. Sure, a new masculinity is a grand idea and I’m with Roger in hoping that we (or our sons’ generation) achieve that some day. But while we wait for the paint to dry on that idea, let’s consider a new understanding of the old masculinity. Despite the popular notion of past generations of men portrayed as knuckle-scraping, insensitive and aloof; they managed to keep on keeping on and handed that down to us; a mantle I am all too willing to accept.”
Responses to “Your Dad in 2 Words”
Cowardly lion. —Kevin
Ecologist & poet. —Alby
he died when i was eight … sadly ive never got to know him really … but i felt he was very brave and strong … but also broken and sad … still makes me sad when i think of him … what life he had to go thru … how tragic it ended … but i know he loved me and always treated me right .. at least as good and long as he could. —Divers
but I miss him —David
My father was and is a soft-hearted man, easily brought to tears. I am, often, a complete asshole, in a way that I can’t imagine my dad has ever been. Sometimes I think he’s a fool, sometimes we have argued, but I and everyone else who knows my father knows he is the most decent, most giving and patient human being. Sometimes, in my best moments, I have a big, tender heart, and I got that from you, Frank Scott. —Quincy
Wholeheartedly missed. He died 8 years ago, didn’t see me get married—I miss him every single day. —Carolyn
Absentee Sadsack. He left my mother with two children.
She has never stopped loving him. He didn’t know us growing up. —Karen
My father always let it be known how much he loved me and my family. Even after he died I still feel it today. —Jessica
Ass Hole: I was adopted and he’s always made it painfully aware to me, that I am not loved or as
important as his 2 biological children.
Tough guy: My father grew up under pretty rugged circumstances. His father left an already struggling family of 5 kids to be raised by a mother who worked as a waitress, post WW I. For much of his early life, he was pretty much a street kid who loved baseball and boxing. During the Depression he jumped trains and travelled across the country looking for whatever work he could get. For most of his adult life he worked rotating shifts in a chemical factory, long before there were things like environmental regulations. I worked there, too. I know what it was like and it wasn’t pretty but he did what he had to do to make a living and provide for his family. —Michael
always working. He stayed busy working. He never had much time for his family. I guess it was too hard to do both. —L. Pye
“Committed” and “Faith” … The two words almost become one when using them to describe my dad. As far back as I can remember my dad has been a religious man. His unshakable faith and commitment to his family and his God have always been his driving force. From business trips across the country to 2am calls to go to work and be in his office for 48 hours at a time, he has done it all in commitment to his family and the faith. —Daddy Yo
Bad Ass —Gouthum
Hopeful and Romantic —Lloyd