Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No Country for Men and Fathers?

I've been thinking about fatherhood. For as much as I think about motherhood, I think about the absence of fatherhood.

That wasn't MY story, per se.

My father, still the same funny, hard-working, and insanely generous person, has been with me for 30 years.

Still, I am thinking about fatherhood.

In pop and mainstream culture, US feminism is branded and re-branded with the same ingredients, westernized notions, and colonial/racial/able-isms that have plagued it in the past. Let's get real, here. While I emphatically believe that multiple forms of feminism exist, most folks still think of mainstream feminism as the only Feminism alive.

How wrong, and how unfortunate, that is...especially for men.

It was just Father's Day on Sunday, two days ago, and nowhere, other than fleeting greetings did I find any substantial feminist-centered articles or op-eds about fathers, their place, significance, impact on their lives. In general, there rarely are any feminist bloggers who write about their fathers. There are countless reflections, dedications, and ruminations about motherhood, but it seems the feminist=women only/women-centered ideology has become so fascist, that men and fathers are not even recognized. Not even on Father's Day.

The way feminism came to me was through activism and identity politics. Feminist language and thought has equipped me to centralize my own experiences to organize my thoughts of the world and more clearly under the systematic kyriarchy that hold womyn under siege. Through the lens of gender, I am more apt to dissecting the critical role of women AND men in the vision of radical justice and equality.

Including, inviting, teaching, loving, needing, welcoming men and fathers into feminisms is not the same as centralizing them. Men do not threaten feminism, false ideologies of gender, power, and "natural" order do. Most people confuse the oppression tactics with the men who exercise it. I'm not advocating these men - or any persons who abuse positions of power - are innocent or anything, but I think it's good to remember, using the adage of 80s and 90s feminists, men aren't the enemy. Far from it.

I think one of the saddest corners of many feminisms is ignoring men and fathers. It's as if the concept of centralizing womyn, valuing womyn, and studying the global trends affecting womyn has isolated men from the concerns of feminists. And while, yes, women constitute the majority of the world, the close second half of the population needs to be equally considered as we fight for justice, advocate for freedom. What freedom looks like for women will not be the same for men, but that difference doesn't automatically cause friction, or even conflict.

The world feminists need is not simply a reordering of numbers so women hold the same positions as men, so CEOs and business partners, and professionals all have equal footing. That might be nice and have good value in changing the landscape a bit, but I don't think it'll solve our problems which run much deeper than just a numbers game of equality. I'm not minimizing representation or the necessity to provide equal access for girls and women to hold the same opportunities as boys and men, but why is that representation so often becomes the measuring stick of progress for mainstream feminism? Why is that - "men can and therefore, I can too" mentality resonating in the same sphere as freedom?

What if the "men can" way is a path that leads to dissonance, destruction, violence, and brokenness? Restructuring the path, I believe, is just, if not more, important than filling that path with the feet of women.

For example, our military could one day be half and half, but if the philosophies of our military stayed the same, would that 50/50 really represent radical change? Wouldn't it be more radical to hear that our military had taken a more serious stance toward sexism, the rapes occurring within, sexual violence used as a tool of torture and genocide?

* * *

So what does feminism look like with men and fathers with us? What does a Father's Day sound like in the feminist blogosphere?


What kind of lessons have we learned from our fathers, surrogate fathers, the men, transmen, male-identified individuals who changed our perspectives with love, bravery, vulnerability, and support?


And what are our strategies for mobilizing men and fathers?


And how do we get past the ridiculous notion that men and fathers are more than just "allies" in the movements for radical love and justice?


* * *

My father raised me the only way he knew how - with love. That love might have been patriarchal, ageist, and sexist, but feminism taught me how to receive and give love, not shun, my father. Every father/daughter relationship is different. I'm not blanketing my experience of the only father I've known with yours or others. But, more often than not, feminists overlook the need for justice seeking men who know and practice radical love beyond boundaries.

The answer to unpacking my childhood was not lashing, ignoring, or not sharing my life with my father. The answer was looking into his past, understanding the context of his life and upbringing and then loving him more so I could show him the colors of my life.

There were cultural differences. There were disagreements. Miscommunication galore. And it was hard. Damn hard.

But for my father to know me and how important these issues are to me, to have my father send me articles and magazines he hopes I like that center women and justice solidifies my belief that the community of feminism will and must include our fathers, the men we claim to love, and the young boys we hope will help transform the world.


  1. Anonymous4:36 PM

    The 'women are equal to men' take on feminism isn't the only aspect about it, and I think you should take another look at what "mainstream feminism" is. Out of curiosity, how would you define it? I think your idea of what it is is slightly outdated and rests heavily on 2nd-wave feminist principles.

    The feminism I know rightly acknowledges the role of men - you're right, they are not the enemy. However, you have to understand that one important aspect of feminism and/or gender issues is the emphasis that is often placed on women because traditionally, this has not been the case. Assuming that we are speaking of a gender dichotomous world, it is women who tend to be at a disadvantage whereas men hold the privilege in society. For this reason, feminism strives to open a dialogue in which this power dynamic can be broken down.

    I agree that often in our celebration of the female we may 'leave out' the male, so that men can feel quite isolated in this field of study. However, this does not mean they are not seen as important in families and societies. In my opinion, a feminist who does not recognize the importance of men as well as women is no better than the system s/he is trying to fight her/himself.

    Moreover, it should not be that men feel that they cannot join the movement just because feminist issues tend to be female-centered. I for one do not ignore men's issues just because I am a woman. Men are not just allies of women; I think we are all allies of each other, so long as we are fighting for a single goal.

  2. Salon's Broadsheet not feminist enough for you?


  3. Anonymous11:25 AM

    a few observations i have when i read your blog on fatherhood.......
    i hear sadness when you observe the lack of celebration of men - of maleness - of the masculine of life - Father Sun
    i hear sadness as i listen to your observations of 'Us and Them'
    i hear your need for deep equality EQUALITY
    a need for connection that is not being met
    CONNECTION acceptance,appreciation,belonging,closeness,communication,community,companionship,compassion,consideration,cooperation,emapthy,healing,inclusion,intimacy,love,mutuality,presence,respect,support,to know and be known,to see and be seen, to understand and be understood,trust......universal needs - human needs

    i too have these same needs that are not being met
    i have deep sadness because these needs are not being met
    i want to do something about it
    i want to connect with and celebrate that which is masculine
    i have a few ideas i would invite you to discuss with me - but not on this blog - as this is the first 'blog' i have ever written on and i am not even sure what that means
    any chance we could email ?

  4. Zach Navarre2:35 PM

    Speaking as a man negatively impacted by "modern feminism" (I have no clue what different branches there are nowadayas...)...

    You want a restructuring of power, of thoughts, of ideals, of morality. That is the goal of feminism no?

    I've never understood feminism for one simple reason:

    In the "good 'ol days" men worked 40-60 hours a week and women worked probably a bit more (just at home and with the kids, not in the "business world"). There are gigantic benefits for both parties in an arrangement like this.

    How the man benefits:
    1) He has a well taken care of home.
    2) He has someone he can trust to help raise his children and teach them how to behave within society
    3) He has an emotional support system available (even if it's not used 100% of the time)
    4) He is able to focus his life on what is really important, providing the necessities of life for his mate and children.

    How the woman benefits:
    1) She has the financial stability to provide for her home and family
    2) She has the strong/work oriented/no tolerance support of a father in raising her children.
    3) She is able to focus her life on what should be the most important thing to any mother, raising her children.

    Now don't get me wrong... there have historically been SOME issues that women have had to overcome and rightfully so. Such as the right to vote mainly.

    But what I don't get is why feminists insist that women (especially parents) immerse themselves in the business world. It seems to me that putting both the mother AND father to work and expecting them to somehow still raise their children properly and have a healthy family is just a pipe dream.

    So... aside from some of the things which feminism has fixed... why wouldn't a feminist actually STRIVE for the type of "evil male domineering relationship of the past"? It seems to me to be the absolute best option for a mother and a father interested in raising children and building a life for themselves...

  5. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Thank you for articulating so many of the things I have felt as a 40 year old married man with two teenage daughters. Thank you for reinforcing a feminist perspective that my wife demonstrates and shares with me. It is encouraging to me to relearn feminism after so many years of believing that the 'us vs. them' set up was the only way it existed.


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