Fathers wanted but still not respected

Overall, June 2014 wasn’t a bad month for dads: a recent book Do Fathers Matter? summarizes modern research on the influence of fathers on children; the mainstream media is becoming more friendly toward single and stay-at-home dads; and even the often anti-father President Barack Obama gave an uncharacteristically cordial Father’s Day address. After decades of activism, it seems the truth about fathers is getting through.

Then again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. As a people we are gradually and inexorably moving toward the realization that fathers have a profoundly positive influence on their children, so there is a growing demand for paternal involvement in the family. However, this “progress” toward a desire for fathers has not been matched by a growth in respect for fathers, creating a social pitfall. While support is growing for fathers to be involved, it appears society is making this change not due to genuine support for fathers but for purely economic reasons.

Fifty years ago, fathers were largely discounted as important to families except as breadwinners and disciplinarians, and even that began to fade with the rise of the modern socialist welfare system. The government stepped in to provide and protect where men could not or would not. The emotional benefit of present fathers was overlooked and covered up in favor of the Mother-Government mated couple.

The Nanny State, however, has proven difficult to achieve. Myriad attempts have been made at welfare schemes, single-parent support programs, and “Government as Surrogate Husband” initiatives, but divorce continues to be a major indicator of poverty for women, and children of single mothers are some of the poorest and most socially dysfunctional in the country.

Faced with years of these facts, governments and private agencies are scrambling for a way to correct these social ills. Most recently this is manifesting as an up-tick in their desire for paternal involvement. That is unarguably a good thing, but all publicity is not always good publicity. Recent calls for fatherly contribution smack of continued utilitarianism and gynocentrism. Even President Obama’s 2014 Father’s Day address, while free of his usual Get off your fat asses rhetoric aimed at fathers, is still rife with language meant to shame men into forking out:

And every chance I get, I encourage fathers to get more involved in their children’s lives, because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to have a child—it’s the courage to raise one.

This is a typical “Performance Culture” remark, labeling as failures men who don’t perform as society demands. In this case, a man who doesn’t want to be a father (his own choice) is marked as uncourageous: a coward/deadbeat. President Obama continues:

There’s no better feeling than knowing that we can be there for them, and provide for them, and help give them every shot at success.

More Performance Culture speak, framing fathers as utilities, valued not simply for being fathers but only if they live up to lofty social standards. This touches on the fear so many men face—that they won’t be allowed to be there for their children, even beginning at birth—but President Obama still ignores the herd of six-hundred-pound gorillas in the room: all the ways society pushes men out of their children’s lives regardless of the man’s or child’s wishes (and well-being).

And finally:

Let’s make sure every dad who works hard and takes responsibility has the chance to know that feeling….

You see what he did there? “Every dad who works hard and takes responsibility.” Make sure you qualify, son, or you’ll never see your kids again. Dance, monkey, dance.

In these and similar remarks is continued the fiction that men don’t want to be fathers. Up to now, it was also taught that they weren’t needed as such. Now the latter propaganda has changed, but only under the corollary that men need to be pushed into being fathers, now apparently because they are important. As long as the fiction of paternal disinterest is maintained, fathers’ rights can be freely repressed. If they don’t want to be dads, why do they need the right to?

To this day, paternal involvement is a privilege, not a right, as evidenced by the abysmally low visitation rates for men post-divorce. However, society is now increasingly trying to rely on the exercise of that privilege to solve its problems. As welfare programs fail to meet expectations, governments hurry to find ways to feed and house children of divorce, to cover for the underperformance of women in the workforce, and to fix the dysfunctional children raised in government-subsidized single-parent households.

To do so, they are turning to men. In truth men already foot the bill for government assistance programs, paying the majority of income tax, earning most of the money spent on sales tax, and running the businesses that pay tax. Now, in a strange twist, the government is trying to take itself out of the loop by putting more pressure on men to provide directly for the mothers of their children. Rather than paying taxes to fund welfare to go to mothers and children, Uncle Sam wants men to be there with the mother and children, paying the bills upfront or taking on the childcare while their wives work.

Will this lead to a lower tax rate? Of course not, but if the government can achieve both—(1) continuing to support underemployed mothers and (2) lowering the deficit—they’ll be all too happy to do so. How better than to continue taxing (mostly men) while also making sure men pay for “welfare” right out of pocket by being an “involved father,” that is, an open wallet; men still have no legal right to be anything else.

It isn’t just the government, though. Society in general is depressingly gynocentric. Society sees that women are hurting economically, that children are spiralling into dysfunction, and that the welfare system isn’t cutting it like the feminists promised, so up go the trumpet calls for paternal involvement to individually pick up the slack where the collective has fallen short.

Problem is, those pesky feminists are still making promises, and society, bless its heart, is still listening. So, when feminists insist women must have total autonomy and control of themselves and their children, but all the social science shows that paternal involvement is perhaps the single biggest indicator of child well-being, how do you reconcile?

Easy: screw over men. It’s always worked before.

The new call for paternal involvement is just a remix of the ever-present siren call for male responsibility. Men are being invited back into the family fold only because the government can’t make the cut. This new support for fathers isn’t an expression of respect for fathers and their impact, it’s an increase in the demands placed on them. If that weren’t the case, we would be seeing politicians calling for family law reform, not just prodding men to get more involved with zero protection.

The new recognition of positive paternal influence is a ploy. They don’t believe it, and if government programs could do the job we wouldn’t be hearing a peep about how much dads matter. The government can’t fill men’s shoes, though, so they’re calling on dads to save us from social ruin, but they are doing so without condemning the countless social pressures that currently force men out of the lives of their children to the detriment of all parties.

Instead, all those negative influences are ignored and men are pushed to just be more involved, as if it were purely their choice. Society is now deciding that it is in “our” best interest for men to be involved fathers. As this progresses, the amount of cultural disdain toward fathers will likely decrease, portrayals of men in pop culture will grow more positive, the cultural support for single-parenthood will wane in favor of couples parenting, and President Obama & Co. will continue to tone back their shaming language to try to make active fatherhood more inviting.

Prior to this ongoing change, shaming tactics against fathers were trotted out with such bone-cracking force not to actually increase fathering (such negative reinforcement rarely works) but to further a very specific agenda. Picture this: bombarded with constant attacks on fathers, declarations that men are incompetent parents, and cruel insults from the likes of the president, how do men react? They recoil, they hand over all parental powers to women. Only the most cowed, easily controlled men are actually willing to parent under their female partner’s thumb. The less browbeaten just back off, leaving children in the iron grip of their mothers and opening the door to government “assistance”; exactly what the gynocentrists want: men involved only at the discretion of the mother, otherwise only providing financially (and thus paying taxes into welfare). Given half a chance, these more strong-willed men might actually try to assert their paternity, so they have been shamed away from doing so.

But the socialist dream has stalled. The government can’t stem the tide of poverty and delinquency their anti-family policies have created and now they are trying to get men involved. With the legal system so stacked against men, they can safely push them into active fatherhood without infringing on maternal control. More paternal involvement is a good thing, but while the tune has changed the goal has remained the same. This push for involved fathers, if left to fester in isolation, will become more of a curse than a boot.

If demand for fathers increases out of step with respect for them as parents, we will quickly see fathers’ position in society deteriorate even further: expectations will increase (Obama’s continued harping on the “wage gap” shows there is little interest in increasing expectations on women), but fathers will see no increase in respect or rights. Their full involvement will become more and more mandatory but will still be achievable only on the whim of their female partner, robbing men of the power to perform the duties demanded of them.

Unchecked, this shift could create a brutal polarization: rising support leads to greater praise for involved fathers but also an even stronger condemnation of men who aren’t active parents. If men are expected to be more hands-on fathers, those who aren’t will face increased stigmatization, even if they were unfairly forced out by a vindictive partner and biased legal system—the problems that aren’t being addressed. The injustice faced by fathers will multiply and the depth into disrespect and despair a good father can fall upon divorce will only grow, all totally out of his control.

If nothing changes in this course, society will see the birth of the first real “double burden”: little has changed in the expectation for a man to be the primary breadwinner of his family (the opposite arrangement still being well in the minority), but now an ever-greater amount of childcare is being demanded of men.

Work-life balance is all well and good, and government initiatives to increase childcare options, parental leave, and wages will help make it possible for mothers and fathers, but all that is a false dream as long as fathers’ intrinsic rights are left aside in favor of continued maternal family supremacy. Any recognition of fathers’ positive influence will only be accepted as long as it helps ease men into their new role and is never allowed to go far enough to suggest fathers match mothers’ importance to children.

No one but no one should be able to tell a man when, how, or if to be a father. Until that is codified, any attempt to increase paternal involvement will be done at the discretion of mothers. No matter how altruistic most women are, many fathers will inevitably be exploited as just another utility, ground into the dust to cover over welfare’s broken promises.

The government may be okay with that, but if children are going to benefit from fathers it has to be on fathers’ terms. With few birth control options, no paper abortion, and little sway post-divorce, that is currently all but impossible. If Obama wants men to take on responsibility, he needs to push for them to have the rights to do so as they see fit.

Otherwise, fathers themselves will become the free childcare that socialists have long dreamed of: doing the parenting and paying the bills, all with no rights to their children.

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