The week after Father’s Day is the perfect time to ask ourselves how we really treat our fathers. Designated holidays aside, I think our culture does a pretty lousy job of honoring its dads.
I recall, as a young mom, first being troubled by the degrading portrayal of fathers as I read an old edition of “The Berenstain Bears” to my children. The message was clear: Papa Bear was an incompetent buffoon, while Mama Bear was wise, nurturing and patient with both her cubs and their bumbling father.
The authors have improved their portrayal of Papa Bear in more recent years. But I can’t help but wonder how many children of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were subconsciously influenced by the ubiquitous notion of fathers as laughable, overgrown kids. And while this series has since stopped its mockery of dads, most of the entertainment industry has been all too happy to pick up the baton and run with it.
Much of the feminist movement is bent upon raising the status of women (or so they say) by pushing men down. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Suzanna Danuta Walters told the entire world of men (fathers included), “We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong.” She tells men that if they want women not to hate them, they must “Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power.”
In case you’re wondering, the author of this man-hating rant is a professor of sociology at Northeastern University. She is, presumably, handsomely paid to indoctrinate our nation’s youth in the ways of bigotry and hatred. And the conclusion of her diatribe is this: “It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.”
The question is, what is it that Walters thinks she – or the rest of us – will “win” if she succeeds in bullying men into tucking their tails between their legs and retreating to the sidelines of our politics, businesses, churches and families?
Our culture’s implicit and explicit propagation of the notion that fathers are boorish, incompetent and/or irrelevant has already been wildly successful in hastening the breakdown of some families and preventing others from forming in the first place. As a result, we have plenty of data to demonstrate what happens to society when fathers abdicate – or are pushed from – their roles.
According to numerous studies, children living with fathers in the home tend to fare better in all sorts of ways. Seven out of 10 high-school dropouts are fatherless. Fatherless girls are twice as likely to suffer from obesity and four times more likely to become pregnant in their teens. Children in fatherless homes are four times more likely to be poor and more than twice as likely to commit suicide.
We need fathers.
But even those of us who recognize this and genuinely appreciate dads tend to pile an unrealistic heap of conflicting expectations upon them.
We want them to be tough, but tender. We want them to be successful in the workplace, but also present at home, both physically and emotionally engaged and available. We want them to be competent at everything from minor home repairs, to coaching the kids’ baseball teams, to grilling burgers for the neighborhood barbecue, but we complain when they instinctively try to “fix” our problems rather than listening quietly and nodding their heads.
So for all the fathers out there who are putting their hearts – and backs – into the job of fathering, here’s to you, the week after Father’s Day. [At this point, man-hating “feminists” who take offense when a gentleman opens a door for them may wish to avert their eyes.]
Thank you for working hard to provide and care for your family, for making us laugh and for helping push the kids out there to take risks when moms like me would tend to shelter them forever. For carrying the heavier box. For reminding us that housework can always wait, but fun sometimes can’t. For your calm, steady advice, your contagious spirit of adventure and for investigating the suspicious noise down the hall at night. For opening the jelly jar and pumping the gas. For being brave, solid and strong.
Thank you, dads. Some of us really do appreciate you all year long.