Feminism has never been exclusive to women in quest of a more equitable and just society, but about men and their evolvement.
From one perspective, a new marker of feminism is who fathers are today. . The beginnings of the second wave of feminism born of the anti war and civil rights movement initiated the standard of egalitarian roles for men and women. Shoulder to shoulder, blue jean clad, long hair with equality in and out of the bedroom, a new role for fathers was born. The role of the patriarchal father began to be humorous, as in Archie Bunker of the 70’s that gave their huge audience on television and the culture a chance to see the hypocrisy and imprisonment of that image of masculinity. Women were choosing their sexual partners, just as much as being chosen. It was an experience of themselves and their sexuality that came from the sense of equality by the participants. Birth Control of course, as well as Roe VS Wade, made that possible and the magazines and newspapers occasionally had articles about how dangerous it was for the roles of men and women to become more alike than different, where that might take our society. But it was happening here, in England and it could be considered that this shift in roles and identities actually was driven by the music of the Beatles, Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones who gave a background to the new cultural norms developing.
The changes in choice driven lives and loves outside the paradigm of the 50’s makes sense when you consider that there is evidence that the enhancement of the roles of parents and husband and wife came about after World War II. Prior to that time, there were no social policies that supported the nuclear family, the New Deal with Social Security; Aid to dependent children had not been born. Families were a functional unit on the farms and in the cities; history shows that children were considered free labor as were the wives living with the field hands and workers. The sentiment attributed to marriage it is claimed came from the need to boost the lagging economy after World War II with the FAA loans and college aid that allowed for individuals and couples to move to the nuclear family context. And as we all know who have seen Mad Men, the concept of what it was to be a woman, a man and a married couple was definitely pumped by the magazines and television which reflected an ideology about the roles of husband and father, mother and child.
But in the 70’s, many of the social agreements were changing, and the role of the woman to be able to determine her own choices, including motherhood was one consequence. Another is what happened to the men when this new version of which to be in life brought about new ways of perceiving what was possible and desirable. Mike Sager wrote The Modern Fatherhood of a Street Kid and conveys the passage and the result of which fathers are now very well.
Feminism has never been exclusive to women in quest of a more equitable and just society, but about men and their evolvement. Esquire had a Father’s day magazine this year acknowledged the new state of fatherhood in our times. Mike Sager is the best selling author and award winning reporter, considered to be the “beat poet of American Journalism” and writer at large of Esquire magazine for 15 years. This article features Mark Wahlberg as the model of modern fatherhood. Extremely successful actor and producer of Transformers: Age of Extinction and the cable series Entourage, and father of four who grew up with a family where the dad drove a truck delivering lunch and he and his brothers in an Irish Catholic neighborhood and turned his life around in his early years after serving time at an early age. Turning his life into a success, Wahlberg has his life organized around his children. Goes to bed after dinner, wakes up, works out, has breakfast with the kids, takes them to school and after school participates in sports with the boys, basketball, football. While he admires his own dad, sees what his dad was able to produce for the family though limited as the best he could and it took all his time and attention to pull that off. The dad Mark Wahlberg has become is engaged fully in his family, and represents the new dad. -Fathers engaged from the delivery room, shared care of newborns as a result of family leave and the sharing of the roles of nurturers rather than the times when father were kept out, and worked such hard and long hours that the children were in bed when the fathers came home is the contrast that could be drawn between the generations of fathers of the 1940’s and the 1980’s and onward.
A Manifesto of the New Fatherhood by Stephen Marche (Esquire June/July2014) gave data that backed up his claim that the number of American families without fathers has grown 10.3 percent in 1970 to 24.6 percent in 2013. He points to the 2014 study by UC Berkeley of over forty million children and their parents looked at what it takes to gain ground for children coming up now. The study revealed that economic mobility had everything to do with family structure, as compared to racial segregation, income inequality, school quality, social capital. “Family structure correlates with upward mobility not just at the individual level but also on the community level, perhaps because the stability of social environment affects children’s outcomes more broadly.” The article goes on to say that fatherless is a significant factor in suicide, mental health and incarceration risk for children. “The new fatherhood is not merely a lifestyle but the time fathers spend with their children results in “healthier, more educated, and more stable, less criminal world.”
The article goes on to describe the poll result of 17.5 million fatherless families currently. Marche refers also to the studies that 2.5 million boys take medication for ADHD as opposed to 1 million girls – an increase of 22% for boys between 2007 and 2012. Basic domestic egalitarianism sharing of childcare and household functions are reflective of the forty to fifty years of social change that have shown up in families, with women earning more money with larger work commitments and need for their time away. Sheryl Sandberg in “Lean In” speaks of the difference in the male and female candidates for a job, with the women wanting to maintain a level of commitment that suits their goal whether they are currently in a relationship or not, of having children and fitting that into their lives. The men do not have that as a reference point evidently, but more and more dads are choosing to alter their lives to accommodate time with their children.
On a recent family reunion, my niece and her husband, both of whom graduated with their PhD’s in Psychology and married now have three children. They had a huge school debt collectively, so they both joined the military as professional psychologists. Now with the children age 8-4 and 1 years old, my niece’s husband left the military and stays home writing papers and giving talks while his wife continues on contributing to the field in the work for soldiers returning with post traumatic stress. Exceptional couple and they are raising their children with dad having a great deal of the hands on time in with the children. The 2014 Pew report shows the trend of 1.1 million fathers at home in 1989, and 2 million at home in 2012. This is more common than not, the rotation of mates who find with the cost of childcare and the quality they want to impart to their children, taking turns with the career outside the home is a serious and valid choice.
As Marche states it, the old fatherhood was a series of unexpressed assumptions. The new fatherhood requires intelligence, judgment and engagement-“messy.” Responded to by some men longing for the days of patriarchy when men were men, Marche refers to their “Aggrieved entitlement” and anti feminism sentiment arguing for a return to the isolated role of the remote father. Marche references the work of Michael Kimmel who wrote Guyland and last year’s angry White men in 2008 who argued that the “residue of patriarchy drives young men to despair and self destruction. The old codes, the macho, the defensive response to the changing world with a ideology of traditional masculinity keeps boys from wanting to succeed.”
The value, sense and role of men as the new father, like the new woman is giving up the known for the unknown, giving up isolation and a process of the modern context of feminism. The path is messy and unclear born of the game changing-roles and identities not clearly defined, and where the systems of belief give way to a new perspective. The fact that dads entered the delivery room to partner with their wives and be present for the birth of their children is a fact that cannot be denied. The Esquire Manifesto of the New Fatherhood ends with Marche claiming the “huge gain for men, the chance for a deeper intimacy, a whole new range of pleasures and agonies, and a fuller version of humanity.”
Another view, not to take away from this claim, is that the markers of feminism are showing up in how we, men and women, value and transform the relationships with our mates, ourselves and the children and the society we want to build.