Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Week 9: Men and Family

When men are viewed in a family setting it is usually in a 'head of household' sort of way. However, if children are raised in a truly egalitarian household what values do you think they will promote in life? Also, what (if any) differences are there in family dynamics when people who identify with the hyper-masculine trait of being the bread winner cannot fulfill this? And, knowing how intricately linked patriarchy and capitalism are, how can masculine folks come to terms with this and look beyond masculinity in a family related way to mean more than being the sole provider?

22 comments:

Anita P. said...

I feel like the essay by Chris Dixon, A Tribute to my Father, addresses many of the questions raised for this weeks blog. Dixon offers an extremely powerful and accurate explanation of how difficult it can be to create a completely “egalitarian” household. He explains that throughout his childhood, his parents challenged traditional gender roles and his father shared many of the same responsibilities as his mother and was dedicated to “co-parenting” (which I feel is the closest two people can come to achieving an egalitarian household). He explains how his father considered himself a feminist and was aware that he led a life of privilege, however, an extremely important point is made on page 199, where he states (in reference to his father)

“Yet for all of his critical self-awareness, he was still a man at times drowning in his own toxic socialization and entrenched in his privilege”.

Patriarchy and the presence of white privilege is so intertwined with our daily lives that we can’t avoid the impact it leaves behind, especially on men. The importance of acknowledging this is to say that while we may not be able to avoid the structural inequalities of our society, we are definitely responsible for criticizing and addressing them. Dixon makes an excellent point in saying that

“single lives cannot easily bypass institutional realities”

which is why we must open dialogue, educate children, remove superficial limitations on gender roles and pose a serious threat to these institutions that perpetuate patriarchy. Men play a key role in the household, as the privileged gender of our society, in addressing these inequalities and providing a positive example of masculinity, contrary to what may be their internalized (and insanely socialized) notions of hyper-masculinity.

Cristoina said...

To me, one of the best ways to teach someone is to lead by example and through observation one can form their own thoughts rather than being lectured or told . In regards to the household, by a child observing an egalitarian relationship and seeing how it works (and that it can work) allows for the child to be more critical of the status quo and they can personally attest to what is the norm/socially acceptable. If a child is seeing early on that an egalitarian relationship can be a reality, and not just a lofty goal,then it seems it would be easier for them to advocate for gender equality having lived it, experienced it and can tell first hand of the effects it had on them growing up. As Jeremy Adam Smith discusses in Playground Vertigo, a study by Kyle Pruett of Yale University showed that, "kids raised by stay-at-home dads, he found that they didn't see, to care all that much about fixed gender roles. "Gender polarization seemed a marginal, rather than central issues for these youngsters on the threshold of their adolescence..." (205). And by not having such a focus on gender binaries this allows for a greater spectrum of options and individuality for children hopefully caring on into adulthood and leading by example once again if they decide to have a family as well.

But the option of being a stay-at-home dad is reserved for a privileged few, with only 16% of working class families having a stay at home parent this is less of an 'option' and more a luxury for those who can afford it (203). In the Playground Vertigo text, it seemed that these stay-at-home dads did not have the luxury of being solely caregivers like the suburban, middle class white women of the 1950s, but rather were looking for jobs, had to do freelance work or were furthering their education. But being a father is there full time job, and with this line of work comes ridicule and emasculating assumptions at every turn. As Smith expresses, " In caring for Liko, never have I felt more secure in my masculinity; at the same time, never have I felt less "masculine". I'm learning, slowly, to let go of the link between my self-worth and the contribution I make at work..." This struggle of separating one's identity from their profession has become difficult mainly do to our capitalistic society that stresses that what you do creates who you are and devalues any use of time that does not end in a paycheck. I think overcoming the established structure of capitalism that our American society is based on is a difficult task but simply by recognizing it's motives and seeing how they do not benefit one's life, family and happiness. Individuals can stop living for society's greed and standards and start living for themselves and their community. Men can be proud of the fact that they take an active role in parenting and being with their child rather than equating pride with work and output. With what seems like more and more men wanting to be a fixture in their child's life (and not wanting to emulate the song "Cat's in the Cradle") their is the hope that Donald Unger describes, that "we are broadening what is possible- or, perhaps more accurately, what is acceptable-for a man to do with his life"

Ariel Dansky said...

In Dixon's essay, A Tribute to My Father, he used a quote that particularly stood out to me:
"We have for the first time a generation of men coming to adulthood who were not born into a world automatically submerged with sexist socialization that says that women are not the intellectual or work equals of men."

I believe that the environment in which we are raised strongly influences our perceptions of gender later in life. Further, I agree with the author that those reared in an egalitarian household will carry on these values in their own future families. This is especially important because prescribed gender roles are often too rigid to be followed and can have adverse consequences.

For instance, the notion of the man as the "bread winner" and "head of the family" is strongly tied to his masculinity, and, in turn, is feeling of self worth. Men who believe they need to fulfill this role in order to feel adequate may develop emotional problems as a result of their feeling of inadequacy. Further, since hyper masculinity prescribes that men should not express emotion, they may turn to alcoholism and violence to cope with their problems, as these are accepted masculine traits (albeit admittedly negative ones). For example, Dixon's father, although a feminist activist, still had some internal problems with his masculinity, and turn to alcohol and verbal violence as a result. Although his father made an effort to be active in the equal rights movement, he "neglected many of the patriarchal and heterosexist structures and patterns insribed in his own heart." Perhaps this inability to recognize the patriarchal structures in his life was contributed to by his own upbringing in which his father was an outright racist.

Clearly, the roles (or lack of which) we see our parents perform strongly influence the concept of gender roles we develop late and life. According to Smith, the number of fathers who primarily care for their children are rising as time goes on, and I believe they will continue to rise. To allude to the primarily mentioned quote, our generation has a unique opportunity to grow up in an environment which does not prescribe rigid roles for men and women. As the workplace has opened to women, the home is becoming an accepted sphere for men. However, the individual level of individual acceptance of egalitarianism in parenting is strongly contingent on how we are raised.

Gravityreigns said...

From reading “Strategies Men Use to Resist” (413-419) the easiest way to be equalitarian is do the opposite of these strategies of resistance: passive resistance because invested cooperation; incompetence becomes an educated understanding of responsibility; one-parent praise becomes cooperative praise of family jobs; different standards becomes an understood foundation of standards; and denial becomes an actual “interchangeability” between partners in household labor. Investments within the family and equal division of labor are values needed within an egalitarian household. While it’s easy to say “just do the opposite” making the opposite happen is difficult because like stated within the question the “values” of an equalitarian household are different from households in which the parents are divided along lines of availability, capability, and investment within the home and home life. Restructuring investment within the relationship of partners can also be helpful as partners communicate the needs of the household fully and effectively to one another and divide equally. Communication and understanding of the investment of the home should be highly valued as without communication and understanding one parent may not understand the exploitation of the other. Children growing up in a household like this would value: communication/discussion, cooperation, responsibility, respect of difference, community standards, and the necessary ability of parents that can make them interchangeable and capable of handling all household issues with competence.

Zen Lien said...

The reading that I related to the most this week were "Strategies Men Use to Resist" and "Judging Fathers". While it is hard to judge entirely on ways men should parent because I am not a man, secondly not a wife and most importantly I'm not even a parent. However I couldn't help but have flashbacks of an old relationship I had with a live in boyfriend of three years. When I read "Strategies Men Use to Resist" I thought "what the hell? No wonder we broke up". I think the point of this article was to show that many couples who think they are progressive, fair and egalitarian are often not. This is the power of the Mommy/Wife/Female partner myth. People think if a man does anything (takes out the trash) than he must help around the house. What we don't always see is the fight before it to get him to do it nor do we compare the chores of the female to the male and see who actually does more. My personal issue was when I complained to other women about this (my mother, his mother, my female friends) they would all say pretty much the same thing like "well he loves you and he's a nice guy so give him a break". So I should be happy that despite I worked just as hard and long as him for less pay and take college classes and have to come home to do laundry, dishes, garbage, cat litter etc. as long as he is a "nice guy" I have a good deal here? Perhaps my definition of a healthy relationship is skewed. Perhaps I am selfish to want the few extra hours a week I could have if he helped out to spend on relaxing. The scary part is this situation didn't even include children. I don't know how women do it with kids. I would go insane.Sorry for going off on a tangent I guess our personal experience can cloud our memories with anger and frustration.

In "Judging Fathers", I was reminded of my own father. We used to take road trips occasionally,or just ride in the car for errands or something. During these trips my dad would also ask me what I thought about a song, or maybe some movie or big news event just to see how my brain was interpreting the world around me and probably to see if he was doing a good job of influencing that. However my own father was very different than Unger. He was not a stay at home dad and for a few years I remember rarely seeing him because he worked so much. To relate this back to the blog prompt, my father, I believed and still believe, struggled between the traditional bread-winner role his own father carved for him and the more progressive, involved dad he aspired to be influenced by his hippie college days. Patriarchy and capitalism are very intertwined and not always because men WANT to be in power but because they feel they HAVE to. They HAVE to feed their families. This doesn't mean they shouldn't attempt to spend time with their families but capitalism doesn't allow for much of that. Just like women who work and have to come home to the second shift of mommy work, there that dominant shift that men should be working to provide for their family and do not have a partner who is helping with income. For both men and women work is tough. We don't get much vacation or sick time, our hours are long, we don't leave room for parents who might be late or absent because their kid is sick. Most jobs expect that someone else is doing that work for you. So I think this traps men into feeling they have to choose, just like women do. Until we make political changes that force companies to allow paid maternity AND paternity leave. Allow for government help in healthcare for families to keep them healthier and allow for time that is desperately needed to figure out how the complicated, scary and wonderful process of being a parent works without having to worry about money.

Merritt Johnson said...

Yey!!! Men in the family week(my week to present)... Tonight Heather, Brian, Abigail & myself will be presenting men in the family. We all read and found some pretyy good questions to bring up. Also, don't forget to bring in your AD represetingmen in the family, as Abigail suggested. Everything I want to blog about will be in our uestions tonight, so I am going to wait to post my blog until after we present, so noting gets spoiled!! :) see you all tonight my fellow grasshoppers!

Ani Reina said...

While I had a few issues with some of the readings this week, mostly personal and dealt with my inability to relate to men within families. However I think it is important to note what Coltrane said in Men's Lives "We cannot simply assume that more father involvement is better for all families. too much involvement by fathers can be interpreted as interference rather than helpfulness. If family members feel that fathers should not change diapers or do laundry than such practices can cause stress"(440). We need to understand that some people have deep rooted sexist role beliefs and when these beliefs are attacked they undergo tons of stress. This is not to say that we should not try and reach those people but rather that some families need more than a movie, book, TV show that shows men participating around the house. Some people have never thought of challenging these ideals and therefore need a total uprooting of ideals.

Now onto the article Cruising to Familyland. My issue with this article can be summed up in this quote by the author "Cruising on the 'dick dock' in Provinvetown, in the baths of old New York, at a bus stop in Los Angeles, and at beats, cottages, tea rooms and ports of call around the world allows for more democratic social mixing and matching and greater opportunities for upward mobility than heterosexual society generally offers" (458). Frankly this whole article was in my perpetuating this white washing of the gay movement that we read about in Chong-suk Han's article. Where men of color are predominantly looked at as erotic pieces of flesh. In fact most of her examples were of men of color that had flings with White rich men and then had a relationship. While I do not care who sleeps with who and where that sexual encounter will take you. I do have a problem with a romanticized story of sexual oppression that is trying to be dismantled by people within the movement. I am sure that if we read an article about a white older rich man "falling" in love with a woman from Bolivia, paying for her citizenship, her schooling, then having her stay home with the kids most of the students in this class would be outraged. We would see him as a man who is using his privilege to "win"over a person of color. However in this article these nuances are overwritten by the fact that this situation involves gay men, who I guess cannot be perpetuating oppression within their brothels, tea houses, etc.

(also sorry for typos, I had to write this on a computer that doesn't have word :) )

Ashley Halpin said...

I love the topic this week, particularly because I love learning about family dynamics. First of all, I think it would be incredibly difficult to live in a completely egalitarian household. In the article “A Tribute to My Father” this is especially clear because while the father did make an attempt to be a feminist and an anti-sexist father, “he was still a man at times drowning in his own toxic socialization and entrenched in his privilege.” Despite all his efforts, he never could develop that completely egalitarian relationship with his wife and family. However, due to his effort to become a better person, his son critically realized his own father’s shortcomings and could learn from them as well. The bottom line is Rome wasn’t built in a day (sorry for the cliché). Chris Dixon’s father still inspired his son to be a better person even though he was unable to be the man he aspired to be. Overall, I find hope in this.

Speaking from my own experience in trying to create an egalitarian household, it is incredibly difficult to break through those barriers. We are both constantly working towards it, but it is a constant battle and I do not imagine it ending anytime soon. However, I am much happier now figuring out how we both want our relationship to be rather than waiting and keeping my dissatisfaction hidden, like some women described in the study found in the article “Strategies Men Use to Resist.” One woman says, “He plays, you know, “How do you do this kind of thing?” and asks me fifteen questions so it would almost be easier for me to do it myself than to sit there and answer all his questions. That makes me angry because I feel like he’s just playing stupid because he doesn’t want to do it.” I can imagine the frustration this woman is feeling and I suppose, coupled with a feeling that this just will not change.

I think happier and more satisfied mothers might be another effect of egalitarian households. I know I’m making a sweeping statement about every family in the USA, but I do believe if households were more egalitarian, couples just may end up being happier and better parents for their children. If men were to take equal share of household duties and physical childcare, women and men alike would have more quality time with their children. Also, seeing a father involved might have the effect of creating a stronger bond between father and children. A father who is a provider and little else does not have the same bond with his children as a mother who is the sole caretaker.

Sara N said...

I guess I have a different take on this blog prompt and I'm just going to run with it. The first question asks, “if children are raised in a truly egalitarian household what values do you think they will promote in life?” I am curious how we are defining “a truly egalitarian household” so that we are all speaking the same language. Is this based off of a heteronormative kinship model of the nuclear family? By heteronormative kinship model, I mean the cultural understanding of a heterosexual identity as normal and natural, which perpetuates the idea that heterosexuality should be expressed in a “nuclear family” comprised of a mother and a father who are married and their biological offspring. Is this a prerequisite for a “truly egalitarian household,” that there be a male and a female, or two people period, or that they identify as heterosexual? Or are we also including families which have two daddies (or mommies) and/or single parent households and/or families with adopted children, and divorced parents etc.?

In the article “Playground Vertigo” Smith cites Yale professor Kyle Pruett as stating that “nearly two-thirds of the kids born in the last three years of the twentieth century will reach the age of eighteen in a ‘non-nuclear family configuration.’ The twenty-first century dad can be single, queer, straight, stay at home…she can even be a ‘lesbian dad’ who earns the money that supports her wife and children” (Smith, MSO, 204). I assume this statistic describes the United States, so it seems our kinship models are changing. This is a necessary step towards expanding what is thinkable in terms of gender, gender roles and of course, masculinities. However, the idea of “egalitarian households” seems to speak to the nuclear, heterosexual, middle class family, which is limiting given the variation Pruett notes.

Claraine said...

To address this prompt I wanted to highlight something Unger said in his essay: “We may be on the cusp of fundamentally- and to my mind, positively- shifting to a much more open definition of family and of care giving. I hope we are broadening what is possible- or, perhaps more accurately, what is acceptable- for a man to do with his life (p. 210).” I have to agree with Unger’s statement; I think we should be able to broaden the spectrum of what is possible for all human beings. If Hyper-masculine men could accept this broader view of fatherhood and family or how you live your life in general it would be easier to find fulfillment in other aspects of childrearing and family. Provisional needs set aside men can be great role models for future generations by giving their time and attention rather than money and all that that does. When we start putting value in time spent and not money spent, I think we would see a positive change in society.
Another factor that influences how men function in the family would be the capitalist society that we live in as was stated in the blog prompt. I think making the sacrifice to devote time to family would be a fundamental step in helping nurture men’s roles in the family and to make a shift from the provider aspect to other realms of family life. The strict demands that many occupations can place on individuals can often mean cutting back on quality family bonding moments. I think having men lead by example is a great way for future generations to model and shape how they interact with family members and how they see themselves within the family.

Andrea said...

By having an egalitarian household, parents can teach their children good values and mindsets on gender equality. When a relationship is hierarchal then the children of that relationship will see this as the “norm” and expect this for themselves as they grow up. This will promote equality in a child’s life and hopefully would spill over in to race, class, orientation, etc. When one side is dominant over another, then they see the world as one part dominating the “lesser” part, and it being completely fine. When the hyper-masculine is challenged and cannot fulfill the role of being the “bread winner,” then that hyper- masculine identified person would feel either inadequate, or wouldn’t care. If they feel inadequate, then the dynamics in the family would shift drastically for the worse. This person would lash out at the family, and perhaps abuse and or depression would be the result. Resentment towards the “bread winner” would also be an aspect to consider. When this is an issue, then a hyper-masculine identifier would be poison to the family and would cause nothing but pain and anger. If the hyper-masculine could care less about being the bread winner, then I think that it could be a positive addition to the family. It would show that one does not have to make money in order to be masculine, or “in charge” of the finances. In a true egalitarian relationship it shouldn’t matter who makes more and who does the housework, everything should be split up and viewed as equal. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when money is a factor.
Since capitalism and patriarchy are so linked, it would be difficult for a masculine identifier in the “real world” and also dealing with your extended family. For example, in “Playground Vertigo” the author Jeremy Adam Smith mentions that, “Yes, I’ve gotten criticism from relatives (‘A man is supposed to support his family, and a woman is supposed to stay at home’)” (204).This would be a challenging thing to overcome, because we all know how annoying our families can be when we do something a little out of the “norm,” we constantly get criticized and questioned about our actions. But for something like this, it usually stirs up the “masculine fire” that is instilled already. This makes masculine-identified folks self-conscious about their decision, and therefore think that they have to be a certain way and that is when insecurities come out, and in turn abuse, depression, anxiety, etc. Our society makes the masculine-indentified population feel that they must earn and provide, and if this doesn’t happen then they are worthless and wimpy. As we all know, our media is damaging to us all, because we consistently see men going and coming from work, watching sports, or doing house repairs, in movies, commercials, and TV shows. Unless, there is a womyn working on a car (a typical masculine role), then she is usually extremely attractive and/or scantily clad. But I digress. How to get masculine folks to look past masculinity meaning sole provider? Obviously, allowing men to stay at home and not get criticized, or even over praised, but seeing it as a “normal” thing. I think by making it a big deal whether or not the dads work, or bring in the most money is annoying, and perpetuating the cycle. To make something normal, you don’t bring attention to it, but the concept of masculinity=money will never be normal if everyone makes a big deal about it.

Abigail said...

If children are raised in households that practice and promote egalitarian values the children are more likely to practice partnership and teamwork in everything they do. Personally having come from a family a family that was cemented in patriarchal values I try to guide my own partnership in ways that are equal though myself and my partner struggle with that quite a bit because we don’t have anything to go off of other than ideals. The reading of the four fathers in the playground is an example of egalitarian households in that they all are breaking traditional roles of fathers which mean that their children will be less likely to feel obligated to fit into narrow gender roles and stereotypes. This is an exciting time because more and more families are straying away from traditional roles are following what works best for the particular family.

amanda said...

I’ll admit it. I cried throughout the entirety of the readings from “Men Speak Out” regarding men in families this week, especially Chris Dixon’s “A Tribute to My Father.” As some of you may know, my father has been battling various forms of cancer for the past 10+ years, and his struggle has affected me greatly both emotionally and physically, especially over the past few years. Because I am now old enough to understand what he is going through, I have recently begun to reflect on our relationship, our family’s relationship, and the many ways in which my time with him has influenced my life and my core identity.

Growing up, my dad was always my best friend and biggest support system. From the 1st-8th grade, I can’t recall a single weekend in which he didn’t wake me up at the crack of dawn, drive me to 7-11 to buy the largest Powerade we could find (always blue, it had to be blue), and take me to the softball field for practice on Saturday and games on Sunday. He was my assistant coach from 3rd-8th grade, and I knew how proud it made him that I too loved the sport he grew up playing. He worked incredibly well with all of us girls (some of them still bake him cookies whenever he’s sick and all of them always ask about him), and he was a great mentor and coach to everyone he encountered.

One memory I always talk to him about is the time I pitched my first game. I was a wreck and walked far more batters than I struck out, but instead of giving up, my dad took me straight to Sports Authority and bought me a net so I could practice in the backyard. I would go outside every day after finishing my homework and pitch until it got dark, and I’ll never forget when he told me that that was one of his proudest moments – when I didn’t give up, but kept pitching. It’s what I tell him now when he’s facing another doctor visit or hospital trip, and I only hope it means to him what it meant to me all those years ago.

amanda said...

Although I never realized it before this week’s readings, my dad has always played a very gender-positive role in my life. To be fair, my mom still does the majority of the household cleaning/cooking, but my dad always offers to cook (my sister and I begged him as children to open up “Chef Jeff” and serve only delicious breakfast foods – he still makes the best scrambled eggs around) and always helps out whenever my mom will let him. When my mom was on bed-rest during her pregnancy with my sister, my dad would do my hair (thankfully there’s only one school picture still around from that year), make my lunch, drive me to school, and help out around the house in every way. He was always home at dinnertime, and would spend countless hours helping me with math homework and truly wanting to know how everything was going in my life, be it with school, friends, or boys.

Most importantly, however, my dad has never been afraid to show his emotions. We volunteered weekly for 4 years at Give Kids the World Village, and he was – and still is – highly respected among the entire staff and families whom he met and still keeps in contact with. He was never once afraid to cry in front of them, and shared his own personal stories as a means of connecting. His fearlessness of vulnerability and his openness have greatly inspired me to do the same in my own daily life. He has never once failed to express his love for my family or for me – even when he was bored to death during my high school plays, he would always have tears in his eyes as he told me how proud he was of seeing me on stage.

Reflecting upon all of my father’s traits makes me wonder why I still uphold an image of “masculinity” as being societally defined as one in which a man is stoic, unemotional, and determined to be tough. To be fair, there were times my dad definitely made me mad. Like Dixon described in his article, my dad wasn’t always the model of anti-sexism. I vividly remember days of getting back into his car after practice, covered in dust and sweat, only to hear him rant about how boys “never stood in the outfield and picked daisies or did somersaults,” but it was these conversations that sparked my feminist outrage at such an early age. I can’t blame him for his frustration with us – I knew it came from his love of the sport and desire to win – but I can thank him for riling me up and wanting to fight for women’s respectability in the sports world and in general. He has occasionally made homophobic jokes about boys I’ve dated, but now that I’m not afraid to correct him and open his eyes to the powerful harm words can have, he’s beginning to realize his own privilege and support me in my daily battle against oppressive attitudes.

amanda said...

Though he’s never admitted it, I hold true to the belief that my dad was a feminist back in his day. As an amazing basketball player in high school (his nickname all around Jersey was “Ice Water” because he never missed a free-throw), my dad made it onto Clemson’s second-strong basketball team in college. Realizing he wouldn’t get much playing time, however, my dad decided to start his own intramural team, but was soon faced with harsh criticism because he was on a team with several black athletes. It was the first year black students were allowed at the school, and, growing up without the racism of the south, he had no idea why people were discriminating against him and his teammates. He continued to play on the team, however, and his loyalty to his friends and commitment to anti-racism is something I deeply admire in him.

My dad is not perfect, but which one of us is? He’s made mistakes in his life, but his willingness to own up to them and express his deepest regrets and love for his family makes him that much stronger of a man. Deconstructing masculinity has made me appreciate him, as the most important man in my life, so much more because he has provided such an excellent background for me to grow up in – as a woman, as a feminist, and as a person. His masculinity is not one built around being the toughest, the wealthiest, or the strongest, but rather around being the best father, friend, role model, and support system he can be, not just for me but for all of the people he has ever encountered. He has taught me that life is easier the kinder you are to everyone you meet, and this has come back to him tenfold. His hospital website has received thousands of hits and prayers from people who love him, and he is not afraid of this love. I don’t know who I’d be without my father, and I, like Dixon, want to thank him for everything – the baseball games we’ve played, the musicals we’ve seen, the school dances he’s chaperoned, the times I’ve been sick and he’s sat with me in the hospital for hours, the road trips we’ve taken, the ABBA concerts we’ve seen, and the love he’s given me. If more men could break free from the tough stereotype that society tells them they must live up to, this would has the power to be radically changed.

amanda said...

^^^^^^^ whoooops! that was jaime on amanda's computer :")

jorge mendoza said...

Masculine/Male-identified folks are no doubt influenced by patriarchy and its connections to capitalism when it comes to viewing their roles as the 'sole breadwinner' of the family. I think however, this realization does not explain much by itself in any way to promote greater egalitarianism. For one, the causes and consequences of capitalist processes are a product of people of all genders (however it is worth noting that the promotion of institutionalized capitalism is most often attributed, and supported, with males in Western culture, just as institutionalized gender inequality).

For those male-identified folks who can come to terms with this realization and find ways to expand beyond this attitude, that they can be more than just the 'sole breadwinner' (and not just during times when they can't fulfill this role), I can only offer a simple approach from what I've learned up until this point: Be the best parent that you can be. Yes, the concept is vague, and who's interpretation of what a good parent is anyhow? Good parents I feel teach their children empathy, to put themselves in other people's shoes. In so doing, to treat others as you would want them to treat you. This is a contrast to how hyper-masculine fathers in our society 'traditionally' raise their children, especially their sons, but also in subtle ways, to their daughters. Patriarchy and Capitalism intertwine in this sentiment, from how competition and winning are strongly encouraged among young boys, and how young girls are 'suggested' to choose amongst 'safer' partner choices (more socioeconomically 'affluent'), when I say this, I mean to say those male-identified folks who are hyper-masculine and have these set views. There needs to be a change in the fundamental understanding of parenting, being the 'sole-breadwinner' should not be a male or female-identified thing. In an egalitarian society, it would obviously not matter. Being the 'sole-breadwinner' says nothing about being a good mother or a good father.

taco said...

In a way, it makes sense to believe that children raised in more egalitarian households will have more egalitarian values, but as we discussed (a little bit) tonight, upbringing does not necessarily determine outcome. With that in mind, in the article, "Fathering: Paradoxes, Contradictions, and Dilemmas," author Scott Coltrane writes, "[W]hen fathers are active in infant care, boys develop an intimate knowledge of masculinity, which makes them less likely to devalue the feminine, whereas when fathers are rarely around, boys lack a clear sense of masculinity and construct their identities in opposition to things feminine by devaluing and criticizing women" (433 Men's Lives). I got really excited when I first read this sentence, because it explains so simply some of the workings of Western dualist society. In our society, we create these binaries in an attempt to fix ideas, then describe concepts in negative relation to one another: 'day' is defined as 'not night'; 'white' is defined as 'not black'; 'man' is defined as 'not woman.' Then, with binaries in place, hierarchies are created which privileges one half of the dichotomy over the other - 'man' is more valued than 'woman'. I would imagine this is especially true in cases where no one demonstrates the overlap of two seemingly dichotomous concepts. 'Night' and 'day' are clearly not opposites when you consider that they are just different parts of the continuum which composes a 24-hour period. And what of twilight; is that considered part of 'day' or 'night'? Just the fact that this question exists demonstrates the falsehood of this binary. If 'night' and 'day' truly were completely separate concepts, twilight could not exist. The same is true of 'man' and 'woman'. The qualities which make real adults apply both to men and to women. A positive character trait is a positive character trait, despite the sex/gender of the person who possesses it. In egalitarian households, this fact is illustrated at every turn, making it easier (I would assume) for children to understand it.

Merritt Johnson said...

I cannot personally relate, as I am not a man, yet I have a father and he was appositive figure in my life. My dad has always been a hard worker making sure my sister; mother and I have a great life. We always had a winter house in the Keys, but it was my mom’s idea to move there permanently for high school. Sacrificing this, my dad would have to work from March-Nov in Pennsylvania and live in Florida with us from Nov-end of Feb. It was not that bad, and he came down every two weeks for five days. My parents made this decision to have my dad work and mom stay at home and it works for them.

Since it was my week to present, there were some readings that were hard to get through and some that really got me thinking. One of my questions was about how Hispanic men and black men work more in the household than white men. I found this impressive. I do notice a lot of Hispanic women work, so I’m assuming the father figure is at home. Also, it seems as if women are trusted more around children at schools being janitors than man, which is a gender construct and limits men. Another thing I found interesting is how many celebrities are father figures in Hollywood. You open a Star magazine and almost all pictures are of the fathers at a park with the children, yet it’s unusual for a man Such as the Dallas video to stay at home while the mom works. I did not like on page 423 how it ranked men’s attitudes and responses, does it matter why certain men do more around the house? Shouldn't we just be happy that these couples are egalitarian? Last night there was a good response to my questions of how to incorporate men into being accepted in being stay at home fathers. You just have to do it and slowly the mold will break.

art. said...

"...my dad's understanding of sexism and homophobia was regrettably shallow....he neglected many of the patriarchal and heterosexist structures and patterns within his own heart....[he] focused mainly on the obstacles and suffering among us, not the privileges that we enjoy." (MSO 200)

This is the most poignant passage within the "a tribute to my father" reading. All of the 'double binds' of masculinity are still a product of privilege; being the bread winner allows economic control over economic subordinates. The dominant male pedagogy--which can certainly seem oppressive to men--is what enables men to be respected, have their voices heard as rational [regardless of how off base they may be], and what allows sexual violence to be silenced because it is 'private business'.

"In caring for Liko, never have I felt more secure in my masculinity; at the same time never have I felt less 'masculine'." (MSO 204)

I like this. As the author takes up the traditional female role, he learns to "measure myself against women I see as successful mothers" (Smith. MSO 204). It is awesome that he does not validate himself via misogyny; it does beg the question about possible assumptions he makes when encountering 'traditionally masculine' fathers. One nature of misogyny and abuse is about taking out ones powerlessness in one arena on someone who is powerless compared to you in another (ie public sphere employee and boss, private sphere husband and wife). I wonder if there will be now instances where female breadwinners take out their abusive work situations on their male stay at home dads. In the case of queer relationships, can people avoid the 'heteronormative' model of masculine and feminine? can there be two dominant parties in any relationship?

Evan Wyss said...

In a truly egalitarian household, men shouldn't be expected to promote a prescribed set of values. Something that is so harmful for "traditional" households is that many things are expected of a father that might not only be detrimental, but also may not have any relation to the father's true self. If a father has a self-expectation of living up to the myths of traditional fatherhood, but knows that he truly cannot live up to the role because it's now who he is, this can be a painful realization. It also leads the father to raise his children where he may disregard what he feels in his heart that he should be promoting. A father in an egalitarian family will have the freedom to only do what he feels is best for his children. This will provide a healthier environment for the father and his children. He will be able to promote his personal strengths, that may or may not be in line with traditional fatherhood roles. If he has a partner or partners, their differences and strengths can be expressed more naturally.

Evan Wyss said...

Creating a masculinity to live up to usually leads to at least one thing: a constant feeling of emasculation as the persyn realizes that their life isn't a picture perfect masculine example. When a society connects monetary capital and power, especially in family dynamics, this leads to the constant threat of emasculation through economic loss. When a father feels he has to live up to the "bread winner" when he can't, his contribution to the family, although potentially great, may seem inadequate or useless to him. Other family members, friends, or government assistance may be the main contributors to the family's. In a society where the father is expected to be the distant breadwinner, one who cannot achieve this may doubt himself, and may feel that he has no need to be a part of the family. The emasculated and shameful father may think that his contribution may be better of from happening from a distance and not being a part of the daily life. The myth of the breadwinner needs to be broken so all members can appreciate their own contribution to the family.