July 29, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
One of the key elements influencing the decline of marriage and the marginalization of men in families has always been their description in the mass communications media and popular culture. Mostly, those depictions are both shockingly anti-father and factually inaccurate. The feminist song has been, at least since the 1960s, that men are a danger to women and their children, so the two are better off without them. Just why the various communications media have so unquestioningly sung the same refrain, despite its patent inaccuracy is one to ponder. But whatever the answer to that question might be, one common way the choir keeps singing is to simply leave out the male voices. After all, it’s a lot easier to denigrate men in their absence, and to allow them to speak might suggest that they’re human beings with wants, needs, vulnerabilities, strengths and legitimate grievances. And we can’t have that, now can we.
The reliably anti-father Salon.com is always good for an example of the above, as here (Salon.com, 7/27/13). The piece is written by one Jennifer M. Silva who gets things off with a bang by quoting approvingly Lillian Rubin who, in 1976, defined what women and men get out of marriage and parenthood.
For her, the realization of her womanhood—a home and family of her own. For him, the fulfillment of his manhood—a wife to care for him, sons to emulate him, and daughters to adore him.
Stated another way, “women good, men bad, very bad.” I don’t know the state of social science in 1976 regarding mothers and fathers and what they seek in marriage, but I know what it is now, and, to put it mildly, that’s not it. I can excuse Rubin, but Silva’s ignorant misandry is contemptible.
I suppose it’s worth noting that Silva reaches back 37 years for her source. It’s too bad she didn’t consult more recent studies of men and fatherhood. Of course if she had, she’d have had to admit that they compare not a bit to Rubin’s condescending view and that, I suspect, is the point. Silva didn’t want to describe men accurately for to do so would have been inconvenient to her thesis.
The simple fact is that, as countless studies show, men don’t want “a wife to care for him, sons to emulate him, and daughters to adore him.” On the contrary, they seek the usual male role of provider and protector. Rubin and Silva’s man is all take and no give. The reality is mostly the opposite.
For example, read the excellent work of Kathryn Edin, Harvard professor of management and policy, who for years now has studied the youngest and poorest of fathers, i.e. teenagers of the lowest economic strata. Her description of those young men – boys actually – bears no resemblance to Rubin’s. Here’s an excerpt from an article about a speech Edin gave on the subject.
"Andre (a teen-age father) was no 'hit-and-run' father, making children as symbols of their sexual prowess," she said. "He was not yet out of high school, but he insisted that he will always be there for his daughter because he always wanted a child."
Many of the men surveyed viewed fatherhood as an act of bravery, Eden said, because they live in a crime-ridden area. The same year Green learned of his ex-girlfriend's pregnancy, for example, several violent homicides and robberies occurred in his neighborhood. One of these crimes was a double murder of a Vietnamese couple by a burglar who then took the couple's infant daughter hostage in a standoff with police.
"Fathers like Andre embrace fatherhood because raising a baby would seem heroic in contrast to the negativity around them," Edin said.
Several men described their children as "saints" or "redeemers," Edin said. Many of those surveyed said they would have continued to be involved with drugs and crime if not for their children. Some were incarcerated at the time they learned that they were going to be fathers.
Edin also found that low-income men set their own standards for good parenting, which may differ from those of society as a whole. She said many choose to focus on the non-financial aspects of fatherhood, including teaching their daughters about having relationships with men and their sons how to fight.
Hmm. Those young men don’t look much like Rubin’s description, do they? And of course they’re the youngest and poorest of dads, the ones who live in the worst neighborhoods and navigate the most treacherous waters to adulthood. Needless to say, other fathers, like those described by Sanford Braver, Ross Parke and Armin Brott, and countless others are much the same.
Reading Rubin and Silva, you’d never guess that between 25% and 75% of fathers experience couvade symptoms, i.e. symptoms of their partners during pregnancy. Nor would you know that, during their partner’s pregnancies, as Parke and Brott report, ”men show and increased interest in babies,” “start reading books about children and parenting,” or take second jobs to support the new arrival. Yes, newborns form attachment bonds with their fathers as strong as those with their mothers, but you’ll never hear it from Rubin or Silva.
Indeed, married men with children find those dual roles of husband and father, protector and provider to be as important and powerful as any they’ll ever take on. That’s one reason why the rate of suicide for men, but not women, shoots up in the event of divorce. Overwhelmingly, when they divorce, men lose their children, but women don’t and the summary destruction of those roles in turn destroys the father’s reason to live. But again, these inconvenient truths don’t interest either Rubin or Silva.
What does interest Silva is her interview with a 30-year-old woman of contemporary America whom she names Allie. Allie and boyfriend Jake got married and later divorced. Here’s Allie’s description of the big moment when Jake proposed.
We were at my parents’ house and he came downstairs and said, “Close your eyes, I have a surprise for you.” I was thinking he had candy or something. I probably would have been more excited about that. I could feel him in my face, like, “why are you so close to me?” and when I opened my eyes he was down on one knee with the ring. And I kind of, my heart sank, like this wasn’t special. . . . I’m in my pajamas and I look like hell. So you know I acted surprised but I was so disappointed and I felt horrible that I felt disappointed.
Silva’s goal in her article is, among other things, to prove that there’s a conflict between newly “liberated” women and marriage. The problem is that her poster child for her thesis is someone who (a) has never been interested in marriage and (b) apparently has the maturity level of a high school freshman. Face it, when a woman’s been together with a man for a good while and he gets down on bended knee, with an engagement ring in his hand and a proposal on his lips, and all she cares about is how she’s dressed, she’s not a good candidate for any endeavor that requires even slight emotional maturity. Allie herself admits as much.
Reflecting on their divorce, Allie sighed: “I feel like I am eighteen playing in the adult world.”
If you’re writing an article about the merits and demerits of marriage, she’s also not a good candidate to help you make your points. But again, Silva’s not trying to be even-handed; she’s trying to convince her readers that marriage and the modern world aren’t compatible, so, with that dubious goal in mind, she does the best she can. And that means hanging her hat on a young woman who has no comprehension of what a stable, married relationship can mean, not only to the partners, but to their children.
Given all that, are we surprised to learn that, despite Silva’s dedication of well over a thousand words to Allie, Jake never gets a word in? That’s right, although she could probably have asked Allie for Jake’s phone number and gotten a nice long interview with him, Silva didn’t make the effort. What would Jake have said about his desire for a life’s partner and children? We’ll never know because, as usual, when the subject is marriage and children, men and fathers aren’t allowed a voice by those who write about them.
And of course, having denied Jake any say in what she says about him, Silva is free to conclude what she always wanted to.
[H]e yearned for “a wife to care for him, sons to emulate him, and daughters to adore him”
Or he didn’t. We’ll never know, because Silva never asked.
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