Submitted by Amisha Upadhyaya
A few days ago during a break for a film shoot, the women began discussing men: a potentially sociopathic tenant, a wayward violent ex, the usual. I commended my own father for being a decent man whom I never saw disrespect women or anyone for that matter.
One of the women responded how odd it was that men were congratulated for simply being decent. That a man who knows the fundamentals of communication or doesn’t hit or verbally abuse, much less improve himself is held to be a shining commodity. Meanwhile, a woman can raise two kids, go to school, have a job and still cook and clean for the family — as many do — and are lucky to get a pat, maybe a tap on the back. Because it’s expected. [enter violin music: images of the Pieta and Mother India]
Thankfully the violins about mothers are being turned off cumulating but not starting with Brooke Shields postpartum depression smackdown to Tom Cruise. Brooke aside, I’m optimistic about the situation only because history shows a slow — very slow — but steady climb towards what I term, positive humanity. After all, men didn’t even want to be honored for their part in parenthood for a long time. It took almost 60 years from the first celebration in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd for her father to it being signed in as a national observance by President Nixon in 1972. Perhaps since to be honored would have to admit a role. Now, stay-at-home dad’s are increasing in number and not just because of the recession.
It takes men to change boys and other men’s perceptions of women and gender roles, possibly more than even women. Take my friend, whom we’ll call Toddy — her father put matrimonial ads in the papers for her younger sister. One such reply from a boy’s father said that his son needed a partner who was educated etc etc but demanded more photos to ensure the girl was also tall and fair. Toddy’s father being both a practical and kind man said his daughter was not a beauty queen but marketing professional, as her existing photo and bio showed. She was neither tall nor “fair”; an average Indian brown educated, multi-degreed woman with a few talents and interests who was kind and would make an extraordinary partner in life. He finished with the question whether the boy in question was a model or actor in addition to a software engineer, in which case perhaps the match would be unsuitable. Toddy’s father got no response but did have a wonderful father’s day from his girls.
More and more studies are revealing the critical role of fathers. Florida International University has an entire Fatherhood Lab run by Prof. Gordon Finley. His findings as well as those of multiple studies show the disturbing statistics of fatherless or abusive father relationships. It should be a no-brainer, but so should not hating another due to one’s skin color and that took a long time to get right and we’re still working on it. Like Sonora’s father who raised his children on his own, like my own father, like Toddy’s, the progress of women — and in turn, men — could be said to rely on one father at a time as much as one mother.
President Obama’s message today hammers home what “Real Housewives…” sort of misses (despite being home all day): that parents are ultimately responsible for the character and upbringing of their children.
Resources for dads:
1. “25 Things Every New Father Should Know,” by Robert W. Sears and James M. Sears
2. “The Stay-at-Home Dad Handbook,” by Peter Baylies and Jessica Toonkel
3. “The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dad, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting are Transforming the American Family,” by Jeremy Adam Smith
4. “Mack Daddy: How to Be a Father Without Losing Your Style, Your Cool, or Your Mind,” by Larry Bleidner
5. “Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads,” by (husband-and-wife team) Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden
6. “Big Russ and Me: Father and Son Lessons of Life,” by Tim Russert
7. “Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons,” by Tim Russert, written after his best-seller, “Big Russ & Me,” created an avalanche of letters of people writing about their own fathers