The New York Times chose to do one of their “Room for Debate” series on the role of Fathers. I’ve never been overly impressed by the series. Maybe I am missing something. I thought that with the word debate in the title, that the authors would be arguing for something. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they are just talking. That’s ok; I don’t mind information or a conveyance of emotion, but I guess I’m just looking for someone to take a stand—and one that is backed up by more than “I think” or “I feel” or “I’ve seen.”
I will be looking at the seven contributors, one at a time and interacting with their points. Being a dad, I have a vested interest in what they have to say, seeing how they are probably being read by thousands of other dads who will undoubtedly agree with some of what they have to say—dad’s have to stick together, right?
The first contributor is Kevin Noble Maillard. He is a law professor at Syracuse and a dad. According to the intro, he is the one, in light of a plethora of parenting advice and media attention about parenting but with dads largely MIA in the conversation, who suggested the topic for debate. So his column is largely an introduction to the state of things.
He begins appropriately with a piece of advice he got when he became a dad: “…do whatever your lady tells you. She knows everything.” His take is that this stems from the “presumed” stereotype that men are not interested and mainly disengaged. I appreciate the word presumed. The media certainly portrays men this way, and we can often find examples in real life, but is this the real state of things? And if it is, have American males been conditioned by media to think they are not interested and should be disengaged? And has everyone else, especially women, been bombarded by the same media to think that dads are just inept? I would agree that dads do some dumb things—I certainly have, but have opinions been set in concrete by the endless barrage of negativity toward dads by the media?
With the focus on mommy wars in the media, the proliferation of feminists critique, and the state of our society which bemoans the gender “inequalities,” and the statistics that supposedly show that men just don’t cut it when it comes to parenting, the author is not surprised that men are left out of the conversation.
As an introduction to the series, Maillard does not give us any recommendations, but sets the stage for the rest of the debate. I am curious, though why he chooses to frame the situation as mostly negative. Is that because that is all he really sees? It may very well be. I am also curious if despite the “gender inequalities” that he mentions, if anyone will actually deal with the real gender differences that exist between the sexes and what role they play in the whole parenting issue.
Finally, at the conclusion of this series, I will provide my take on the role of fathers and how it is much different than what society offers.