Thursday, July 08, 2010

Why think of fathers as optional?

It's always a pleasure to discover a writer who has a principled opposition to the modernist orthodoxy.

Michael Liccione has written an article about fatherhood. He notes that it's trendy these days to consider fathers to be "fungible," meaning that they aren't necessary within families but can be substituted or replaced.

But why is this view that fathers are fungible so fashionable? Michael Liccione rejects the idea that it's part of a grand conspiracy to destroy the family. Instead, he views it as being part of a larger trend, a "cultural force" within society. And this trend exists because,

... the core of modernity's ideology is the goal of radical autonomy.

On this view, human freedom is so absolute, so precious, that anything which limits our freedom to define ourselves is either a political or a cosmic injustice. It's almost as if we're bigots if we believe that there is such a thing as human nature and that it admits of only so much self-definition by individuals.

Nominalism has become not only respectable but morally obligatory. If that's how one sees human dignity, then anything that's important for who we are, but is nonetheless out of our control, is going to be either questioned, resisted, or changed...

 That's very well put. Michael Liccione goes on to observe,

The authority of the father in the family is now equated with the "domination" and "oppression" of "patriarchy." I've never thought of 'patriarchy' as a dirty word, but Hell's Philological Arm has succeeded in making it so. As women slowly but steadily achieve economic parity with men, the very usefulness of husbands and fathers as such, as distinct from that of the interchangeable "spouse" and "parent," now seems obscure to the educated classes. A great many people still feel otherwise, but most cannot articulate why they should. And so the erosion of fatherhood proceeds apace because of a faulty conception of freedom that now dominates thought.

If we believe that fathers matter, then there is a limit to our "freedom" to live any which way, particularly as fathers are thought to wield authority within a family. The radical option is then to get rid of fathers from family life; the more moderate option is to hold them to be optional rather than necessary; and a third option is to quietly redefine fatherhood out of existence - to pretend that there is only a motherhood role which "involved" family men can now contribute to.

That's what happens when autonomy is made the core aim. An example of the radical option was put forward by feminist Sara Ruddick back in 1990. She thought that one option for the new family was to have the state support children so that women could raise their children largely by themselves, without needing the assistance of fathers:

Most mothers ... cannot afford to raise children alone. But in a state that provided for its children's basic needs, women could raise children together ...

Exceptional men who proved particularly responsible and responsive might be invited to contribute to maternal projects ...

... Secure in near-exclusively female enclaves that are governed by ideals of gender justice, women could undertake a politico-spiritual journey in which they ... overcame their dependence on fathers and fears of fatherlessness, and claimed for themselves personal autonomy.

The aim for Ruddick is for women to become independent of fathers in order to claim for themselves autonomy. She envisaged that this would be made possible if the state were to provide the financial support that children needed, allowing women to live separately from men.

Ruddick recognised, though, that most women still held to the "fantasy" of raising a child with a man. So she also put forward the option of keeping men around, but defining a distinct fatherhood role out of existence. There was to be only a motherhood role, which men might participate in:

Rather than attempting to free mothers from men, they (we) work to transform the institutions of fatherhood. Their (our) reasons are naive and familiar: many men ... prove themselves fully capable of responsible, responsive mothering ... Feminists cannot afford to distance themselves from the many heterosexually active women for whom heterosexual and birthing fantasies are intertwined and who want to share mothering with a sexual partner ... For all these familiar reasons, many feminists, and I among them, envision a world where many more men are more capable of participating fully in the responsibilities and pleasures of mothering.

To provide a contrast, I'll quote Stephanie Dowrick on fatherhood. She believes that fathers do matter and that there is a distinctly valuable paternal role:

...fathers matter. And, good or bad, the effects of their parenting will go on reverberating throughout their children's lifetime ...

....[parents] will also have roles that are specific and distinct. When two adults become parents for the first time, the new father may best support both the baby and his unfolding sense of himself as a father by giving most of his support to the new mother: meeting her needs so that she can meet the inexhaustible needs of her new baby.

This requires considerable selflessness. Yet it is being able to step up and play this essential role that will set the tone for fatherhood ahead and for his individual strength and confidence.

As children grow older, the role that fathers play changes fast. Even with both parents in the workforce, fathers still often "represent" the outside world and its values more powerfully than mothers do. How fathers interpret the outside world and bring it home to their children through discussions and especially through example sharply impacts on the way children see themselves in the social universe.

What Dad values and believes, where Dad gives his time, how Dad offers or withdraws his encouragement or interest, how Dad deals with disappointment or conflict, whether Dad is able to be consistent and reliable, when and how Dad "takes charge", the willingness with which Dad takes responsibility, and how loving Dad is to Mum: these are all factors that will have a huge impact on the psychological development of children.

But perhaps nothing matters more than for a man to recognise while he is in the thick of it just how important family life is to him, and he to it.

So there is a clear cut division here between the modernist view as set out by Ruddick (ditching a necessary fatherhood to enhance personal autonomy) and a traditionalist view as expressed by Dowrick (fatherhood matters and is not fungible).


  1. It goes without saying that the 'autonomy' imagined by Sara Ruddick and other feminist separatists requires a 'Sugar Daddy State' to keep them in the (autonomous) style they've become accustomed to. Or social welfare, if you prefer.

    But as we're seeing throughout the developed world, that requires an available cadre of taxpaying male workers (for they are the ones who spend far more time in paid employment than females). I wonder how many will continue to be loyal 'worker-bees' when their status as taxpaying fathers continues to be undermined?

    Of course, the coming collapse of the welfare state in Europe and further afield may make that question a moot one.

  2. LOL, it sounds as if Michael Liccione has been reading the Oz Conservative. No wonder you consider his statements "very well put"!

    Maybe fathers aren't necessary, maybe just a fulltime female worker and a fulltime stay-at-home mom would raise children as well as the traditional heterosexual couple.

    The problem is that most women are satisfied with the traditional arrangement. These feminists who want to change everything are either lesbians are else unusually masculine women. It seems much of liberalism is pushed by people who are misfits in traditional society.

    Anyway, as Gerard said, it may be a moot question. Even if there *is* no collapse, why would the 80% of men who constitute omegas and betas want such a "sugar daddy state"? Already cut off from women, now they have to raise the children of the alphas also?

    Still, I guess they'd have the numbers: 50% (women) + 10% (alphas) would provide a solid majority.

  3. I am not as articulate, perhaps, as many of you are. But, many of these discussions assume there will be only gradual change over a long period of time.

    My not unlimited knowledge of history has led me to a definite conclusion. Pardon my flippant manner of expressing it.


    Anonymous age 68

  4. Still, I guess they'd have the numbers: 50% (women) + 10% (alphas) would provide a solid majority.

    Of course they are a majority. Which is why nothing will change until female suffrage is revoked. It has brought us nothing but grief.

    Two women cannot raise children as well as a heterosexual couple. Religion, research, and common-sense say that.

    Quite the contrary. Research is being ignored or hidden that points to proof that the constant and overwhelming presence of women is actually detrimental to older boys, and that they are better off being taught in a sex-segregated fashion by men. This is something that is being increasingly discussed in homeschooling communities, as it has big implications for secondary education, and is bringing a resurgence in apprenticeships and such.

    In other words, children would be better off with more father, not less.

    Cute anecdote:
    At my son's preschool "graduation party", they lined the kids up on stage and asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up. Most of the boys said things like fireman or policeman. The girls all wanted to be astronauts or ballerinas. When they asked my son, he said, "I want to be a Daddy. That's a man who brings home money, and plays with his kids, and teaches them stuff."
    It was so sweet!

    The authority of the father in the family is now equated with the "domination" and "oppression" of "patriarchy.

    I am quite the fan of patriarchy, and I've actually found women more keen on the idea than men. Perhaps because men (rightly) see the reinstatement of patriarchy as the addition of responsibilities, as well as rights.

  5. Simone de Beauvoir one famously remarked that women should not be permitted to stay home with children because, if given the choice, too many women would do so -- which would undermine the entire radical project of restructuring family life to maximize female autonomy. She favored mandatory state day care where the state essentially raised the children for the most part.

  6. That's basically what the Nordic countries have. Homemaking is rare and discouraged, and is increasingly the domain of foreigners and "religious fundamentalists" (i.e. Christians).

  7. The Huns? That may be the shape of the hot scouring wind of God's wrath.

  8. *sigh* I need to visit a Nordic country and see all the crazy for myself.

    In my own life, my mom was the main factor in my life until about age 10-12. Then it shifted and my dad took over the main parenting role.

    I think men are better with older children per Alte's study.

    Shockingly enough, I do also agree with the woman's suffrage argument. Yet at the same time, in a world where Sarah Palin and some tea party woman candidates are our only hope....I couldn't revoke it....but there is a definite negative trend of society directly related to woman's suffrage. (Women are so emotional and nurturing that they just don't think about the farsighted consequences! Women do have lower IQs on average than men as well....just sayin'....)

    Steve Sailer was saying in last night's article that the difference between California "Crazy Democrat" whites and Texas whites are that California whites are of East Anglia Puritan stock (I notice this with Northern Californians!)...and they have this weird guilt fetish thing going. I'm curious as to how the Anglo Saxons of Britain differ from the whites of the socialistic Nordic countries.

  9. Mark, thanks for citing me. And yes Rob, I do read Oz Conservative. I've subscribed to it in my aggregator for the past year. That's why I noticed this post!

    That said, my take on fatherhood did not originate here. It arose from my own personal experience. I was a single parent for five years after the breakup of my first marriage. My first wife remains grateful for that, which is one reason why we are on good terms now that our daughter is grown. My second wife, however, professes a rather peculiar theology in which I appear as the Devil Incarnate. That puzzles her sister and basically everybody else save her mother. But the result is that I cannot have a relationship with our two children that emotionally benefits them. She made that essentially impossible, visitation order notwithstanding. And she's fine with it. She has a successful business and feels she can "do it all" by paying good help. I'm just a sperm donor and a source of extra cash.

    Another source of my material, though, is a very good conservative marriage-and-family site run by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse. Check it out. And keep up the good work!


  10. If you think Sarah Palin and her ilk are your last hope, I'm afraid you've already lost.

  11. I agree.

    Sarah is, if anything, a walking advertisement for why female suffrage should be repealed. She represents a feminist perversion of conservativism.

  12. The aim for Ruddick is for women to become independent of fathers in order to claim for themselves autonomy.

    It is an odd definition of "autonomy" that requires the subject to steal (via government benefits) from those whom the subject wishes to be independent of.

  13. It is an odd definition of "autonomy" that requires the subject to steal (via government benefits) from those whom the subject wishes to be independent of.

    "Autonomy" doesn't mean "autonomy from men as a class" but rather "relational autonomy from the men in my own surroundings thanks to the state".

  14. Novaseeker, exactly.

    Here's feminist Penny Red lamenting the recent budget cuts in the UK:

    The entire premise of the Tory marital fetish is that ‘families’ are not just any old riff-raff who love one other and are committed to each other’s wellbeing: the proper form of the family in Conservative Britain is a rigid economic arrangement involving two married, cohabiting parents, preferably owning property and drawing as little state support as possible ...

    One does not need to be a socialist feminist to understand that the history of women’s liberation has always been about economics. Indeed, after suffrage was achieved, the key victories of the women’s movement in the 1970s involved the fight to allow women and children to be financially independent of men should the need arise.

    The hypocrisy of the Tory family fetish, which rewards married, middle-class women for staying at home with their children whilst demonising poor, single women for doing the same, should remind the British left that even the most fundamental of progressive reforms can be reversed

    ... this budget threatens women's hard-won freedom to make important choices for themselves and their families: the choice to leave an unsuitable or violent partner without facing financial ruin; the choice to remain unmarried; the choice to live a dignified life independent of men, whether or not we have children.

    This budget is not merely a repulsive moral assault on single mothers: it is a direct threat to all women who believe that our futures should not depend on the ability to catch and keep a man.

    Penny Red believes that women have the "right" to marry the state instead of a husband. The state will provide the same material goods that a husband otherwise would. It's a "right" because it's what allows women to be autonomous or independent of any particular man.

  15. *Gasp*! Alte!!!

    No Noooo Noooooooo

    Sarah is not perfect...farrr from it. I can pick her apart for DAYS.

    But.....I think she's on our side....she's certainly not going to harm conservative Christians.

    Actually, my post was referring to this one hard core woman Tea Party Candidate who is for women staying home and raising kids etc etc. I don't her name and I'm too lazy to google. HuffPost makes fun of her I know she's gotta be one tough women! lol!

  16. It may have been Sharron Angle but I'm not sure

  17. Sarah Palin is a fascist, socialist, and feminist who is married, hunts, and has a lot of children. I'll pass. She's a wolf in sheep's clothing.

    Some of the Tea Party women are substantially better, and they generally don't like Sarah any more than I do.

  18. Alte said,

    "Sarah Palin is a fascist, socialist,..."

    I mean really Alte why don't you just pick one and go with it? Or call her a Nazi too while you're at it.

  19. Oh, she's not a Nazi. That would be too convenient for me.