THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

05: Fatherhood cont’d

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Focusing on the genuine needs of the child rather than projecting conspiratorial values onto them is one crucial part of the equation, but I want to conclude with a focus on fathers and their sense of self. Now there will no doubt be a lot of people out there (particularly women) who think that given the prevalence of absent fathers—both literally so, and those emotionally withdrawn within the home—that their sense of self is already well established and prioritized over all things. But hear me out.

I suspect that in the conspiracy fatherhood has the potential to function in a dissociative manner. In much the same way that initiation does not, as it is claimed, bestow a sense of identify upon a boy but instead erases it through conformity, so too fatherhood (at least a particular form of fatherhood as advocated by the conspiracy). It is a pattern I have identified amongst both those around me and myself: that the “responsibilities of fatherhood” (providing, and so forth) have an unnerving habit of not, as one would hope, developing the sense of self, rather eroding it. This process is identifiable in the conservative drift that appears to take place upon the values of many men as they spend more time as fathers, a drift in values that more often than not serves the conspiracy.

The clichéd example of this would be a young, relatively free-thinking man who settles down and has a family. Let’s call him, I dunno, Joseph Helfer. Now Joseph starts out with good intentions about resisting the conservative drift that seems to take place in the fathers he sees around him, however his resolve is soon tested. In order to pay the mortgage and support a wife and three children he has to ensure financial stability, and the only apparent way of achieving this is by doing what is expected of him and staying put in a sensible job (and behaving in it like a sensible man).

Now the sensible job is a challenge for Joseph in two ways. First, maintaining it requires perpetuating what he perceives to be unsavory values to such a degree that he no longer knows if he is secretly resisting or perpetuating them. Second, maintaining it requires abandoning certain dreams, the pursuit of which is deemed too risky. The net result is resentment, both of the system that is co-opting him, and the family that—through its need for financial support—requires him to be in the system in the first place. Both these challenges have a dissociative effect on Joseph, removing him from his original sense of self, from his ability to sufficiently critique the conspiracy, and thus his ability to see how the conspiracy is slowly claiming him for its own and perpetuating its values in any number of ways. Conspiracy by a thousand cuts.

CONTINUES >>>

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Written by Joseph Gelfer

June 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm

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