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Tony Grist

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Fatherhood [Nov. 13th, 2004|08:47 am]
Tony Grist
What's with this this father-son thing that Hollywood keeps shoving
at us?

Spielberg can't leave it alone. Catch Me If You Can was sharp and funny so long as Leo was sticking it to the Man, but then we found out that his delinquency was down to the lack of a father figure and all it needed to reform him was for Tom Hanks to offer him unquestioning love.

Yesterday I was watching Finding Nemo. Great film in its way, but Albert Brooks's fussy lttle everyman of a soccer-dad made me feel queasy. If Ellen DeGeneres hadn't happened along I might well have walked out.

It's like the nineteenth century cult of motherhood. It gives off a sickly smell. I think there's something rotten that's being covered up.

Actually, I know perfectly well what it is. A very high proportion of dads who walk out of a marriage lose contact with their kids within two or three years. And a high proportion of those who stay behind are bullies, brutes and abusers. Of course there are good dads, but there are an awful lot of absolute shites as well.

Do families need fathers?

We daren't say "no" because if we did it would hurt the feelings of men. And that would be tricky because it's men who run the world. So we tell ourselves these cute little stories to keep ourselves from thinking too much about the facts.

There was once a little fishy and his wife got eaten by a barracuda so he had to look after his baby son all by himself and he loved his little son so much that he got a weeny bit over-protective; and then one fine day...

[User Picture]From: sorenr
2004-11-13 10:04 am (UTC)
I don't reckon father's are indispensible, just as I think a child can be perfectly happy without a mother. (Well; apart from the trauma that society imagines the child to have over this, which eventually becomes real to the child...)

I think a rolemodel of each gender is preferable to have, but I've seen plenty of examples of these being provided by soembody who happens to have had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual conception of the child...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-13 10:19 am (UTC)
Like you, I'm inclined to think that children react to adult hysteria and a motherless/fatherless child suffers less from the actual absence than from the fluffing around of concerned adults - "o, you poor little thing!"

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[User Picture]From: jourdannex
2004-11-13 04:47 pm (UTC)
I applaud you for doing what you did, making the effort of keeping in touch, because as hard as it must have been, it most likely made your children realize how much you loved them. It's very odd now in my life to have a man ring me up once every few years and pretend we have this father/daughter relationship...it's rather like having a neighbour you don't know ring you up.

I would say that families do need fathers, regardless if they live there or not, or at least a positive father figure in some way.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-13 05:25 pm (UTC)
You've reminded me that's it's been a week or two since I last spoke to my daughter. (I hate the telephone.) So I've just given her a call...

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From: egilsdottir
2004-11-13 06:00 pm (UTC)
Do families need fathers?

i grew up with a father who possessed far more maternal/domestic instincts than my mother did. so much so, that when my parents divorced, my brother and i both lived with my father.

people are puzzled when i tell them that in addition to holding down a demanding job, my father was the one who took my brother and i to doctor and orthodontist appointments, and packed our lunches, and baked chocolate chip cookies.

to me, it's very strange (and sad) when people tell me that they hardly had any contact with their fathers at all while growing up. but then again, that's probably how people feel about me when i tell them the same about my mother.

my boyfriend, for example, has almost no memories of spending time with his father when he was a child. my boyfriend is the product of a chilean father and an american mother. his father very much fit the machismo latin stereotype of constantly working to provide for his family. occasionally, he would lose his temper and yell at my boyfriend and his brothers to sort of "keep them in line", and that was about it. his role in the family was limited to financial support and disciplinarian.

i don't even know where i'm going with this rambling, i suppose i just wanted to add my two cents to the jar. although my family is a somewhat unusual case, the effects of my background have produced a very different concept of gender roles in the family in me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-13 11:37 pm (UTC)
I guess the thing is that children need parents, but the parents don't need to be two in number, they don't need to be one of either sex and they don't need to be blood relatives. What matters is that, whoever they are, they
provide the child with nurture and love and unquestioning acceptance.
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From: morrison_maiden
2004-11-13 06:32 pm (UTC)
I think that fathers are important, but honestly, I think that some children don't have problems getting on without one. I think that in the early part of the century, it seemed that a lot of children grew up with one parent, as the result of a sudden death, or even raised by an older sibling. I think now, many people assume that fathers are totally necessary, but I don't know. My parents are still together, but my father has spent much of his time away from home. I miss him when he's away, but I don't think it really hindered my growing up :\
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-13 11:13 pm (UTC)
My father was usually there- but living in his own, closed off little world.

That's right about the early 1900s. You read children's books of that period and the parents (if they exist at all) are well in the background and the kids (there are often lots of them) sort of bring one another up.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-11-14 05:06 am (UTC)
As always incisive in your reflections!

Still a daddy's girl all the way. [Smiles]
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-14 10:04 am (UTC)
But your daddy sounds like a whole lot of fun. I enjoyed your father-daughter trip to the supermarket.:)
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-11-14 11:50 am (UTC)
Daddykins and I know how to have fun every once in a while. He was, after all, the first man to make me do a tequila shot. Then again, his version of it includes a Super Soaker, so I don't know whether that was a good idea or not... [laughs]
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-11-14 01:40 pm (UTC)
Possibly it is related to the cult of motherhood, the stern Victorian Pater familias was opposed to warm n' fuzzy Mama (for somereason I find the anachronism amusing). Now I think Men are somewhat (though not as much as they should be) more in touch with the emotional side of things and hence they realise - hey being a Dad is good!
I think you are being a bit hard on men. My own father is lovely ad I can joke and be silly in a way I can't be with Mum. when Dads get it right it is superb!

Also is it a daily mail esque reaction against working mothers?

Or is is like Baboons. In baboon groups there is an alphamale who is big and hard. Lesser males form friendships with babies and then get to know (in all senses) the mothers (Kind of Nick Hornbyish n'est c'estpas?) but by presenting that image they are getting women.

On a final rambling note I read an article in psychology today ages ago which said that many men after they have been married for a few years experience a rise in Oestrogen in their brains and a corrisponding fall in testosterone which makes them more willing to settle and remain faithful.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-14 01:53 pm (UTC)
I think men are in crisis.

And a lot of what is going on is about men fighting to hold on to their turf. There's a nostalgia for the fixity of the Victorian gender roles.

That's interesting about the rise in oestrogen levels in married men. And the baboons. I'm glad the feminized male baboons get to be "friendly" with the gals.

Girlie men of the world unite!
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[User Picture]From: ide_cyan
2004-11-17 05:22 pm (UTC)
Read the Khatru symposium. Then read Up the Walls of the World.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-17 07:55 pm (UTC)
James Tiptree Jr, eh? Ok, I will.
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