Feminists and those who would redefine masculinity like to congratulate themselves for changing the definition of fatherhood. Men are now expected to help out more with traditionally female tasks, share the burden of childcare, be more effeminate, etc. Michael Kimmel, who preaches against what he calls “toxic masculinity,” is a big proponent of this. Lots of women now expect that their husbands will be more like a maid than the man of the house.
In an opinion piece for The Age, Chloe Angyal shares her experience of being raised by a feminist father, who did her hair for ballet and talked about “feelings” with her:
Thanks to feminism, my relationship with my father is entirely different to the one he had with his late father. When I was a little girl, it was dad who did my hair for Saturday morning ballet class. Until I was 15, when I finally mastered the art myself, he was the ballet bun master-in-chief in our house. Thanks to feminism, my father and I can talk about our feelings, something men of his generation could rarely do with their dads. Might things have been different had I been a boy? Possibly.
If sexism keeps women trapped in stereotypical boxes – over-emotional and dependent, with a lower sex drive – it keeps men trapped too: stoic, always in charge, and forever looking to score. When men become parents, those same stereotypical boxes stop them from taking parental leave, or supporting a son’s passion for, say, sewing, or a daughter’s desire to be a leader.
What Kimmel and Angyal leave out is how exactly this has been achieved. It is not so much that fathers in general have become more touchy-feely and feminist, but rather that almost half of them have been removed from playing any meaningful part in their children’s lives. Perhaps the ones that remain – often upper middle class types like Kimmel and Chloe Angyal’s father – are more involved in “progressive” parenting, but most people just aren’t like that. Don’t children with ordinary, conventional fathers deserve to have fathers, too? Should men who are not comfortable hairdressing and participating in ballet be disqualified from fatherhood? These are important questions, because there are more fatherless children than ever, and we have feminism to thank for just that.