Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Happy Father's Day!"

This is how a column in today's Sunday Globe begins. A good start, no doubt, seeing as it's Father's Day. But it's all downhill from here.

The article is by Jane Rosenzweig, a writing teacher at Harvard. The teaser on page A1 was promising: "Daddy Memoirs: Recent memoirs deliver a more nuanced look at the experience of modern fatherhood."

But instead of a detailed, thoughtful review of new books, we get bitterness and belittlement. In the very first graf, she implores dads on our special day of honor to "relax, secure in the knowledge that cultural expectations for you remain low." Nice. It's like waking up and having your wife tell you, "That's OK honey, I'll make the coffee, like I always do." On your birthday. Gee, uh, thanks dear.

She says, "In a culture that's deeply invested in scrutinizing mothers, it seems you still have to do something spectacular -- let your daughter videotape you drunk, perhaps, like David Hasselhoff, or call your daughter a "rude, thoughtless little pig" on her voicemail like Alec Baldwin -- to be deemed a truly bad father."

Huh?

That's spectacular? I wonder what superlative she'd apply to a parent like this. I think severing your baby's arms or drowning your kids in a bathtub is on a level somewhat more spectacular than a dad getting angry with his daughter because she missed a visiting date with him.

Overall, it seems Ms. Rosenweig is disinterested in the subject matter of the day, constantly comparing fathers' situations with mothers' and a few fatherhood memoirs to several "Mommy Wars" books, with which seems much more familiar.

Throughout the article, Ms. Rosenweig seems to have a chip on her shoulder, apparently jealous of some perceived advantage that fathers enjoy with our "lower societal expectations." But for which parents is it socially acceptable to work full-time, or part-time, or not at all? Moms have all these choices, but dads are expected to work full-time (overtime, actually, if they want to get a raise or promotion and be good providers for their families), and find time to be good dads, and "help out" around the house, and take care of their traditional yard/home/car maintainance duties. It's almost like she has no idea what fathers actually do, or doesn't care. For a while I wondered if she even bothered to read the books she was assigned.

In her conclusion, Ms. Rosenzweig quotes an anecdote from Crawling: A Father's First Year. The author, a children's book writer/illustrator, was in a grocery store when his daughter began to cry. A woman at the store said: "Ohh, she must want her mommy." The author was a bit insulted by the unintentional dig, and quite rightly so. But Ms. Rosenzweig dismisses his experience and, again, turns it around to a faulty feminist perspective, interpreting it as an implicit criticism of the absent mother! Wow.

Next year, Globe editors, do us proud, self-respecting dads a favor and leave Ms. Rosenzweig's opinions out of my Father's Day. Perhaps next year, the Father's Day article could be penned, by, you know, a father?

And now, Ms. Rosenzweig, if you'll excuse me, I've got a family fun day planned.

1 comment:

DSC said...

Oh God, it's even worse than I thought. Apparently, Father's Day = Open Season on Dads. Read it and weep... http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1630551,00.html
I really, really, REALLY doubt they'd dare write something so offensive on Mother's Day.