Skip to main content

When dads don't attack

With all the uproar lately over what it means to be a feminist, gender issues, misogyny, male culture, the War On Women, mommy wars, it hit me that it is a blessing on the other side. The Stay At Home Dad community doesn't have to deal with this crap.

Oh, we deal with crap for sure. Lot's of it. It's just not our crap. It's external. We don't bring it on ourselves. (A recent blowup about bad behavior was really the exception that proves the rule.) And we generally don't play victim when we're on the receiving end of it. We're generally supportive of each other. Not always the case in other groups and it's something I'm growing to love about being a SAHD. And, even more, being a dude generally. Granted, we may be dealing with a small sample size of men who are embracing a great deal of non-traditional stuff. Our demographic is probably slanted towards not being unfriendly. As our numbers grow, we'll pull in some undesirables. But for right now, the average dad you encounter is amazing.

So often, the stereotype of male culture is either simplistic and cliche...or male-centered organizations get caught up in the lofty "we need to be better men" language. Which has a deep overtone of "really we suck and are trying to improve the image of men." The dominant theme for SAHDs is that we're in it together changing attitudes about gender roles, being flawed-but-good parents, and we try to let things roll off our backs mostly. Maybe because we know too well how it feels to have that criticism turned against us?

The more I've been participating in discussions about what it means to be a good feminist and the role men play in the lives of women, the more aware I am that, sadly, the SAHD ethic doesn't pervade regular society. If it did, we'd be far better off in my opinion. And it makes it more important the work we do as fathers and partners. Because the more visible we are, the less conversations can include sexist statements about male culture, absent fathers, woman-hating, and how more men need to be feminists.

Stay At Home Dads are, by definition, feminists. Because the chances are nearly 100% that we have amazing, smart, powerful women behind us and enabling our role. It's a two-way street. We constantly show appreciation to these fabulous women and thank them for what they do. It feels equal. Not that there aren't SAHDs who don't want to be doing this, women who'd rather be home, or plenty of dirty-laundry sessions where men need to vent about the culture, their wife, their kids. We're talking real people here. SAHDs get divorced, we hate the lady at the grocery who belittles fathers for the 90th time. We bleed like everybody else.

That's the beauty of the SAHD networks though...I rarely see a dad who pretends to be perfect. We have humor. We have humility. We don't criticize each other. Oh we mock. We make fun. We tease. Boys will be boys. To say that we don't joke about the stacks of laundry, dirty floors, dirty kids would be denying some of the best parts of us. The joking often leads to serious conversations not being had anywhere else. Among moms or in the general world.

The more I'm a SAHD, the more comfortable I feel calling myself a feminist. And the more I wish there were a male alternative. Some way for men to talk about being a man that doesn't relate to women. Doesn't relate to expectations of us or our failings. That just openly discusses and embraces what it means to be a male in the 21st century. Because the funny thing about being a man on the "other" side of the recent feminism conversation is the unsettling reality that the sexism we face is often ignored or not talked about. Guys often aren't comfortable being guys. For all the talk about male-dominated culture where there's a War On Women, there's also a gaping hole in the zeitgeist where men need to celebrate themselves. And, especially, our positive attributes, accomplishments, etc.. Not that I'm accusing us of self-hating. Note that I'm very explicitly saying here that we have the benefit of not starting from a negative in that department. Although I did see quite a few male-bashing pieces by men lately.

The old joke and stereotype is that we don't need a "Men's History Month" because the other 11 months of the year are about men (mostly white--the same thing is said about Black History Month) who make it into the history books. But I think we need to reclaim some of the narrative. The y chromosome may be small, but it is not unimportant.