As we come to another celebration of Father's Day I have been doing some thinking around what it means to be a father. I know, a strange topic for #womened, but I think still relevant.
Yesterday while watching the local news, I saw a segment about a group of Kindergarten children making Father's Day presents in school. The reporter asked various children what it means to be a father and the responses varied. Some said "You have to fix things", "Eat lots of food" and one child said, "Wash the dishes." Over the past few days I have heard radio adds which encourage consumers to skip the tie and get dad a day at the movies or a nice cake from Dairy Queen. The first thing that popped into my head was how incredibly gendered Father's Day is, presenting dads as mechanically inclined, tie-wearing cake eaters! Rather limiting don't you think?
What really struck me, however was a conversation I overheard while at work about Father's Day. One person said their mother used to say that "Every day is Father's Day! Why do we need to celebrate it?" An interesting comment which I think speaks to masculine domination and hegemony. I began to ask myself, why do we celebrate Father's Day or Mother's Day for that matter?
On the one hand, as a father, I appreciate that fathers are recognized as important members of families. We often hear about absent fathers or "dead-beat dads" in the media painting a rather grim picture of fatherhood. And then there are characters like Homer Simpson which position fathers and men as bumbling fools and yet, also perpetuates hegemonic notions of what it means to mean a man. Fatherhood is about much more than this is it not? What about the love and care that a father provides for his children? When fathers are presented as bumbling fools, pressure is then placed on mothers to take up the slack and care for the children. This notion of the "dead-beat" dad only further relegates women to the primary role of parenting, caring for children and duties of the household.
I would like to present a different view of Fatherhood. If we look to the LGBTQ community, of which I am a part as a gay father, we see this limiting discourse of fatherhood fall apart. When we look at families in which there are two dads, or trans dads for example, we see the gendered roles of motherhood and fatherhood fall to pieces. I remember when my husband and I were moving into our house, the bank employee looking after our mortgage asked, "Who does all the cooking?" It gets done and yes, without a woman around! It gets done in the same way that children grow up in families in which there are two fathers!
So on this Father's Day, let us celebrate love in all its forms. Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there however you may identify!