S____ has an MBA but can’t get a job since her father doesn’t allow her to go out of the town. F____ was not even born when his father left him. S_____ was 14 when she came out as trans and was told to leave her house by her father.
Throughout the course of history men have been celebrated and revered, and fatherhood occupies a prominent place in those ways of upholding men for all that’s good. God is a father. We have founding fathers and fathers of nations. What’s interesting to note however is that this fatherhood is selective and must be given to cis-hetero upper class/caste men. Gay, Bi, Trans and other queer men who can be and are amazing fathers, single and divorced men who raise children often invite the contempt and sometimes violence of the society.
In the recent wave of nationalism with the Indian state as mother; unless there is a cricket match with Pakistan where it suddenly becomes Pakistan’s father and its fatherhood is not something that instills pride and love but hatred, mockery and contempt; there is a subtle yet powerful hint of illegitimacy. The father’s free, uninhibited sexual virility that looks down upon motherhood as meaningless and worthless (abusive, even?) where do we place the idea of parental care that all the children (if they are so) deserve?
This reverence of the father is extremely problematic (and before trolls take me on, so is the idea of reverential motherhood). For centuries fathers have sold, gifted, tortured, raped, and murdered their children (mostly daughters). Fathers have controlled and dictated their daughters’ sexuality and life. Fathers have turned away, even killed their children, mostly daughters who took a deviant path.
I never get the hang of people who say to an abused child that no matter what, he was your father. Of course he was. And therefore he should have cared more. He should have loved more. He should not have taken off his child’s dress and raped them or let them be raped because they were different. A lot of children of alternative sexuality and gender identity are raped by their fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins so as to be ‘cured’. Where do we place these fathers? What respect do they deserve? Yes, #NotAllFathers are like that. But enough of them are. Even if the fathers have not directly abused or tortured their children, they still have not given the safe space to their children to open up, to tell that they were bullied at school today, to tell them that they are gay, to tell them that they don’t want to study engineering.
There are amazing fathers around us, no doubt. And ironically they are not celebrated. A father who lets his daughter be has to face the society’s mockery and to escape it, he ends up saying that his daughter is his ‘son’, meant as a term of endearment but is sexist in reality. Being a daughter (and thus woman) is then intrinsically wrong, shameful. A child needs to be loved and a father can only do that if he believes in equality and unconditional love. If he abuses his wife or makes sexual advances at workplace or harasses a passing woman on street or shouts slurs at gay and Trans people, he cannot love his child. This man is incapable of love. And unfortunately many fathers are like that.
So celebrate fathers by all means, but acknowledge that people have ‘daddy issues’ not because there is something wrong with them but because their fathers were horrible at parenting. Acknowledge that ‘No matter what, he was your father’ is bullshit when the father has thrown the child out of the house when they were twelve years old. Acknowledge that fathers are men and men come in all shapes and sizes and many of them are heterosexist and abusive. Acknowledge that these fathers have created a world devoid of love and thrive on respect earned out of fear. Acknowledge that fathers are not beyond criticism.