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Why being a father is never emasculating

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Why being a father is never emasculating

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Emasculating is a word which has been going round a lot recently after Piers Morgan tweeted to mock Daniel Craig, new father, for carrying his baby.

engaged dad father not emasculated

emasculate

verb
gerund or present participle: emasculating 

  1. deprive (a man) of his male role or identity. “he feels emasculated, because he cannot control his sons’ behaviour”  
  2. make (someone or something) weaker or less effective. “the refusal to allow them to testify effectively emasculated the committee”

How our society sees fathers

Shifting norms

A father’s role in their child’s life is one which has changed quickly in the last 50 years. Not long ago a hands off approach and a total lack of involvement was the norm. This norm is the origin of comments, like those of Piers Morgan, that deride fathers who are practically and emotionally available as emasculated. Now most of society positively encourages dads to take an active role in parenting and the day to day life. There is a growing body of evidence that children benefit from positive male role models in their lives. In particular, boys emulate the behaviour they of their male role models. There is also a growing body of evidence that father’s benefit hugely from their interaction with their children. It is not emasculating that empowered dads emotionally engaging with their children are changing the landscape of parenting.

Mum as default carer

It has become a societal norm that ‘a mother’, provides childcare by default. Every aspect of parenting is based on a two parent cis-heteronormative assumption. Parenting leave is set up that way in the UK. There are Mother & Baby parking spaces, and Mother & Baby rooms, and changing tables are often totally absent from male toilets. Schools will ring mum first, even if they aren’t first on the list of people to contact. People defer to mum in making decisions which affect the children.

The assumption is that ‘the mum’ takes care of the children so ‘the dad’ can work. On the flip-side, when ‘the dad’ takes care of his kids, he is ‘babysitting’. Stereotypes make dads out to be stupid and incompetent. Dads are praised for doing simple day-to-day tasks which are assumed to be a ‘mum’s’ do or taken to task for. Our society doesn’t value childcare as something men ‘should‘ be doing.

Dad learning to woven wrap a baby in sling. Being a father is not emasculating

Fathers caring is emasculating because women’s work is inferior

There is a lot to unpick here – misogyny in hating, or undervaluing, what is seen as ‘women’s work’, the assumptions that men cannot feel emotions in the same way as women, that men are more inherently valuable than women and children, and that men should live up to some superior masculine ideal. Many of these ideas are at the very heart of toxic masculinity.

Why these stereotypes matter

What all of these normalised stereotypes mean is that society has a distorted view of what people can and can’t do, and it is teaching our children to think that way right from the very start. Even if your family disregards these stereotypes, there are countless others who don’t, and a constant stream of imagery and actions from the wider world which say the opposite. Surely we can see that these stereotypes are damaging when TV personalities attack the idea of dads caring for their children as something ’emasculating’?

If you take a hands on approach with your children from the start as a father then you demonstrate to your child that you love them, that men give love and care as well as women, that caring for children is something everyone does, that men can share their feelings. Every example of a family where this is true demonstrates these things to the wider society, and it becomes more true. If more men take time away from jobs to care for children it will become less strange. Even now people perceive my husband taking time off to look after our children when I am working as different. However, my husband’s actions demonstrate to those, especially men, around them that this is an option they too can take.

Suicide: a darker side to emotions as emasculating

In the UK the leading cause of death for young men is suicide. Mental health issues are a growing crisis amongst the male population. Men are told from birth that they don’t have the right to the same feeling as girls, that boys don’t cry, to man up, to grow some balls. Men don’t feel things less because they are men, they repress how they feel because society says they should, and when you look at it from that perspective it becomes plain why we have such a problem with adults unable to express their feelings.

being a father is not emasculating

How you can change the future

Being a parent means to raise and nurture a new human being. Parents get to shape how this person grows, to shape them as a person. Parents are intimately involved in someone’s life. This isn’t weakening, or emasculating, being a father gives you an incredible amount of power. Using that in caring and responsible way is the very definition of ‘paternal’, in fact!

If you want to change the world that your children and grandchildren grow up in then change the way that our society treats families and fathers. We need to empower men to care for their children in whatever way works for them and their families. We need to work to show children positive role models of men parenting their children. Give your son a doll to care for, and encourage their dad to carry them. We need to demonstrate that being a father is never emasculating, so our children grow up with that idea never even crossing their mind.

And above all, don’t listen to Piers Morgan.

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