To all my Friends and Readers celebrating the beginning of the Muslim Holy Month on June 17th: Ramadan Kareem to all of you!
. . . and to all my male Friends and Readers celebrating Father’s Day on June 21st: Happy Father’s Day to you!!
Background: Father’s Day was proposed in 1910 by a woman called Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington who wished to honor her father. It was officially adopted in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson as a day for the US to celebrate fathers as much as we celebrate mothers on Mother’s Day.
Traditionally, and up until the beginnings of the past century, fathers were mostly the sole Providers, the Breadwinners, that Dominant and Powerful presence in the lives of families and communities. If we can bring back voices from past centuries, we would hear mothers across the breadth and length of this planet shouting at their children:
Just wait until your father gets home!
I’m going to tell your father about what you did!
Your father will punish you for this!
And most fathers did, indeed, punish with the mild tongue-lashing or the dreaded whip and everything in between! However, other than fathers wielding that intimidating power, male (and some female) rulers and church officials also did that. The license to punish seeped from the top – the Old Testament is rife with tales of how God, the Ultimate Male Figure, punished humans by infesting them with locusts, droughts, fires, famines, floods etc. etc. – and trickled down to rulers, army commanders, politicians, priests, slave owners and most males who held any position of power whatsoever all over the planet.
Ever since Males became the Dominant Power on our Planet (read Trouble in Paradise for a glimpse of how that came about) up till our present, it is still men who exert that enormous power, even though ancient and modern history has given us quite a few powerful and ruthless women.
Sometime in the 60’s and 70’s, and in one of those collective “aha” moments, it dawned on women that in order to change males so as to strive for a fairer and more equitable society, we would need to change ourselves, the females, and how we raise our men. Hence, progressive, educated and enlightened women – a minority on our planet – began that process.
What did we do that was different from our grandmothers and mothers? Well, we began by paying equal attention to our sons and daughters. That did not generally occur as I was growing up when mothers, as well as daughters of a household, paid special attention to the boys while, basically, ignoring the girls. Hence, my mothering style, and that of some mothers across the planet, required of boys, as a simple example, to have household chores, and not only “guy” tasks such as mowing the lawn, washing the car etc. We demanded that boys and girls take equal turns vacuuming, emptying the dishwasher, setting the dinner table, changing their siblings diaper etc. Had my great-grandmother, or maybe even my mother or grandmother, for instance, seen my son performing any of these chores she would have slapped her bosom and wailed: I don’t understand this stupid modernism where men have to do women’s work! What is the world coming to?! And, of course, we would have never heard the end of this as it got repeated to anyone who would listen at which they would all nod and slap their bosoms, or cheeks, or foreheads and utter all the “niceties” about my “modern generation!” Ah, well! Then we insisted that our girls, same as our boys, graduate from higher education academies in what were until then predominantly male professions: medicine and engineering, sciences and law and that they then had to go to work. Again, my great-grandmother, or even grandmother, would have said: why waste all that effort and money? She’ll get married soon and then what for is all of this? There were, also, some husbands in my generation who refused to allow their wives to raise their sons in an “untraditional” way and no length of argument could have changed their mind. There are, of course, many other examples that I am sure you can think of. However, the fact remains that millennia of conditioning cannot be reversed in one generation!
Nevertheless, those sons who were brought up by progressive, enlightened and educated mothers together with their supporting husbands, grew up to be very fine men – well, most of them did anyway – and specifically those living in families and communities where the societal expectations and role-models were conducive to accepting and encouraging such changes. These are the sensitive, loving, understanding men who know that while they have different strengths and attributes than their wives, also acknowledge her assets and strengths and treat her respectfully and equally.
The problems arise when confident, assertive women raised in egalitarian families marry men who were reared in the male-centered methods of past generations. What a clash that can cause! It is, in fact, at the core of most divorces, and a cause for consternation among many of my female friends.
This brings us to some women who, in wanting to raise democratic families, were either too radical, or over-zealous, or were carrying too much baggage from their own upbringing and, therefore, proceeded to punish their husbands and sons for all the infractions and injustices of the male species throughout the centuries! My, oh my! Another recipe for many divorces and for emotionally damaged sons and daughters! Unfair! Unjust!
Then there are women who insist on this fifty-fifty formula regarding Everything in their households. I like shared responsibilities; I am all for equal duties and I totally support a division of family tasks. However, I feel that in some households this has become somewhat ridiculous and carried to extremes. Balance and fairness are fundamental requirements in any successful partnership. Moreover, in intimate relationships, these must be rendered with love, affection, good communication and respect.
Men: I believe that many of you these days are at a loss on how to conduct yourselves within your relationships. You are befuddled and torn between those macho images, that John Wayne swaggering he-man, that over-Powering Dominant ruler who is to be feared, and the gentle, compassionate, respectful, democratic and loving partner, who communicates intelligently, listens intently and has enough confidence in his own skin not to be threatened by a successful partner, or a hormonal wife!
And, you, modern, liberated, educated and successful women, please do make reasonable allowances for all those centuries of male domination and don’t twist your knickers and have a conniption if he forgets that damned toilet seat up, or have a snit if he prefers to watch the game tonight rather than one of your sob-story movies!
Relationship discussions and male roles are complicated subjects that cannot be covered in one blog post, article, or even in a book! Each situation is unique and every couple has to deal with their own particular issues. And, the fact that practicing equality and justice within relationships is a fairly new phenomenon means that it will take generations yet to bring it about. In the meantime we should all – males and females – keep a Balanced and Reasonable Perspective so that we may be able to raise healthy and well-adjusted future generations. Our world sorely needs those!
Men! For those of you who still insist on that Powerful Warrior and Intimidating Male version of bygone days: get up to speed, will you? The clock of history goes forward, not backward, and whether you approve or not, your own daughters will not go back either, let alone your partners!
As for the rest of you, I salute, respect and love all of you who are willing to adapt to these terrific, though daunting, and changing times.
Cataclysmic societal and relationship changes are rarely easy to deal with! They have to happen, though, and it will eventually all balance out. After all, we are all striving for a better, more peaceful and just world for everyone!
And as the great Omar Khayyam said:
“Ah Love! Could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits – and then
Remold it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!”
We are all Adapting and Changing! It is not an easy assignment!
Men . . . Men! Be up to the challenge for, trust me; we women need you just as much as you need us.