Patriarchal Dad and other masculinities

07/09/2011

thinking hard about cultural constructions of masculinity and (especially) how they affect parenting.

watched this recently (ed. note: available on netflix). predictably felt there were some wonky racist/classist/sexist elements, but overall it still rendered useful food for thought, questioning cultural mores about masculinity. And I appreciated the “ah ha!” moment the main protagonist has at the end where he’s like oh, my performance of masculinity=violence! tragedy times, WHOOOAAA.

when talking about my dad’s abusive craptitude, my mother is often wont to remind me that he grew up at the intersection of two deeply patriarchal cultures (Mormon and Latin@), in addition to the usual USian immersion-in-the-patriarchy program (ugh).

Dominant gender narratives in my experience of Mormon-ness:

  • Mormon Dad is like Tiny God, and you must ALL obey him without question. Prophet/quorum of apostles/etc are all various representation of the internal patriarchal hierarchy of the church, just think of them as “EXTRA PATRIARCHY Mormon Dad #1, 2, 3 [etc]”. Shit is deeep, yo. Eventually in the heaven-scheme-of-things, Patriarch Dad becomes Big God, but that is getting a little too deep in Mormon theology to explain here. Special powers may include: bringing home the bacon (you fry it in pan), tithing, administering the sacrament, “forgiveness”, molestation, and revelations from God.
  • Wife-Object is Big God/Mormon Dad’s servant for making babies, “keeping the home” (ugggghhh!), and socializing Mormon patriarchy-compliant humans (read: children, fellow church members, converts, etc). Special powers may include: fasting, canning, sewing pioneer costumes (colonialism re-enactment, anyone?), making banana bread, and homeschooling 80 bajillion humans.
  • all tiny dudes* are preparing to be Mormon Dads. you must develop a strong relationship with religious artifacts/God now so that you can administer them later! (ps. administration starts at ~12, when most tiny Mormon Dads begin administering the sacrament. EEP!)
  • all tiny ladies* are preparing to be Wife-Objects. keep yourself pure because you are valuable property. you wouldn’t want to defile someone else’s valuable property, now would you?! uggghhh.
  • it is the job of various hierarchies of Mormon Dad to administer the artifacts of one’s relationship with God.

The most patriarchy/colonialism compliant masculinity of some Latin@ men, often conveyed in English as “machismo”, is still popular, and definitely something that I have (unfortunately) experienced in first-hand interactions (friendships, relationships, etc).

Dominant gender narratives in my experience of Machismo Culture**:

  • As a lady*, you are a dude’s* territory.
  • A dude will defend his territory with violence. Territory can be impeached upon by: looking at it, talking to it, touching it, dancing with it, etc–no matter if any of these things happen with the consent of The Territory ™.
  • If you are a lady in public, your body is open to unwanted commentary/touching, by mere dint of your presence. (does this sound familiar? it’s evident in pretty much all patriarchal gender narratives)
  • The most valuable of dudes are extremely virile, thereby it is their duty to prong as many ladies as possible, and to brag about it to other dudes while avoiding parenting offspring/supporting partner(s).
  • Your children/ladies are your personal property and any disobedience is a a personal reflection of you, so thereby you must “keep them in line” via intimidation, threats, and physical violence.
  • All ladies/dudes are in direct competition at all times unless they are family (and sometimes even if they are family).

Because a lot of debates about machismo are super racist, I want to say right here, loud and fucking clear: machismo is just one sub-set of the whole spectrum of Latin@ masculinities, it is not the way that all Latin@ people perform their masculinity, and it is not because we are “primitive”. seriously. So!

My pops. Papi. Dad. Daddy. !@$#ing father. In retrospect, if I look at the method of fathering that I experienced, it was definitely an amalgamation of a lot of these concepts + the usual suspects that I think exist in just about any patriarchal narrative on the planet (I could be wrong, but hey!).

Patriarchal Amalgamation Dad, in summary:

  • “You are my child, I own you and I can do anything I want with you.” (seriously, he said this to me once–creepy as shit)
  • As my property, you are a direct reflection of me, therefore I will keep you in line with threats/intimidation/physical violence. Any time you assert your will over mine it is an insult, and will be taken as such.
  • As a lady* you are a dude’s* territory.
  • Keep yourself pure because you are valuable property. Wouldn’t want to defile someone else’s valuable property, now would you?! uggghhh.
  • It is the job of various hierarchies of Mormon Dad to administer the artifacts of one’s relationship with God.
  • Patriarchal Amalgamation Dad is like Tiny God, and you must ALL obey him without question. Prophet/quorum of apostles/etc are all various representation of the internal patriarchal hierarchy of the church, just think of them as “EXTRA PATRIARCHY Mormon Dad #1, 2, 3 [etc]”.
  • Do as I say, not as I do.
  • I will hold all of the ways in which I have provided for you materially as a parent over your head when I perceive that you are defying my will, even if it’s something as simple as expressing that you do not want to be touched.
  • I will only provide for you when I feel like it. My [etc] is much more important.

I think that a lot of parents (especially masculine-identified parents) have trouble when a child begins to distinguish its will from the will of zir parent(s). It’s a pretty common phenomenon, right? I was so excited, tho, in talking with a friend of mine who is a relatively new father about how he recognized that he and his child were not always going to agree, but that telling zie what to do all the time would not allow zie the ability to learn how to make good choices! And as well, that he was there to guide zie, but that their relationship was essentially a two-way street, and he hoped that he would put into as much as he received in return. This all seems obvious, but I imagine the day-to-day of parenting is a little harder than it sounds here, on paper. But dang, man. It’s exciting to know that people are questioning the narrative of you are MY child and you will do as I say because I am the parent! Which all sounds good at first, but doesn’t exactly allow for a child to develop as an individuated person, and I think creates the potential for A LOT of abuse to occur.

So yes. Questioning the patriarchal narratives of fatherhood and masculinity, it’s easy to figure out what I don’t want, but a little harder to figure out what I do.

Uh…not that I’m planning on becoming a dad anytime soon. Onward!

*ladies = CAFAB

*dudes = MAFAB

**as white media fucking loves to call it, let’s talk about the weird racism evident in their critiques another time!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: