We must live our lives in a larger structure of meaning than we can build for ourselves. If as a father you cannot trust popular culture to provide it for you, where do you look for it?
It is more or less assumed that traditional notions of fatherhood have been debunked. Those of us who happened to be more traditionally minded have been looking for ways to re-valorize fatherhood for a long time.
Back during the 1980s and 90s Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family attempted to psychologize it. I think it is safe to say that even though many of his arguments seem sound, many people remained unconvinced.
I think one reason for this is Dobson had already conceded the field. Psychologizing it turned fatherhood inward and made fatherhood mostly a matter of meeting childhood needs for security and discipline. And although those are important things, that didn’t keep people from looking for alternatives to fathers to provide them.
Some people really hate men. Misandry is so commonplace many people taken for granted. This puts men in an interesting quandary–if we object and claim victim status we emasculate ourselves. If we ignore it, it just gets worse as the misanthropes are emboldened by our failure to respond. If we strike back, we’re accused of bullying and misogyny and the cycle begins again.
Most of the young sensitive guys I know have turned to feminized fatherhood. They’ve become “mommy second-class”.
This has led to all sorts of interesting stuff to watch. One example: a guy ends up competing with his wife (or girl friend) for “most-nurturing”. I’ve even seen guys hurt when a child prefers mommy first-class to him.If you’re one of those guys let me break it to you: you can’t win. And you shouldn’t want to win.
What you should do is question all the assumptions and the hidden structures that call traditional notions of fatherhood into question in the first place. You need to deconstruct the modern world.
Until a very short time ago the only folks who did this sort of thing were liberationists. But there really is no reason why their weapons of cultural warfare can’t be turned back upon them. In fact, the only reason they’ve made the “progress” they have is because traditionalists and other conservatives are playing by an old set of rules. (This is where liberationists are just fine with a double standard.) Traditionalists must settle for muskets, but liberationists are armed with the equivalent of an AK-47.
Here’s how you do it.
To take up their weapons you should begin with the favorite starting place of the liberationists: I’m born this way. Then think about the environment in which such a creature as yourself can thrive. Look at it this way. Imagine you are a lion and your natural habitat is shrinking. Soon you will no longer be able to live in the wild–the choice will be the zoo for you or extinction. With that in mind, who could possibly object to a lion fighting and taking back his territory? Only lion haters.
Once you do this your eyes will open. The hermeneutics of suspicion can work both ways. You will see that many of the things you see in popular culture are designed specifically to emasculate men and make them feel guilty for being men. You will also begin to see how a host of hidden interests are served by this self-loathing.
When this happens then the hard work begins: first, discerning the meanings of both manhood and fatherhood in the larger order of things from within a culture that is designed to keep you from seeing those very things. (It is something like trying to see the stars from Manhattan.) And then comes the work of taking back your habitat from the corporations and the institutions of high culture and popular culture.
It is the work of a life time. But the meaning of your life as a man and a father, as well as the welfare of the people who depend upon you, depends upon it.