Sunday, July 08, 2007

gangsta father

the intro from rad dad 7 -- out this week

rad dad is not cool; it’s not about being hip, not about trying to be in style, not a trend. rad dad is for radical parenting. The uncomfortable kind. The difficult kind. Radical as in not complacent, as in conscious and conscientious of our impact on our children, our partners, our environment. Radical as in taking responsibility for the privileges some of us have, whether we want those privileges or not. Radical as in being cognizant of how we challenge patriarchy (or not), how we participate in capitalism, how we depend on unquestioned roles of authority and hierarchy. And then, radical as in having the courage to consider ways of changing these aspects of fathering.

Lately I’ve seen numerous new books or web sites that clearly are trying to profit off of or benefit from or create a market for hip fathering, talking about how men can still remain men (whatever that means) and be a cool dad as well. What so many of these books or sites lack is a social critique, an understanding that for so long fathering has been intimately connected to patriarchy, to violence, to capitalism. Unless we as fathers do something to change that, no amount of coolness, no amount of humor, no amount of hip papa clothes can cover it. So my new mantra: We need radical change, not radical baby accessories.

For me rad dad is about reaching out to community. It’s not a place to provide excuses for some of the fucked up ways fathering is manifested by some men in our society nor about absolving ourselves of our complicity in the ugly history of Traditional Fathering. We gotta own up to it. And that’s why I know I need other radical parents, both mamas and papas, to help me see how I am caught up in this history. Especially when I’m unaware of it. I need them to show me how myths of fathering are perpetuated in the media or to help me see when fathering is being used as a marketing ploy or is being packaged for consumer convenience.

rad dad for me is recognizing how I need help. I can’t do it alone because I already know I’m a sucker; I’m a fool. I laugh like hell during Shrek and his silliness, and my kids love him, so he’s gotta be a good model for fathering, right? And I’ll admit I’m the first one at the bar getting all stupid when the Warriors were in the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong. We as people can and should have our own interests outside of parenting, enjoy the company of other adults in places that perhaps aren’t super kid friendly. But we are straight up wrong if we think that the word father means to be cool, to be part time, or that it’s temporal, ending when we are not with our kids, or that it’s limited to the realm of the house.

I want the word father to mean: warrior, to be synonymous with dedicated; I want it to be analogous to activist, environmentalist, feminist, gangsta, anarchist. I want people to step back when we announce we’re fathers and that we’re here and we ain’t leaving until some things change.

Starting with ourselves.

rad dad is as much about radical parenting as it is about fighting patriarchy in all aspects of our society. I believe actually that to reclaim fathering, it will be contingent upon men to work diligently for equal access and rights for women in the world outside parenting. We can’t expect to be equal partners in parenting and not have women be equal partners in the rest of society. To reclaim fathering we will need to reconsider intimately what it means to be successful and how capitalist notions of success are tied to the construction of male identity. To reclaim fathering we will need to question the social stereotypes of fathering that for so long have been used to justify gender specific parental roles.

Now I also wanna recognize that how we individually manifest our parenting and our relationships is up to us. There is nothing inherently wrong with a man providing the main income for a family and a woman being the primary caretaker. But it needs to be transparent, needs to be a choice and not the default. Fathers need to actively consider what might be the underlying reasons for their decisions about how they father and what they give priority to.

And, most importantly, fathers will need to actively, vocally, publicly support and speak up for other fathers.

So let me give a shout out to the amazing fathers and mothers and other parental allies that I had the pleasure to meet and depend on as I ventured out on the Kerbloom/rad dad speaking tour of the Pacific Northwest. It was so inspiring to realize that there are people I can call up and say, I need a place to stay or can you help me out or come to our event, and they are there lending you a pillow, offering what they can, bringing their kids and neighbors to see you read. So that is what rad dad is about, what Kerbloom is about, what creating radical community is all about. There are so many people doing so many different, cool things that every time I feel slightly exhausted or overwhelmed, I just need to look around me or think of those that have helped me, and feel reinspired, rejuvenated. You all rock.