Monday, June 22, 2009

Mothers Becoming Fathers

I’m left speechless when I hear a woman talk about being both a mother and father for their children. Implied in this avowal is the outlandish assertion, due to no fault of their own, that they were forced to assume both masculine and feminine roles in assuring the growth of their children. Obscured in this affirmation is the unrealistic expectation that women void of male partnership are forced to take on dual functions to effectively raise their children.

This position is laced in the language of patriarchy. It becomes the fuel used by conservative Christians and political moralist to classify the root causes of the evils that hinder society. There are decades of squabbles related to the decline in family values and the rise of societal ills correlated to women raising children alone. Congregations have asked the relevant question-where the men go? This is a more perplexing query when placed in the context of black life in the inner city.

For decades now, people have asked why are there more women in church than men? Why are there more black women in college than men? Why are our prisons flooded with black and brown brothers? What happened to trigger this massive shift in mindset that has black men clinging to obsessions over celebrating the beauty of raising a family? At the end of protracted and grueling deliberations, it is assumed that all ills can be associated, in some manner, to the failures of a man.

Father’s Day becomes more than a day on the calendar to honor dads for contributing to the success of their children. It becomes one among many days to reflect on the failures of the men we should love. Father’s Day becomes a day to reflect on the significance of dad, and it leaves many conscious of how they learned more on how to structure their lives by doing the opposite of good ole dad.

Dads receive alternative names to illustrate the significance of their contributions. They become “sperm donors”, the” baby daddy”, the “deadbeat” or the “big mistake”. Children are left motionless as they vacillate regarding their Father’s Day reaction. Should they buy a card or gift and tell ole dude they love him? Should they rise above the fray and call the ole deadbeat and say “happy Father’s Day”? Should they pretend all is well for the day while mama is infuriated because child support hasn’t been paid and the sperm donor hasn’t called the kids?

It’s enough to drive a hard working mom crazy. She strives to teach those hurting children to love and respect ole boy even after he refuses, for whatever reason, to do the right thing for his children. I grasp the agony of the moms fed up with contending with the travails of parenthood alone. Those men should be called out for walking out on their responsibility. With that said, there is a truth that must rise above the rhetoric.

To begin, will someone help me slay the notion that a child is doomed to fail due to the absence of a man. The truth is, in many cases, children are better off not having the loser around to stir them in the wrong direction. We should be careful not to concede power to the male genitalia. A penis is not the remedy to all the woes we see. Two parents in the home isn’t, in and of itself, the road of promise. In many circumstances, single parents do a better job at raising children without the S.O.B around. Absent is the rage and abuse that can be heard when men and women simply can’t get along.

In addition, somebody help me, please, please help me, undo the notion that single parents have to be both mother and father. This notion presupposes the company of qualities in men void in women. The assumptions of gender based roles are rooted in Biblical interpretation that is rendered from a cultural context that placed women as subservient to men. Men are the strength of the family. They are the heads of households, and women, due to their gender identity, are held to a position of submission.

This leaves women deficient whenever a man is absent to lead the way. She is regarded as incapable of accessing spiritual truth when a man is not present. Her only recourse is to take on a dual status-to be man and woman, father and mother. She has to assert qualities of manhood while, at the same time, lifting the virtues of her gender. She must become both man and woman. This is necessary because men are needed due to the failures of women.

Women are admired for being nurturers, but strength and leadership are qualities we find in men. Any woman who takes on this role has stepped out of divinely sanctioned order. She does so because of the failures of the man she has chosen. The man is chided for creating an environment that breeds immaturity and fragmentation. He forces the woman to be both mother and father, and children are left uncertain about what it means to be human.

It is all grounded in sexist notions based in a moralist interpretation of the Biblical text. This is what happens when we read text crafted in sexist societies as valid guiding principles for today. The dangers in literal interpretations are in the fostering of cultures that limit the humanity of women in relationship with the status of the men that own them.

1 comment:

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