On February 3, George F. Will published a column called “Lifting Up the Fatherless,” which at first glance looks like so many other “boo hoo, poor boys without fathers” handwringers until you get to the fifth paragraph.
Born to an unmarried, mentally ill prostitute, [Robert Lewis “Sugar Bear” Jackson] acquired his interest in driving from his grandfather, who would drive around the block with Sugar Bear in his lap. Not until Sugar Bear was 25 did he learn that his grandfather was his father, too, having had a sexual relationship with Sugar Bear’s mother.
Don’t you love the nimble use of the euphemism “sexual relationship” to define incest, an act that rarely occurs between consenting adults? Especially not when one of them is already identified as having a mental illness? I suppose the word “RAPE” is too unsettling for a guy who wears a bow tie.
Sugar Bear grew up mostly on the streets, episodically drifting into and out of the care, such as it was, of various female relatives.
Will doesn’t state that Sugar Bear would have been better off in the care of his rapist father/grandfather instead of “female relatives,” but I felt the correlation was strong enough to say so on my Facebook page. A couple of readers thought I went a bit far in chastizing Ol’ Bow Tie, and perhaps they’re right. I’m just very sensitive to the assumption that children suffer without a dude in their lives, for that assumption leads us down this stupid path:
!!! Emphasis mine!!! Because any time I get even the faintest whiff of the suggestion that my friends Morgan, Mia, and Margaret are somehow not being loved adequately because neither of their parents has a dick, I want to scream!!!!! And explode into a fiery ball of exclamation points!!!!!!!
Happily, a Facebook reader recognized that the fault lies neither with Will, the editor who crafted his column’s headline, or with Frothy Mix, for that matter. We remain such a grossly sexist society that whenever something goes wrong, we’re quick to assume that a MAN ought to be able to fix it–in the case of Will’s column, a closer reading reveals that MAN not to be Sugar Bear’s bio-dad after all, but MAN some folks believe is The Good Lord Himself™. As this reader so brilliantly wrote on my FB wall: “I object to the insinuation that biological or mythological fathers are the only options for good role models.”
Right on! Sugar Bear was failed by much more than his father/grandfather/heavenly father. Social problems as tough as entrenched poverty and mental illness aren’t going to be fixed with a Dad shaped band-aid.
(Confidential to the rad mom formerly known as Spike Laird: please don’t start a blog. I have enough competition already.)
Interested in the thoughts of an actual honest-to-gosh cis-fella, I turned to the Radical Hubby. “Oh whatever,” he huffed. “People tell themselves that crap all the time. I’m a good father, so I’m the reason that my kids aren’t in prison.* When the truth is we are all a mess of nature versus nurture versus all the other bullshit the world throws at us. Kids need people who love them. Period.”
*Matt is a wonderful parent, by the way. He’s a great believer in quantity time as well as quality time. Still, when my son was old enough to realize that his best buddy had two moms, he whined: “WHAT? Mo has two moms but I only get ONE? That’s not fair!”**