Just how important are fathers, really?
By Rod Van Mechelen
In the 1990s feminists on TV, radio and in the newspapers jeered that I must have had a bad relationship with my mother to explain why, in their view, I hated women. Of course, I do not hate women. Never have. To the contrary, I prefer the company of women to that of men. The reason: my father.
A preventable death?
2013 Olympia, WA - Nathan would have been 57 tomorrow. He died last month from MDS, a kind of cancer. His death was preventable, in my opinion. In an article for a monthly newsletter I explain why, and I will post that article on this site later. But I think that if you were to track his decisions and actions back to the point where his condition became inevitable, you would find my father.
In the Men's Rights Movement (MRM), it is taken as axiomatic that fathers are as important as mothers. I disagree with the premise that either parent is essential. Appropriate role models are important. Good father figures and good mother figures are important. But the biological parents themselves? Nothing in my experience would support the contention that either parent is of paramount importance to the upbringing of healthy children.
My parents are both still alive. They despise my support for men's rights. They are ashamed of my opposition to feminism. This is very ironic given that, politically, they are both right-wing Republicans. But as with so many Americans their politics are more aligned with their pocket books and personal interests than with values arrived at through thoughtful consideration of the issues or any particular ideology. So they are right-wing Republicans who side with progressive feminists on many issues, and my opposition to feminism's brand of bigotry, along with my inborn tendency to say "the emperor has no clothes" at the most inopportune times, has led them to virtually disown me.
I say my tendency is inborn because I am a high-functioning autistic. Can I lie? Sure. And often when I try to joke about things but fail the "joke" comes out sounding like a lie. But we with autistic brains have reasons larger than most to take advantage of brain elasticity to learn and evolve throughout life, and so I continue to evolve and to appear more normal with each passing year, but I have yet to pick up the habit of convenient lies despite that throughout my life a great number of people--those who have built their lives upon a foundation of convenient lies--attack and condemn me for refusing to go along with their delusions.
Feminism is built upon a platform riddled with so many lies that it is hard to know where to begin pointing them out. Warren Farrell's The Myth of Male Power is a good place to start. Though many in the MRM disagree with me, I think feminism began with a good idea. It is the same idea upon which libertarianism is based. Indeed, I would argue that it is the same idea upon which the creation of the United States of America was based, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Before the feminists started deconstructing our language to support their contention that every woman, and White, upper middle class women in particular, are horribly oppressed by their fictional evil male hegemony, we understood the use of the word "man" here to mean all people, the entire human race, including women. As such, women should be free to choose their own way. For most women, as for most men, that would entail more or less traditional roles. But traditional roles are not for everybody. Those of us who are statistical outliers are better suited to find a different way.
The original idea behind feminism, as popularly understood, was to recognize this freedom to choose for women. But as with all mass movements (see Eric Hoffer's The True Believer
) , eventually feminism devolved into the hate movement we know today, and it has long had more in common with racism than the uplifting vision of the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers.
Combined with the Post-9/11 attacks on all our liberties and Constitutionally guaranteed rights and protections, the efforts of the feminist movement have eaten away at the freedom to choose for all Americans; for both women and men, but especially for men. So in my view it seems good and worthy of praise to expose and oppose the anti-male bigotry of feminists. But my parents do not agree. They are ashamed of me for speaking out against feminist lies. I will explain why, but not here and not now. Today we write about fathers, and whether they are really important.
Biological vs. Role Model Fathers
I know a young man whose father abandoned his mother before he was born. He says fathers are very important, and that it is better to have an abusive father than no father at all. I question that.
My father was abusive. He is a bully. He demands agreement from his children on all things. He insists on control. Being no psychologist I can only read descriptions of diagnoses and make guesses, and my kindest guess is that he has a narcissistic personality. At worst, he is a psychopath. Lest you think I write here of male disorders, while I don't know his sister well, the extent to which I have dealt with her leads me to suspect she is the same. But she did not raise me, the one I know best is my father, and he did more than anybody else to derail if not ruin his children's lives. I will say more about ruined lives below.
My young friend, the one whose father abandoned his mother, thinks highly of fatherhood, and I believe he is right to do so. But here we are writing not of biological fathers but of role model fathers. That is something any man may do. Years ago I was briefly involved with a young single mother. I still see her, sometimes, working at one of the big box stores where I shop. Very pretty, charming, a real heart breaker: I had a lot of fun with her and she is very easy to love. But she was also manipulative, wanting for everything and looking for a sugar daddy to keep her endlessly entertained and satisfied, so I avoid her. Too bad for me, but also for her daughter, who needed a stable father figure in her life. (She also smokes, which for me is a deal-killer. I will not be in a relationship with a woman who smokes.)
The Role of Grandfathers
When I was growing up I needed a good father figure in my life, too, and it was my grandfather who filled that role in my life. While my own father railed on his parents at every opportunity, and we could never visit them without Dad finding reason to criticize and berate them with loud and angry words, his brother and sister both then and since have assured me that Grandpa was a good father to them. He certainly seemed so to me, and to this day I lean on the lessons I learned from Grandpa for how to be a good man.
But if Grandpa was the father figure to which I looked, then how necessary was my own father? This I cannot answer. We lived better because he was there. He worked hard, earned a college degree while we were young, had a job that paid well and supported us in a solidly middle class neighborhood where our biggest challenge was the racism our teachers expressed toward us: being American Indian children in an otherwise White community during the 1960s was not without its challenges. And Mom's role in our standard of living was at least as important as Dad's, if not more so. She is the one who motivated Dad to go back to college, she was his study buddy and learned a great deal about engineering, herself. She is the one who provided the discipline to stick to a strict budget and save their money. So just how important was Dad in the big picture? Mom proved the truth of the old adage that, "behind every great man stands a great woman."
Despite this, Dad seemed always angry, always ready to punish, strike out, hit, scream with rage, torment, insult, browbeat, denigrate, berate, and control. Always control. To this day he tries to control those closest to him. Several years ago one of his grandchildren joked about this, laughing at how when he gives them something, he thinks this gives him the right to control their use of that thing forever. His compulsion to control extended even to having fun. Fun? Yes, we did have fun. But playtime was usually stolen and often punished, or at least paid back with time spent working, sometimes on make-work projects. Other times, he would order us to have fun, and then punish us if we did not laugh and smile enough.
Growing up in my father's house could be likened to living in a totalitarian prison camp, albeit one that was comfortable and clean.
Inducements to Submit
My parents are comfortable. Some would even call them rich. Not wealthy, but definitely upper middle class. This, Dad dangles as an inducement to submit to his control: do as the old man says, and you may yet inherit things from him. But you will have to sell your soul and surrender your self-respect to get it.
More than that, he also controls access to a part of our heritage. He is an "original allottee" on the Quinault Indian Reservation, which means that he owns land that is held in trust on the reservation. A couple years ago he made a lot of noise about gifting some of this heritage to us. My brother, now dead, got some of that, as did my sister. Me? Not that I'm aware of. He said he was going to, but then at a tribal meeting in November 2012 a group of feminists in our tribe stood up and spewed a torrent of lies about me, all of which I have since proved to be lies, but my mother left the meeting in tears and since then I have heard nothing more about the allotment Dad was supposedly going to gift to me.
Their lies, which Dad wanted to believe, combined with the fact that I do not submit to his control, may have been the final straw. And now that my brother has passed, will half of it go to his White wife, and thereby pass out of trust and reservation status? Will the Quinault Tribe, which has no right to the land whatsoever as they relinquished title to it more than 150 years ago, take it, as they have stolen other properties from allottees?
How does this factor in my brother's death?
Was Nathan's death preordained? Was it inevitable? Written into his chromosomes? I don't believe that. We start with what nature gives us and either build on it or tear it down. My sister and I made choices different from our brother. When I saw her at Nathan's funeral I was struck by how, but for her head of almost pure white hair, she could easily pass for 30-something. She insists that when I refer to her age, I describe her as "a woman of a certain age," but I can tell you I am 60, Nathan would have been 57, and she falls in between. Despite that, in physique and appearance both my sister and I can pass for many years younger than our chronological age. But Nathan, even before he got sick, looked older despite that he was the youngest.
Our Choices Shaped
While Nathan got less of my father's physical abuse and mental torment than I did, and less emotional abuse and...other abuse than our sister, as the youngest he was subjected to a more refined torment, one that set him up to be more passive, dependent and accepting. So when he was diagnosed with MDS, he did what the doctors told him and got the prognosis they told him to expect, which was to die within five years.
So tell me, just how important was our father to him? How vital was it to have our father in his life? How beneficial? Would he have made more healthy choices if we had grown up without our father? Would he still be alive, today? I have no answers, only questions and observations.
In the 1990s when I was more prominent in the MRM and sometimes in the news, feminists jeered that I must have had a bad relationship with my mother. In fact, I had a good relationship with her until years later, in the mid-2000s, when Dad finally succeeded in poisoning my relationship with her, as he tries to poison the relationships between everybody who is close to him to make them dependent upon him, alone. As a matter of fairness and empirical evidence, I reject feminism's many convenient lies despite that from personal experience I have no reason to believe that the biological father is necessary beyond the act of fertilization.
What I suspect is that my brother would still be alive today if we had grown up with a better father figure. What I believe is that good father role models are important. And what I know is that Grandpa was mine.
This is not to say I learned nothing of value from my father. When I was eleven he got me interested in penny stocks, and his many abuses, angry tirades and pathological need to control those close to him notwithstanding, to this day he provides a good example of a highly disciplined work ethic, perseverance and determination, all of which have done me good service. So today, despite many setbacks in life, including a few that would have ended all progress for most people, like the time a doctor at Overlake Medical Center wanted to certify me 100% disabled, I lead an active life and strive to succeed. This indomitable will I attribute to my father, but I was able to harness it very late in life only after enduring numerous failures which could also be attributed to his influence.
So while my brother more-or-less ended up being a permanent victim of our father, I will not.
Today I have no expectation of getting anything from my parents. No inheritance, no approval, no encouragement, nothing. For some that might prove debilitating. But I feel free. My life is my own, my successes will be my own and nobody, not the feminists, not the progressives (welfare on the left and warfare on the right), and certainly not my father can hold me back. Where they are lacking, I have found others to be my good role models by looking for people who have achieved what I want, and then emulating them.
This, anybody can do. Look to those who inspire you, who have done the kinds of things you want to do and have achieved the kind of success in life you want; they are your heroes, learn from them. I have found mine, which include several women and men, but most recently include Thomas Jefferson. What? You don't think Thomas Jefferson worthy? Read The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, and you might change your mind.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com and Cowlitz Country News. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.