Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers and their days

Fathers have it hard these days. With mothers doing equal amounts of bread-winning, and most of the suckling and nurturing, what is there for Dads to do?

In my Dad's day, the roles were very clear. My mom stayed in the home and took care of the house, cooking and cleaning, and made sure that the children were well-fed, well-dressed and well-mannered. My father interacted with the world, ensured his family had a place in it that was secure literally and financially. But the women's movement has changed the world, the home and what we expect of fathers.

In fact, we don't quite know what to expect of fathers these days. There is still the sense that Dad is the one with authority - God the father syndrome; - that he makes us secure financially and physically; and that he gives the children the sense of self - older traditions of surnames, inheritance and so on. With many mothers now assuming full responsibility for the offspring, does this mean we can dispense with dear old Dad after he has donated his sperm? Surely as long as we continue to create new humans from combinations of two gene pools, there is more that should be expected from the one with the Y chromosome.

The latest science may give us some direction. Comparisons of the Y chromosomes in species with DNA nearest to humans (chimpanzees) indicate that human Ys are evolving faster than any other. This does not necessarily mean that men themselves are evolving, but instead suggests that they possess in that Y chromosome the genetic make up for greatest evolutionary adaptability. Studies are still in the earliest of stages, but there's enough food for thought. If at the genetic level, the Y is the powerhouse for change and adaptation, resilience and evolution itself, perhaps at the macro level, we are being shown what fathers are for.

Mothers model care and reliability, nurture and stability. Is it that fathers are coded for the evolutionary process itself - to show the results and rewards of risk taking, of unpredictable, adventurous, even aberrant, behaviour?


  1. Years ago I took my son to the zoo, and we were watching the monkeys. It happened to be feeding time, so there was much of interest to observe.

    The mother had bananas and other fruit in her hands and the babies were literally crawling all over her. They were running up her back, and sitting on her head, and she was giving each of them some of the fruit, while eating some herself too. Sometimes, they would grab the piece that she was going to eat, and she would just allow it.

    The father was also in the same cage, and he was off in a corner of his own, and was feeding himself. The babies didn't approach him.

    But when the mother's food ran out, and all of their share of the food was eaten, the father was still eating his. So the babies would approach cautiously and try to take some of his food too. He just sat there eating and watching them, not moved by their antics. So they danced closer, aiming at the food in front of him.

    Finally one of the braver babies edged closer and closer to some fruit that was near the father. When he got close enough, the father took a swing toward the baby,not hitting it but sending it scrambling back to the mother. This continued a few more times, almost like a familiar ritual, until the father had eaten all of his food. He was not moved at all by their antics. Clearly, he needed his nutrition and his strength!

    That is when the thought hit me! Of course the roles, and strengths of men and women too are very much determined or affected by genetics. How could we think otherwise. Every other animal has its built in, genetically determined strengths and roles. The call of Nature!

    This thought was fairly disturbing to me at the time, being of the firm women's liberation point of view that it was time to share some of these previously unquestioned roles of women, with men! But what I saw affected me deeply.

    Why would we think that we would not be affected in similar ways. What makes us think that we can just 'decide' what is a male role and what is a female role? It seemed clear to me, the more I observed men and women, that these roles are not just socially determined but are affected by genetics, more that we think.

    I am not suggesting that men are just like the male monkey, or that females are just like the female monkey.(Although I must admit I could relate directly to the scene I had just witnessed.) But I think that we may be fooling ourselves to think that we can just set out what we think is politically or socially "correct" roles for men and women, without looking at the ever present reality, around us.

    That is to say that I think there is something to think about in your article!

  2. Thanks! Yea, men are definitely from Mars, women from Venus!

  3. It seems that we may have more in common with an ape called the Benobos, than even the chimpanzee. According to fairly recent research, we share a DNA strand with the benobos that the chimpanzee does not have. According to a documentary I saw yesterday, the genetic strand is one that is specifically connected to social behaviour.

    Research on the benobos has been relatively recent. But it raises some interesting questions. The findings were so startling in fact, some of it seems to have been suppressed!

    Maybe what we, men and women, are doing today, is not so surprising or so new after all! Give or take a few million years of adaptation!

    Talk about Wild!

    Check this link for research done on this topic.

  4. The spiritual connection to life is neither male nor female. That seems to be the equalizing factor! It is there for everyone, and it can be found only within the self. The journey to the spiritual, which seems to be different for each person, has a common destination. That is peace. That is transformation. That is death.

    In light of this, the small differences of sex, age, race, culture all are diminished. They become insignificant.