In the Atlantic on dads and daughters; men and abortion

Two recent posts at the Atlantic. Why Do So Many Father-Daughter Movies = Feisty Kid + Bumbling Dad? ran last week. Excerpt:

Single fathers have long been a central presence in fantasy and fairy tales, as any reader of the Grimm Brothers knows. Until the coming of modern medicine, childbirth was among the leading causes of death for women—a fact that resulted in a lot of widowers. But while the fathers in these fairy tales were often stern and over-protective as in The Little Mermaid, or in thrall to the proverbial wicked stepmother as in Cinderella, it’s only very recently that they’ve become benign fools—fools who are mocked by the world but saved by a daughter’s love.

This paradigm shift began in 1991 with Disney’s hugely successful Beauty and the Beast, the first animated film ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. In From the Beast to the Blonde, her masterful history of fairy tales and their adaptations, Marina Warner argues that the depiction of Belle as a feminist heroine necessitated a loss in power for her father, “crazy old Maurice.” Disney “replaced the father with the daughter as the enterprising authority figure in the family,” Warner writes, a radical reversal from the 18th century French text on which the film was based. The runaway triumph of Beauty meant that Disney and its many rival studios have stuck to the same formula of heroic daughter and lovably inept (but always well-intentioned) dad ever since.

And yesterday, on how men can talk about their feelings around abortion:

When we’d gone together to see the doctor for a pre-abortion appointment, he told us the approximate due date: February 7, 1986. At the time I filed it away as the most useless of facts. But when that date rolled around, I was stunned by how heartsick I was. April and I were no longer speaking by that point, and I was off at university. I cried on that due date and for days after, stunned and bewildered by my own delayed reaction to loss. Though my wife and I now have wonderful two kids of our own, not a February goes by that I don’t think about a child who would now be 27.

For those of us who support women’s rights, there’s a paradox when it comes to men’s feelings about abortion, one that my very well-intentioned mother taught me years ago. We want and need men to care about every aspect of reproduction, from being enthusiastic users of contraception to (when invited) devoted coaches in labor and delivery. Yet the danger in publicly focusing on men’s feelings about abortion is obvious.

One danger is political: Anti-abortion advocates are all too willing to politicize any sign of grief or confusion after an abortion as evidence that the procedure is harmful and ought to be banned. Anti-abortion groups often frame the issue as one of father’s rights: the more evidence of men’s post-abortion grief or anger, the more potential fuel for the pro-life cause. Another risk is more personal. As my mum made clear, it can be very difficult for a woman to cope with her partner’s turbulent emotions as she makes a decision about abortion.

2 thoughts on “In the Atlantic on dads and daughters; men and abortion

  1. You have a telling quote in that Atlantic article:
    “The son of a feminist mom, I’d been raised with a deep respect for women’s sovereignty, particularly as it applied to their reproductive lives”

    … which also implies you think of women as sovereign over men “generally” as well. As in not just better than, or superior to, but ruling over.

    That explains pretty much everything you have written, and should really be a disclaimer on the front page of your website.

  2. Interesting stuff, as usual, Hugo.

    I would add that Cinderella’s dad is a twit, and desperate (although I don’t think that’s been made explicit in any of the stories I’ve read). Why else would he marry the horrible stepmother and not notice/not intervene when Cinders is degraded to family slave? Seems odd to me.

    Hugo I hope you are having a good break. And I hope you keep exercising your voice. It is much needed. Loved the Battista piece above too. Thank you for sticking around as long as you have. It’s been wonderful to have a male perspective. Have you heard of everydaysexism.com? It’s on twitter and they have a blog. It’s remarkable. Thanks for helping to keep the flame alive.

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