01 Apr A “New” Role for Men
In a somewhat surprising deviation from its usual habit of focusing almost exclusively on “women and the girl child,” the UN recently released its publication Men in Families and Family Policy in a Changing World. Written by a team of “experts”on family issues, the publication seeks to “address the issue of the evolving roles of men in families and the corresponding need to develop social policies supporting these new roles for the benefit of families.” [emphasis added] United Families International had a representative at the gathering in New York as two of the authors explained their work – and their worldview
There is much that is laudable about the publication. It seeks to promote knowledge on issues impacting the family – something that is sorely needed within the UN system – and it recognizes men in their role as valuable contributors to the well-being of families.
But what contribution should men be making and what does the role of men look like to these experts?
It can perhaps best be summed in the phrase “men’s caring competencies.” Here’s the translation: men need to be supportive of gender equality (women’s rights) and they need to do their share of caring for children and take equal responsibility for the demands of a household. I think we might all agree that men need to be engaged in family life in ways that perhaps prior generations of fathers were not. But is the worldview and motive of this publication as simple as that?
After a quick perusal of the new Men in Families publication, Stephen Baskerville, author of Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family, remarked:
“This document seems to be trying to convey an important message about the importance of fathers, but it is so encumbered with ideologically correct platitudes that that message is obfuscated. Fathers are critical to children, and insisting that they be more like mothers – the price for being allowed to be fathers – defeats the purpose.”
Some new terms to add to your dictionary.
Social Father: when a man takes de facto responsibility for a child, an unrelated male, (a step-father, a live-in boyfriend, an involved neighbor)
Bean-pole families: few children, few relatives, not a “web,” but a “bean-pole” structure; “the family of the future.”
Father-support deficit: a man isn’t carrying his share of support for his child -emotional, financial, time invested, etc.
Global agenda for women: full acceptance of women’s rights and gender equality. Men must be supportive of or be “retrained.”
Work/family balance: providing for both men and women to spend equal time at home caring for and involved with their children. Suggests modification of employment law (things like paternity leave) to meet this goal.
Men’s caring competencies: men accepting their role as nurturers and caregivers, be it a home and in his personal life or in a professional capacity as well (nurses, teachers, day-care, “nurturing” professions). Discussion of modification of education curriculum to “improve and promote men’s caring competencies.”
It was the questions that gave the most clarity.
As the formal presentation of this new report wound down, many hands went into the air and there were a fair number of pro-family individuals in the room. The moderator took three to four questions before the presenters were asked to respond. An elderly gentleman asked: “Good things have come from the women’s movement, but is there research that women might have given up too much?” A woman passionately inquired: “How did we get so off track and not point all of our research toward determining what is best for children!” UFI representatives asked the presenters if they could address why there are so many government programs that seem to incentivize couples not to marry.
Thomas Jacobson of Focus on the Family then commented: “My heart is grieved. I’ve heard honest, but negative attitudes toward men. What has been lost in this conversation – and it appears in this publication – is the complementary aspects of what a mother and a father bring to a child.” Jacobsen then inquired as to whether or not the researchers had made an effort to distinguish between the outcomes for children from intact married families and the outcomes from cohabiting or alternative families.
Now it was the presenters’ turn to respond. Gary Barker: “I think it is important to remember that there are different cultures and what is a normal in the Global North/West is not the same everywhere. What a family looks like is different around the world; the needs of children can be met in different ways. There is no difference in the contribution of a man or a woman.”
He continued: “Besides, there’s nothing innate about hearing a baby cry at night and getting up… There’s nothing innate that you need to have to change a diaper … There’s nothing innate or biological necessary to care for a baby, other than breastfeeding…. What needs to be remembered is that four hands are better than two….”
Thomas Jacobsen questioned him further and asked if he was familiar with all of the research showing superior outcomes for children that come from an intact natural family. Barker replied that he’d read some of it, but closed with an emphatic: “It doesn’t matter who the four hands are.”
As though to reassure everyone that his intentions were good, Mr. Barker remarked: “We do want to see some “‘social engineering.’ I know it’s an ugly word, but we think it will help everyone.” The meeting ended.
What does all this mean?
After the event’s conclusion, Thomas Jacobsen responded privately about the verbal exchange: “Mr. Barker is obviously not familiar with the mountain of research that shows the tremendous advantage that is bestowed upon a child born into an intact family and raised by its married mother and father. He’s completely discounting that a mother has a bond with her child that is forged in the womb. He completely discounts the physiological and chemical changes that come to a mother from carrying, delivering and then breastfeeding a child. To him, breastfeeding was just a food delivery system that had no other significance or value to the baby – or to the mother. The mother just had some extra equipment – that’s all…”
Unfortunately, as Mr. Barker clearly stated, the social engineering continues. Although we praise the attempt by the UN to bring men and their contribution and needs into the dialogue, we wonder about the “experts” involved and their rejection of the research and the reality – biology matters. We at United Families International reject the notion that equality equals sameness and that “any four hands” will do. We will continue to support policies that sustain the intact natural family as the foundation of a stable and productive society.
To see the full report of Men in Families, go here.