Dear Dadmissions, Please Calm Down About Father’s Day

Almost two years ago I signed up for the Good Men Project’s newsletter and have since realized that it’s actually a daily delivery of the best Milk Toast Good Guy Male Feminist NOT ALL MEN posts the internet has to offer. I view this newsletter as my regular reminder about a part of humanity that I usually treat as white noise but occasionally there are posts that push me past eye-rolling and into annoyed laughter (for example:

Pete “Dadmissions” Wilgoren’s recent post “Should We Just Cancel Father’s Day” would normally be a mere eye-roller but I’m in a gleefully cantankerous mood so I’m going to put forward a response. Chalk it up to some of that ol’ Father’s Day Eve spirit.

Father’s Day can’t compete with Mother’s Day. We are the second banana. We are the afterthought. We are the socks and ties to the flowers and chocolates. We are what happens in June after everyone blows their budgets and creativity in May.

This opening thesis is followed with some concrete “proof” by way of numbers: the 14.6 billion dollars spent on Mother’s Day in 2012 versus the 9.4 billion on The Fathers (We’ll put aside that this only accounts for the blown budgets and not particularly the blown creativity.) The whole comparative commercialization of these two parental celebrations is actually kind of interesting. We can look at Wikipedia’s pages for American Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for some historical context. Regarding Mother’s Day:

The commercialization of the American holiday began very early, and only nine years after the first official Mother’s Day it had become so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become,[27][28] spending all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration.[27] She decried the practice of purchasing greeting cards, which she saw as a sign of being too lazy to write a personal letter. She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother’s Day, and she finally said that she “…wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control …”[28] She died later that year.

The commercialization that Mother’s Day attracted appears to have been a concern for Father’s Day:

In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level.[6] She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers.[7] Since 1938 she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion.[8] Americans resisted the holiday during a few decades, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes[9]… In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father’s Day celebration[13] and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized.[14]

Apparently Wilgoren is irritated that his holiday never attracted the commercialized capitalistic success that Mother’s Day was shoehorned into and that the public apparently attempted to resist for “decades.” Although I suppose we might assume that Wilgoren was referring to the money spent in 2012 as some symbol, even if poorly researched.

There’s something about Mom. I don’t know what it is.

It’s probably something called the gradual forces of Euro-American society removing women from the public sphere and putting them to the sphere of domesticity. The social pressure that said that women were responsible for cooking, cleaning and children and that these were easy tasks which were matched to her limited skills. It was for the strong and big brained men to go out and do the hard work, work which left them with no time for child rearing. It’s not some magical connection related to “push[ing the kid] out of an orifice in an ancient ritual that is clearly deserving of love and adoration and flowers and brunch,” because not all mothers have children they personally carried and birthed (ALSO NOT ALL MOTHERS HAVE THE “ORIFICES” USED IN PUSHING OUT CHILDREN.) Women were forced into hard work they were told wasn’t really hard and at some point our society, led by Anna Jarvis, decided that a large population deserved to be recognized for the unpaid work they do.

Once you were there in the world, Dad could really shine alongside Mom. Dad could equally be a provider and protector and role model too. Just like Mom. I admit it. I couldn’t possibly squeeze the kids out of my nether regions—and it would be quite ugly if I could—but it doesn’t mean I love the kids any less than Mom. I admit it. Some dads are dogs and have flaked on their responsibilities. That’s not me. That’s not most of us.

We’re now at what I suspect is the real drive behind this post: NOT ALL DADS, a fun spin on NOT ALL MEN. Wilgoren sounds like some child jumping up and down saying, “Look At Me And Recognize That I Am A Good Person Who Deserves Cookies!!!” Look perhaps we don’t talk that much about the good fathers out there in the world but maybe it’s because if you’re actually a good dad then you don’t need to constantly reassured and head-patted and cookie-fed.

Why don’t we stop complaining that dads don’t get enough attention for being decent humans who are involved in child raising and instead look at the societal pressures which work against dads being good parents. Let’s talk about how domesticity related work is devalued which means that men who engage in it are belittled or simply given praise for doing basic gestures of involvement. Let’s have real conversations and do real action and not just throw petty little tantrums about not getting enough attention, particularly since we already spend most of our lives paying attention to (cisgender, heterosexual, white, economically stable, neurotypical, able and otherwise privileged) men.

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