Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Flip-Through

Nope, I'm not a dad.  I never will be a dad.  But that doesn't mean I'm not interested in a look at feminist fatherhood.  This week I finished reading the rad dad zine compilation book, Rad Dad.

When they say "rad" they really do mean "radical" -- the majority of the book has an anarchist leaning. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but readers who are a bit less geared specifically towards that social circle might not find it as engaging as those within that sphere. So if you're looking for an offbeat guide, this in and of itself may not be the best choice. *However*, as a book to include in a variety of books on feminist fatherhood, I would say it'd be a good addition to a collection.

The book is comprised of many very short (2-4 page long) zine essays. It's definitely a fast read.

A few quotes:

"When Mayor Gavin Newsom -- for whom I did not vote -- legalized same-sex marriage in San Francisco in 2004, I was entirely a bystander. Yet I was still moved by the spectacle of beaming gay and lesbian couples lining up in front of the San Francisco Hall, sometimes hemmed in on all sides by unpleasant people with ugly signs. Walking by City Hall one afternoon on my way to the library, I saw two slim women dressed in white, sitting on the grass, their hands folded on each other's laps, their foreheads touching. I assumed that they had just been married. For the rest of the day I felt strangely peaceful, perhaps event slightly stoned. My son was born -- after a sixty-minute labor! -- in July 2004. And in the months that followed, my resistance to marriage started to melt away. Yes, both Olli and I thought marriage would be convenient, now that we were parents. But in my eyes at least, it was also true that San Francisco's season of same-sex marriage weddings had raised the value of marriage. I remembered that couple in white, sitting in the grass; perhaps I hoped marriage would give me the peace it seemed to give them." -- Jeremy Adam Smith

"...for some reason, there seems to be a sort of denigration of parenthood. When you tell some people that you're gonna have a kid, they say things along the lines of, 'See you in eighteen years' or 'Well, you won't be sleeping anytime soon.' My favorite one is, 'Things are really gonna change.' Well, of course they're going to fucking change! That's the whole point! You don't want life to be a static experience. Change is the idea. That's why we're here." -- Ian MacKaye

"Whether it's TV or whether it's the media, there's just a whole shitload of things out there that feels beyond our control. And so, this overwhelming feeling sets up an individualistic mode of radical parenting, which believes that, 'I'm going to shield my kid from television' and 'We're going to go nowhere near a McDonald's.' And of course that's important, but it is a very neoliberal attitude in the sense of thinking that, 'It's just me and my family unit against The Man all by ourselves.' That's very individualistic. We need movements. That's why I'm excited to be part of the food justice movement where we're saying what we want to do is stop the capitalist advertising of food to kids; that's a campaign. It's not just an individual action -- though of course individual action matters -- but getting involved in campaigns means building a community of parents who also don't want their kids poisoned by the fast-food industry or poisoned by certain sexist or racist representations." -- Raj Patel

A few eyebrow-raising bits:

I did find it a little problematic that at one point, one of the writers actively encourages people to use public assistance and to work part-time in order to stay home with children. I found the idea that one should use assistance to live one's chosen lifestyle easily problematic, as it infringes on benefits that are meant for the needy, not the unwilling. However, this is also a problem with our larger system: one cannot often have a supported family AND someone staying home. So I'm torn. I will simply say that I found it eyebrow-raising.

Throughout the stories, the fathers allude to their sons getting into trouble with the law and bad grades (one has a 1.3 GPA) etc. On one hand, yes, we have a legal system that preys on minority youths. On the other hand, it's difficult to read about a kid graduating with a 1.3 GPA and not wonder about the parenting styles and their effectiveness for future adult success. (Aside: reading that while also flipping through Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother = hilarious juxtaposition when Chua writes "an A-minus is a bad grade".)

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