Do Dads Get A Raw Deal?

As Father's Day approaches, guys are complaining about getting the shaft — in terms of presents, and in the weightier matter of reproductive rights.

Geoff Williams feels slighted because he got his wife a tree for Mother's Day one year, but all she got him was some boxer shorts. He writes that, "for many people, Father's Day is an afterthought, a holiday just a few steps above the one that celebrates the groundhog and that other one that promotes trees." He acknowledges that most moms still have a harder job than dads, and that he was terrified when his wife had surgery and, for one weekend, he had to bathe and feed his daughters instead of doing "only the fun stuff." But he says,

I think we dads merit at least a little more than boxer shorts, soap-on-a-rope, and neckties. We don't get the good stuff because we're paying for the sins of our fathers, and our fathers' fathers. But these days, dads are changing diapers, warming bottles, and taking our kids to the park. We may not be where you want us yet, but we've evolved, and we're involved.

Many dads are evolved and involved, but it is even true that they're not getting the good stuff? In my house, Father's Day was always as important as Mother's Day, and I'm already getting panic attacks about what will happen if I forget to call my dad on Sunday. And Father's Day certainly seems to inspire plenty of department store promotions and news stories — like, uh, Williams's.

Still, Williams isn't the only one complaining — he's not even the only Williams. Blogger and radio host Armstrong Williams says, "Aside from the typical gift selection of a new tie, putter, or power tools, no serious consideration is given to this holiday." But his complaint is more far-reaching than Geoff Williams's — he thinks there is a lack of serious consideration for the rights of fathers in general. His beef: men aren't allowed to prevent their partners from having abortions. He tells the story of John Stachokus, who filed an injunction to keep his girlfriend from aborting their child. When a court rejected the injunction, Williams writes that it "regarded him as little more than a soulless contributor of DNA." Williams also says,

in the continued fight for equality, various feminist groups have refused to acknowledge the basic human rights of the co-equal contributors to pregnancy: the unborn child and the father. Plainly, that is a bad thing.

It's true that fathers are co-equal contributors to pregnancy, but they are not — no matter how many fake breasts they strap on — co-equal participants in pregnancy. The reason men don't get to decide whether women carry their fetuses to term isn't because they're "soulless contributors of DNA" — it's because they are not the ones carrying the fetus. As much as it sucks for John Stachokus, he has the privilege and limitation of not being able to bear a child. If he wants to have a kid, someone else has to carry it for him. It's not fair, but neither is the fact that women have to bear all the risks of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth. Do we want to live in a society where a man can force a woman to undertake these risks? What if tragedy struck and Stachokus's girlfriend died in childbirth?

There's a reason we don't force people to donate their organs, even though the need is great — people have to be in charge of their own bodies, and to have the power to decide what risks they're willing to take with them. It's unfair that these kind of decisions also affect other people, but there are lots of unfair things about being a human — and, historically, women have experienced this unfairness far more than men.

Dad feels cheated on Father's Day booty [CNN]
A Critical Role for Fathers [FJM Blog, via The Root]