A revolution for fathers

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A revolution for fathers

By Nikki van der Gaag


Kelly Sikkema under a Creative Commons Licence

I have been a feminist since I was a teenager. I have seen women’s organizations make a difference to the lives of women and girls in many different countries: Pakistan and El Salvador, Egypt and Indonesia.

I have seen many successes, and also seen slow progress and things getting worse. Violence against women never seems to change, women still die having babies, there are still fewer girls than boys in school and not many women are in the top jobs...

But until recently, I hadn’t thought much about men.

It was easy to think men are the problem. Men still have most of the power in the economy, governments, religion, the media and often in families. They are also responsible for most of the violence against women – as well as against other men.

But men and boys are also fathers, brothers, husbands, partners, grandfathers, uncles and cousins to women and girls. So could they also be part of the solution?

My son, then 11, gave me this idea when he said: ‘Mum, why are you obsessed with women’s rights? What about me?’

This was the start. I wrote Feminism and Men and this first ever report on the State of the World’s Fathers.

I started trying to meet men and boys, as well as girls and women, in my work.

I saw that all of them, rich and poor, young and old, all talked about how they changed when they became a father. When they love their daughters and sons, this made them more caring and less violent.

A group of men in the Dominican Republic, for example, came together from different communities because they were worried about violence against women.

Cristobal, one of the older men, was angry: ‘My father treated us children like animals. I knew when I had my own kids that I wanted to be a better father than he was.’

Wilman, a younger man, was worried about the violence in his family and didn’t know what to do about it.

The fathers said that becoming a father changed their lives. They wanted to give love, not violence; they wanted to care for their sons and daughters. And it really helped to talk about this with other men, often for the first time in their lives.

A group of fathers, part of the MenCare campaign in South Africa, told me that when they became a father, they first started talking about the negative type of masculinity. This tells men and boys that they have to be strong and not cry. The men knew this was bad for them when they were very small.

So many said they were trying to become more involved in the home. They were trying to help their partners at home for the first time. They wanted to be at the birth of their children. And they thought they could break the cycle of violence that came from their own fathers.

When I talked to their wives and partners, they often agreed that the men had changed.

Four out of five men will become fathers. Nearly all of them will play a role in a child’s life. This is why this very first State of the World’s Fathers report is so important. It gets men together to care about others.

Women all over the world still spend more time on housework than men (1 - 3 hours more a day) and more time caring for children or older people (2 - 10 times more).

When fathers do help, they usually do the fun things eg. take a child out or play with a child.

And this is one of the reasons why many countries still think women are not so important. Women are only 21.8% of parliaments in the world. Women only manage 24 of America’s top 500 companies. Girls often cannot finish school.

The women’s revolution has had a lot of success. But if we want to end violence against women, to make sure women can compete equally with men, and allow girls to go to school, we need men who support gender equality and fathers who support feminism.

Because fatherhood is very important for this. Even in Britain, the report says, when women have children the difference in pay between men and women gets much bigger – from 7% to 21%.

If men think caring and housework is important and do half and if they teach their sons to do the same, it is possible that strict ideas about gender and the problems that this brings to women, to children – and to men – could change.

But we also need other big changes– in the law, in health, in education, at work.

For example, in Britain we work the longest hours in Europe – this makes it difficult to be a parent. And paternity leave is new. This is one of the important things the report says we need.

So my son was right. We need men to be involved if we want gender equality.

So men need to change their lives like women have changed their lives in the last twenty or thirty years. Dads need to clean the toilet. But they also need to fight for new laws to help families. The report says we need these to help both fathers and mothers.

We need a revolution for fathers.

Here’s The State of the World’s Fathers report: http://sowf.men-care.org/

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2015/06/19/fathers-day-revolution/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).