Where Have All the Fathers Gone?

By Smith, Janna Malamud | Tikkun, March/April 2000 | Go to article overview

Where Have All the Fathers Gone?


Smith, Janna Malamud, Tikkun


Where Have All the Fathers Gone?

Janna Malamud Smith

Janna Malamud Smith is a clinical social worker and author of Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life. She is currently writing a book about mothers.

Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, by Susan Faludi. William Morrow, 1999.

Around the beginning of the nineteenth century in the United States a remarkable shift occurred. Advice guides on parenting, almost always in earlier times addressed to fathers, changed audience and targeted mothers. They did not merely expand the table of contents; they virtually wrote fathers out of the text. Reading through the "parenting advice" literature, I was so struck by this sudden switch that I eventually emailed a historian of my acquaintance and queried him. Was my observation accurate? And, if so, what had happened to fathers? He wrote back a couple of days later confirming the textual phenomenon (real fathers were probably more present in family life of the era than the books manifest, he opined), and suggesting that to understand more I read a spate of recent texts on "American manhood."

Until 1800 or thereabouts, the father was the parent of record and the chosen audience for advice scribes not only because he held all the social and economic power, the legal rights, and the access to education and books, but because he was the link between the family and the public world. Fathers were responsible for educating and preparing sons to take their place in that world. Then something changed ... or at least began to change. In the broadest stroke, starting in late-eighteenth-century New England, white middle-class fathers gradually left home to focus their attention on money-earning labors, and mothers became the primary parent. This arrangement spread gradually throughout the middle-class populations in the nation and apparently seemed serviceable enough for the next century. Starting in the 1970s, the tacit contract broke down. Women entered the workplace, and this change meant that some men would come to feel both vestigial at home and threatened on the job.

Susan Faludi's massive and important new book, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, explores many aspects of this dilemma of contemporary manhood. But when all is said and done, it offers us a vast chorus of men--like so many creatures in a dark wood--unseeing and unseen, singing out their longing for fathers.

Tale after tale is of absent fathers, or, to be more precise, the absence of loving, talking, attentive, useful fathers; ones who might be able help sons grow up in the complex late-twentieth-century world. While expressing this longing is not their intention, they seem unable to avoid it once they start to converse. Some men tell Faludi about fathers who died in the war or left after divorces; others describe those who fell silent at home, ashamed by their inability to earn good wages; still others recount being fathered by martinets who could only repeat empty platitudes of masculinity, or worse still, men who beat their wives and children and terrorized their daily lives. The sum is a series of fearfully impoverished narratives--not the author's, but the nation's. She includes a few who are well fathered, but mostly Faludi's men search the landscape for the memory of a tender gesture, a piece of useful advice. They long for older men to guide them lovingly, show them how to lathe a crucial emotional or political or religious piece that will help them make their way with confidence. Where are the fathers? And what has happened to so vex the sons?

To answer these questions, Faludi, an accomplished Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and established feminist, sets out across America. Faludi is bold, smart, and probably a first-rate map-reader to boot. She travels. No suburban sprawl, no wilderness of identical tract houses keeps her from finding an address. And this is a woman who will take anyone to lunch--shipyard worker, astronaut, gang member, drag queen, Citadel plebe, football fan, or porn extra. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Where Have All the Fathers Gone?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.