Fatherhood Open to Emotional Vulnerability

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – Once again this June, Father’s Day is being celebrated in different countries around the globe. Different studies have appeared that show that despite the fact that we males have assumed greater roles of parental care and co-responsibility, we are still very far from those assumed by women, who take a good part of the weight in the upbringing, thus reproducing a patriarchal order that continues to impose its mandates.

One of those mandates, in the case of men, is the idea that in order to be more manly we have to hide our emotional vulnerability. By doing so we will show ourselves to be more confident, strong and in control of situations, thus denying feelings, doubts, and uncertainties we have in our lives.

Argentinean anthropologist Matias De Stefano Barbero presents testimonies of men who have exercised physical violence against their partners, showing our inability to face conflicts and show ourselves emotionally vulnerable in front of others. This, out of fear, that other men call us fags and/or little women, so we opt for silence in situations in which we would expose our pain and suffering.

Hence, the classic phrase “men don’t cry” is still a kind of axiom for an invulnerable hegemonic masculinity, where the most traditional fathers play a central role, since they are in charge of emotionally mutilating their sons, depriving them of connect with the world in a more holistic and peaceful way.

For the same reason, when a child is raised only by the mother, either because the father did not take on of his parental responsibility or because he died before his time, the mass media and society in general raise the idea that the child lacked a father figure, which supposedly would generate insecurities, since the father himself would give the necessary strength to be able to get ahead.

In other words, that supposes that we become safe and independent because of our fathers and that only the mother would be in charge of bonding emotionally, especially as a child. From adolescence onwards the father is in charge of showing us how to defend ourselves against others.

All that manliness and virility that men seek to install from a young age through parents, is always in opposition to what is not considered masculine, either by gender (woman) and sexual orientation (homosexual). Any expression that comes close to that will be slammed by the other men, through jokes, mockery, and physical aggression in some cases, depending on the context.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that schools are the perfect space to promote macho practices and rituals, where whoever tries to open up to assume an emotional vulnerability, is quickly punished by the gender police, be they teachers, students and other parents.

The consequences and damage of this upbringing that denies emotional vulnerability is plain to see, as repressed men, who spend their entire lives blocking feelings, in order to remain manly, which brings with it all to many homicides, suicides, and acts of violence against women.

It is true, over time we men are becoming more involved in parenting tasks and there is greater co-responsibility on our part in our homes. However, as long as we do not open ourselves up to emotional vulnerability, our children will continue to reproduce different forms of violence against themselves and against others.

Having said this, by letting us to be questioned by the feminist and gender dissidence movements, men can open to emotional vulnerability, through different initiatives around the world that are promoting transformative parenthood.

As an example, I would like to highlight what was done by the Institute of Masculinities and Social Change, together with the UNDP in Argentina. They developed a course called “Co-responsible Masculinities, promoting the participation of men in care work”. It invites us to review our practices and to transition into fatherhood open to emotional vulnerability.

To be part of a world where the emotional is not seen as a threat, but rather as an opportunity for all to live happier.

Read more from Chile here on Havana Times.