The Women's Movement was the defining social force of the last 30 years. Like all social change, it has a backlash, seen now in patriarchal religious fundamentalism-Christian, Muslim and Hebrew-and estranged fathers. The re-evaluation of fatherhood is the next radical social agenda. Australia seems to be leading it. Here is a story from the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Barry loved his children but he is the first to admit he did not know them. He worked 13 hours a day, six days a week, and on the seventh he worked around the house.
"He was a perfectionist driven to volcanic fury by ordinary signs of household disorder. When he did see his son and daughter, they were afraid of him. And so was his wife. 'I was not physically violent,' Barry said, 'but I was aggressive. The place was never good enough.'
"Barry's anger and obsessiveness drove his family away. After he wrenched the phone from the wall and threw it across the room, his partner of seven years took off. 'His temper was getting worse,' she said. 'The kids couldn't breathe.
"Barry joined the legion of angry, bitter, and sorrowful fathers estranged from their children, caught up in Family Court and the object of apprehended violence orders.
"The formula that had worked for his own father had failed him. 'I was a workaholic,' Barry said. "It was my duty to be the provider. At the time I thought I was great. Knowing what I know now, I can see I was not a good father."
Throughout Australia increasing numbers of men are enrolling in courses that did not exist five years ago to help them be better fathers. The "Angry Dads" movement has achieved prominence and political power as separated fathers railed against the family court. Quieter and more profound changes have occurred in fathers' attitudes toward their role. Social services have grown to help separated fathers surmount their bitterness.
Because there are so many men who do not seek help and continue to stew in bitterness, Australia's Child Support Agency decided to take help to where the men are, in their work places. Their program covers three areas: taking better care of oneself, building a business like relationship with the other parent, and learning how to be a good dad.
In England a man dressed as Batman climbed the royal palace in London. He said he had to dramatize the need for justice for fathers in child custody disputes. Around the world and across the Internet fathers are raising their voices. Better that than their fists.
Women need to continue to fight the glass ceiling, to fight for equal wages, to get elected to congress, to become president, to influence men away from wars and the continual buildup to wars, but, for the sake of the children, they should back off in child custody disputes.
Many divorced fathers give up. According to the National Fatherhood Iniative, about 40 percent of children who do not live with their fathers have not seen them at all in the last year.
The father may feel that his ex-wife has prejudiced his children against him. Or he may be so bitter about perceived injustices he alienates his children. Although he tries to hide it, bitterness seeps through his pores. His children, then, don't want to see him.
Father's Day, that once a year tribute to Dad, is fraught with confusion. Many offspring pay no more than lip service to it through phone calls or commercial cards.
Because 70% of U.S. prisoners grew up without a father and because poets use few words to get to the heart of things, they encourage brief written communication to all fathers whether or not they lived with you, whether or not they are still living. Therefore, poets in San Luis Obispo, California added Write-to-Your-Father's Day to the calendar of U.S. National Holidays.
"Okay," you might ask, "What do I write to my Dad? 'I love you' would be a lie and the truth would just hurt him."
One poet answers, "Simply write and ask your father what he does or did that is Most enjoyable, Most scary, Most exciting and Most satisfying. Don’t expect an answer. If you don’t know where he is, write his answer as you imagine it. Repeat the question each year, adding to it briefly when you desire. There will be results. Risk them."
Write -to-Your-Father's Day, one week before Father's Day in June, will become official by June 2006. We're warming up now.