Fatherhood and responsible manhoodThursday, November 19, 2020
Opal Palmer Adisa
As a feminist, I support International Men's Day because I believe that, in order for Jamaica to develop and enjoy equality, men have to shoulder their full responsibility of child-rearing; that is, the emotional, psychological, and financial costs, as well as show up and model positive masculinity.
For too long we have taken for granted, single-headed households, which are largely headed by women who are financially at the bottom of society. We must not only reject this, but we must insist that men who continue to shirk their responsibilities to their children be educated and mandated to carry out their roles. No child is conceived without a father, and therefore every child should be assigned a father.
I am engaged in masculinity scholarship and research, primarily as it relates to domestic violence and negative behaviour that has harmful consequences for women and girls, but which also negatively impacts the entire society. My short story collection, Until Judgment Comes, explores the lives of seven Jamaican men, and resulted from conducting almost 100 interviews, formal and informal, with men. The common denominator in all of those stories was the absence of fathers and other men who failed to provide love and positive guidance.
We cannot expect to have a society in which men respect women and themselves if this behaviour is not modelled for them, or where old patriarchal norms of domination and inequality serve as guiding principles.
Two research projects conducted by the Institute for Gender and Development Studies Regional Coordinating Office (IGDS-RCO), led by Dr Natash Mortley, found that men who were active fathers and closely involved in their children's lives were more willing to pay important roles in their communities to abate violence in general, and to provide safer spaces for their children in particular.
In focus groups that I conducted in four parishes last year, father after father spoke about the concern they had for the larger number of young men they saw that were without an anchor, many without any role models or mentors, something these fathers recognised as a flaw and terrible illness in the society. The fathers, who spoke about their commitment to their own children, also pledged to mentor and support these young men whenever they could.
This is the mandate that I and the IGDS-RCO believe men must lead on. They have to be their brother's keeper, teacher, and role model. Positive men must work with other men and help them to un-learn toxic behaviour that leads to domestic violence, sexual harassment, and endorses male behaviour that does not support sustainable development goal number five for gender equality.
It is for this reason the IGDS-RCO is happy to partner with Jamaica Male Advancement Network to host the Positive Fatherhood and Paternity Rights: Towards a Model for Development webinar that features six outstanding Jamaican fathers.
International Men's Day is meant to recognise men for their positive contribution to the society as husbands, fathers, breadwinners, and agents of change that will lead to a more just and safe society for everyone.
Jamaica's development 2030 goal is to collectively create an equal and just society. In order to do this we will have to create allies; women and men who make a commitment to honour justice and equality.
I endorse men standing up and supporting and guiding other men to be responsible, to refrain from harming others or themselves, and taking on fatherhood fully.
Professor Opal Palmer Adisa is university director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at The University of the West Indies.