Men, Childcare, and Parenting

David Gilbert, a political prisoner incarcerated for clandestine actions carried out by the Revolutionary Armed Task Force, recently put out An Open Letter to “Men in the Movement.” In the letter he calls for “for movement men to get fully involved in childcare.”

I really liked his letter because oftentimes radicals will say that men need to become more involved with things like childcare so that women can get a break and participate in meetings.  This is true, but it usually takes on a weird tone and sentiment.  It was most obviously articulated at an anti-sexist men’s discussionI attended at an anarchist conference in which a guy said, “women shouldn’t have to be the ones always doing the shitwork.”  The fact that things like childcare are seen as cumbersome chores to so many men, even if they are taken up dutifully, is seriously problematic.

Instead, Gilbert points out that the most important reason men need to step up and take an active role in childcare is because that this aloofness to children

“damages men the most because we cut ourselves off from the regular interactions that can enrich our lives in many ways. Children ask the questions that make us think more deeply about everything, exude the energy that buoys our spirits, embody the potential that gives us hope for the future.”

In a patriarchal society, we as men have oftentimes abandoned our ability to love.  In her book The Will to Change, feminist writer bell hooks testifies that

“No one hungers for male love more than the little girl or boy who rightfully needs and seeks love from Dad.  He may be absent, dead, present in body yet emotionally not there, but the girl or boy hungers to be acknowledged, recognized, respected, cared for.  All around our nation a billboard carries this message: ‘Each night millions of kids go to sleep starving- for attention from their dads.'”

I guess that quote speaks more to what children miss out on when we are absent from their lives- so it’s a double edged sword.  When we are not actively involved in the rearing of children in our movements we miss out and so do our kids.


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