Remember my post about alternative narratives? If not, read it here. I’m revisiting the idea of alternative narratives because I know people have firm beliefs about the negative effects of growing up without a father. The media has so effectively distributed a single story about children raised without fathers that people miss the whole, evident truth. This is such a complex issue, and I admit, there aren’t many (if any) studies on what I’m about to say. I’ll address the lack of academic/scholarly/scientific study in another post, but first, let me offer some possible, even if a bit contrived, benefits of growing up without a father. Forgive me for focusing on girls, but as a female, it’s what I’ve thought about the most. If you want to read some of my ideas about boys with absent fathers, go here.
Many people say that girls have issues because they don’t have a father to tell them they’re beautiful. The problem I see with that belief is that validation is still external and still from a man. It reinforces the idea that a man has to validate your beauty, whether he’s your father or not. One thing girls without fathers have the opportunity to learn, is that no man, not even a father or father figure, should be the determining factor in how you feel about yourself.
Another belief perpetuated especially by conservative thinkers is that girls raised without fathers won’t know how to interact with adult men, and thus won’t make good wives. I think what these people are really saying is that these girls won’t know how to be submissive to adult men. I split my argument two ways. 1) If this happens, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Being strong and assertive can be excellent qualities when done correctly. 2) It might be that the girl can be submissive to an adult male, but only if she really wants to, only if he’s deserving, not just because he’s an adult man. Submissiveness is about humility, and anyone can learn to be humble with a father or not.
Then there’s the story that girls without fathers will end up in abusive relationships, often with older men (meant to replace their missing fathers), and engage in a vicious cycle of self-destructive love affairs. Well another story we could tell is of the girl who sees her mother as an example: a mother who is single because she refused (and refuses) to be in an abusive relationship, because she expects and demands love and respect, not just romance. I like to tell this story because it is my own. My mother’s example is the reason I was okay being single, therefore not falling into the trap of trying to fill a void with unhealthy relationships with men.
Remember that these are additional/alternative stories. They are by no means the limit. What stories do you have to share about girls growing up with absent fathers? Any of them counter to the usual mainstream narratives we hear? Please share them with us!
Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb
What’s in your hand?