Saturday, November 23, 2013

The missing question

O' Mahoney.
Ben Laden.
Bin Moosa.

Not to talk of

What do all these names have in common?

They are all patronymic.

They all mean 'son of' or 'daughter of' a man. Or a patriarchical community of some sort, as in the case of O'X which could mean either 'grandson of X' or 'from X village'...

In many traditional societies, a person is defined by who their father is.

In the bible for instance, a visitor is always asked... 'who is your father?'
You better have an answer to that question - otherwise, you may never gain entry into anyone's home.
Of note is the reference to 'son of X' ad nauseum in old testament books. No-one is just them. They are always 'son of' someone else...

Even Our Lord was 'son of God', or 'son of Joseph', or 'son of Man'.
He was 'son of someone'.
In keeping with Hebrew tradition.

I am intrigued that at the transfiguration, God chose to say (about Jesus): This is my son...
Why did he not just say, this is Jesus...?

His son.
Even Jesus needed a father?

I love studying names.
One of my more nerdy endeavours :-)

Even in matrilineal societies (another of my pet geeky loves), patriarchy rules. You may inherit property and titles from your mother, but it is your father who gives you your identity.
Your soul.

Is it any wonder that nowadays with 50% of households with missing fathers in them, there are lost souls in ubiquitous abundance?

Who is your father?

In many ways, there was a time when it was almost always a bad thing to have this question addressed to you, as  a child, if it was asked within your own social circles. It meant you had messed up somehow.
Someone wanted to know who to 'give a talking to' because you had done something wrong.
Because you had been naughty and someone wanted to know whose shame you had come to embody.

Best if you steered clear of this question :-)

But that was then.

Now, no-one asks this question.

When Miley Cyrus was making an exhibition of herself on the world stage a few weeks ago, save for a few Manosphere bloggers who were posing the question, 'Where the heck is Ray?', no-one wanted to know about the father.
I remember when Lawrence Fishburne's daughter started to go down the wrong path. He was ostensily hurt. But that's as far as public fatherly input went.

Not relevant.
Persona non grata.

Perhaps in Mr. Cyrus' case, this is a good thing. Afterall, he is spared some personal shame, no?
But what does this say about society in general?

This says that we accept the status quo.
That father is no longer the spiritual head of the family.

No-one need know who or where he is.

He disappeared and no-one went looking for him.
Should he come back, no-one would notice.

This is the missing question: Who is your father?

Perhaps I should give due credit to modern society.
Perhaps modern society actually understands the gravity of this question.
Which is precisely why we choose not to ask this question anymore.

Perhaps we are not as dumb as we seem :-)

This then, is in fact a good sign.

No-one is arguing about the sacredness of motherhood. It is plain to see how important a mother is.

But somehow we have forgotten how important a father is.

How did this happen?
And more importantly, how can we restore fatherhood to its former glory?


Ceer said...

Mr Fishburne's and Cyrus' knew they were up against a vicious tongue lashing if they chastised their daughters' actions too heavily. Women today are so worried about being shamed, it consumes them.

Thing is, bad behavior on a woman's part still brings consequences. Just ask Kristen Stewart. Is it really good that women stay immune from criticism for their actions? When viewed in a positive light, and applied constructively, criticism can certainly help anyone improve themselves, women included.

Sure, the fathers in this thread were spared some shame...but at what cost? Shame acts on men and women differently. As men, we are geared towards using our actions to fix things. Does something bring us shame? We root out the cause. Then we proceed to either bear the shame or fix the problem. In that way, we don't really dread shame in the way women do.

The idea that men shouldn't shame women is a tactic for taking away men's power over women. Apparently, it doesn't matter whether this power is used for woman's benefit or not, it can't be allowed to exist. What's really sad is the breach in the father/daughter bond this creates. Children need both parents with a healthy relationship between them to ensure they grow up into a healthy well-adjusted adult.

Spacetraveller said...

Oh yes, it is vitally important that as women, we take criticism in the spirit with which it is delivered, which is usually to help us better ourselves. You are right, in general, men are better at this than women.
I think yes, women feel (deeply) more guilt than men. As you allude to, our shame can indeed consume us. It really does. We are just wired this way, so we take criticism as just another way our guilt gets to weigh down on us :-)

Anyway, this is one reason I appeal to men to be 'gentle' when trying to 'civilise' women. You cannot treat us like you would a man. We are way too emotional for that. A severe reprimand may 'build character' for a man. The same treatment might destroy a woman...

But I am not saying a woman should not be told she is doing something wrong. Of course not!

The problem with all of this fatherlessness (whether it is real or 'functional') is that it is very difficult for a woman who is not used to her father's authority to suddenly be subject to her husband's. If a woman is too autonomous before marriage, she will remain so after marriage. In which case, her husband better hope she will do the right thing, off her own back, because she won't listen to him.

Incidentally, I have just remembered that there IS a remnant of society understanding the importance of the question 'Who is your father'? It may be in jest, but those films where a man might beat his chest and say something like, 'Who the daddy!' or '*I* am the daddy!' indicate in a primordial way that this is somewhat pesent in our psyches albeit in a basic instinct sort of way...

Anonymous said...

There is hardly ever a question over who your mother is, she knows, she gave birth to you, you are hers.
Who your father is depends hugely on her loyalty and their relationship.
Knowing- and being able to legitimately use- your nature/ nurture father's name means, in most cases, you were born in a good and loyal relationship. A source of pride. I don't see many pride in using the name of the woman who happened to give birth to you, it could have been in an alley, after rape, by a secret lover, she could have even dumped you afterwards, there is no status involved in coming from your mother's womb. There is in being accepted as your father's child.

There are, of course, much more aspects involved in this topic, this just happened to be the first that came to my mind.

metak said...

"Patriarchy rules"

lol for women yes... for men it simply means if you're 'lucky' you only get to pay all the bills and if not, well you get dead... :-)

"No-one is arguing about the sacredness of motherhood. It is plain to see how important a mother is. But somehow we have forgotten how important a father is. How did this happen? And more importantly, how can we restore fatherhood to its former glory?

Maybe it's because all we hear is glorification of mothers (no matter how bad they might be) and only ridicule of fathers? When I take a look at men of my age that I know/knew, they don't have kids and what's even more surprising is the fact that one man that really wants to have a kid, is gay.
I think it's hilarious! :-)

Who knows, maybe Disney will make a sequel 'Venus needs dads' or something... :-)

It was nice knowing you fat-her-hood... bye bye now... :-)

PVW said...

Hi, ST,

I have, interestingly enough, noticed more of the observations coming from how mothers raise children, even though I was raised with a father--"didn't your mother raise you right?". It is as though the mother is charged with the primary upbringing, with dad having some involvement of course, and especially with respect to discipline.

Spacetraveller said...

@ Anonymous,


And this is the point of matrilineal societies. They play it safe. Motherhood is obvious. Except for the occasional case of 'hospital maternity ward switch', it is not hard to tell who a child's mother is.
So their position is, 'well, you get property/titles from the one parent who is GUARANTEED to be your parent. But the other parent, well, he is vital to your well-being too. He is the one who gives you your real identity. We hope that your mother was honourable enough to have ensured that the right guy fathered you, for if she failed in this, she has done you a great disservice... That pride you mention, Anonymous, it is spiritually missing if it is later found that some other man is a child's true father. It is hideously diappointing to all concerned...

I truly dig matrilineal societies precisely because of the paradoxical importance they place on fatherhood. I love paradoxes!



Fat-her-Hood... exquisite!
You win - I can't beat that one :-)


With your comment, I am reminded that I should have mentioned something in the original post to make my thoughts clearer on this subject.

It is precisely because of phrases like 'didn't your mother raise you right?' that I wrote this post.

This is a phrase which is approprite when a child is young. Or if directed towards an adult, it should mean 'didn't your mother raise you right, when you were small?'

I happen to think that nowadays, precisely because it is not guaranteed that a father is persent in the child's life, people will use this phrase when they are displeased with a child or adult, and are using it to make a dig at the only guaranteed parent, the mother.

We dare not ask about the father, because well, he may not exist in the child's life. We have adapted/censored our thoughts to correspond with what we see.

This is the point of the post.

In them olden days, PVW, 'didn't your mother raise you right?' almost always assumed that there was a father to back up your mother in raising you. And... his role in raising you increased as you got older.

But that is a luxury that just doesn't exist in large numbers anymore.

This is why 'who is your father?' has become the missing question.

'Father' is now a luxury item. You have to be special to have one these days.

PVW said...

ST: 'Father' is now a luxury item. You have to be special to have one these days.

Me: Yes, you have to be special nowadays, and so in some quarters, it is being treated as some sort of unearned privileges, that the children of two married heterosexual parents somehow take something away from the single mothers.

Give me a break!

Spacetraveller said...



Thanks for that link. I find it a good deterrent: all those 'single by choice' Mums and the ones who think they can 'frivorce' without consequences, let them think about this: for starters, their daughters won't be allowed in a 'father-daughter dance'...

It's a good start...

You can guess why this is an effective strategy, no?

Women care about such things...
And so we should. So, to preserve beautiful things such as 'father-daughter dances', we should stop blowing families apart.


Thanks for that. Like you, I am sick of all this PC stuff. It is not contributing anything good to our lives. It's got to stop.