Dada-ism in the 1990s: Getting Past Baby Talk About Fatherlessness.

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Stacey, J.
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The author of this chapter describes the current concerns about fatherlessness and family values as manifestations of dada-ism, an art form characterized by nonsense, travesty, and incongruity. She asserts that the proliferation of fatherhood organizations, literature, and political statements has promoted an alarmist message regarding the dangers of father absence and influenced the American public to believe that fatherlessness is the most important social problem in the nation. The focus on the role of fathers has replaced the political discourse on maternal neglect, which blamed feminism, maternal employment, and abortion for the decline of family values. Although the discussion has appeared to shift to fathers, mothers are still being held responsible for the quality of paternal involvement in the family. Leaders of fatherhood movements, such as Promise Keepers and the Council on Families in America, are calling for men to reclaim their position as head of the household and primary provider. They refute the principles of the New Father model that threaten the roles of males in the family and suggest that fatherlessness leads to school incompletion, juvenile delinquency, and teen pregnancy. However, their proposals to place tighter restrictions on divorce and identify the paternity of every child may be harmful to women and children, as they have the potential to enforce paternal rights over the interests of others in child custody and abortion decisions. Even liberal publications have promoted concerns about the artificial insemination of unmarried women to create fatherless families. The issue also was integrated into welfare reform legislation with references to scientific findings about the dangers of single-parent families and father absence. The author asserts that the ideal of the father as primary breadwinner and the mother as full-time housewife advocated by the leaders of the fatherless movement is unrealistic and fails to consider other causes of social problems, such as unemployment and inadequate education. She suggests that society develop a post-modern model of family life that values child care provided by men and women. Relationships between children and other adults also should be encouraged. 64 notes.

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