In case you missed it, Melissa Harris-Perry stepped into quite a storm in reaction to President Obama's speech in Chicago on Friday. Watching the clip up above should get you caught up on why.
I have very often praised Melissa on this blog - but I have to say that I disagree with her take on this one completely.
Overall, I think its important to say that what President Obama was talking about was fatherhood - not marriage. He did mention marriage, but only in saying that we should remove obstacles for those who want to get married.
I think that's an important distinction to make because not all dissolutions of a marriage end in an absent father and not all marriages result in a present father. As someone who grew up in a family where my father was physically present but emotionally absent, I'll claim to have "daddy issues" myself.
In some ways, this might be the tie that binds the whole issue of gun violence across its permutations of white men involved with mass shootings and those in predominantly urban areas by men of color. It comes down to a question of manhood - and what does that mean. Melissa rightly points to some of those white men but fails to make the connection.
Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel (2010) proposed a mechanism that might well explain why white males are routinely going crazy and killing people. It's called "aggrieved entitlement." According to the authors, it is "a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back. And its gender is masculine.No matter our race, as children we learn what it means to be a man (or how to relate to men) from the adult men in our lives. And for most of us - that means that we learn it (or don't) from our fathers.
I'd suggest that for the last few decades, our entire culture has been struggling with the whole question of what it means to be a man - and just as importantly, what it means to be a father. Yes, there are some differences in how that has played out in communities of color as it is wrapped in to our history of racism. But the central question is the same.
As a woman and a feminist, I want to do all I can to encourage dialogue about that question while I also recognize that it is not my place to answer it. That's why I found this video so important.
Yep, I think that if boys (and girls) had men like that in their lives, it would make a huge difference.
What I particularly found offensive about what Melissa did with this was to derisively cast President Obama's admission that he wished he'd had a father as a "daddy issue." The way I see it, the President has grappled deeply with this particular loss he shares with so many of us. In talking about that - he's made himself vulnerable. His journey - and his honesty about it - should be something we respect and emulate.