I was pushed to think about these issues when I watched a documentary called “The Red Pill”. It challenged the way that I thought about gender roles. I had to think long and hard about things that I took for granted in this society we live in. For example, when a mother chooses to have a full-time job, that is widely accepted. And yet when the father decides to stay at home to be the main caretaker of children, it carries a lot of stigma that he is not doing enough or fulfilling his role. In situations such as a shipwreck, there is a policy of women and children first on lifeboats, automatically deducing men’s lives as somehow less important, or even disposable. And not only that, it is men who are drafted to fight in wars. Domestic abuse, depression, suicide etc are largely labeled as women’s issues when in reality they also affect men. And so this invisible norm of seeing men as disposable and only worthy when they are able to provide is the kind of pressure that fathers are subject to. It’s a lot, and it is unfair when you think about it.
Bring to mind your father or someone who was like a father to you. Perhaps there were times you didn’t agree with each other, there were times you didn’t see eye to eye, there were times you wished he could have acted differently. Consider that he too is a product of this society that pressured him to fit into a mould. Consider the possibility that he might have given up a part of himself to fulfill the role he felt was expected of him. Consider the possibility that much of the burden he carries is invisible to you. When you were little, he would have done anything and everything to protect you. As you grew up, your relationship became more complicated, but that protective part of your father is still him. See that in him, and peel away the layers of armors and defenses. See his intrinsic worth, one that he may not even see in himself. He did the best that he could, within the mould he felt he had to fit into. He is full of love, even during those times he didn’t know how to show it.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. This mantra reminds us that on a practical level, we are not looking to win our battles at the expense of the losses of others. If we are feminists fighting for equality, let us also acknowledge those times that inequality is tipped to our favor, let us also do what we can to equalize that. Let us offer our practice to fathers everywhere, and recognize that their worth is not dependent on what they can provide or how much money they make or what titles they have or how “disposable” their lives are, but that they simply are worthy, deserving of happiness and freedom as a birthright, as all sentient beings are.