A few weeks ago I wrote about my thoughts on a letter Catholic Relief Services (CRS) sent out on Mother’s Day. In that post, I posed the question: “Would someone ever write on Father’s Day: “It is clear that if we do not help men, real change can’t happen?”’ Well, they did not exactly write that, but CRS did send out an email connecting their work to Father’s Day. It stated:
“Throughout the world, fathers are the ones who teach us lessons about generosity, responsibility and selflessness. Fathers reveal to us the loving image of what a dad should be—and Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show your dad that you were listening all those years.”
Now, this email did not go as deep as the letter on Mother’s Day. It basically was asking readers to make a donation to CRS on behalf of their fathers for Father’s Day. However, I felt uneasy about the wording of the email – in the same way that I did about the Mother’s Day message.
After reading some of your comments, mulling them over since Mother’s Day, and receiving this message on the role of Fatherhood as expressed by CRS, I think I may be able to pinpoint more clearly what rubs me the wrong way about these messages. Or, at least, I’ll try. I am bothered by the language that confines each gender to certain roles. That is, this whole idea that fathers teach us about generosity (because they have the money) and responsibility (because they have the jobs) and selflessness (because they go to work) while mothers care for the children and keep families intact. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I don’t think that it does justice to either men or women to be confined to these roles.
I suppose what I am getting at is that “equality through complementarity” is not really equality. Until we get past this way of thinking, we will not be able to reach true equality. To me – and it became even more obvious after the Father’s Day message – CRS seems to back up this ideology of “equality through complementarity” and the nuclear family and other ideologies that have been catalysts for gender inequality.
Surely, CRS is noble in treating some of the symptoms of this inequality through providing women with microcredit and different types of aid. And there is no doubt that this work needs to be done. However, it seems to me that – at the same time – we need to look closely at the root causes of this inequality to find a more sustaining solution. If we don’t, then we are just putting band-aids on the real problem of gender inequality.