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From incarcerated fathers, to trans fathers, to the question of who is your father, today’s picks comprise an alternative father’s day reading list. We highlight the men who sought to challenge traditional norms of fatherhood by emancipating children from their parents, and we challenge the testosterone enthusiasts who argue that “real men” can’t be caregivers.
We also have an excerpt from Barnard historian Nara Milanich’s book Paternity: The Elusive Quest for the Father. At the very moment that DNA testing has promised paternal certainty for the first time in human history, she argues that uncertainty about fatherhood as a cultural force appears as powerful as ever. Above all, this is because “science was never capable of finding the father in the first place. . . . The truly significant question about paternity is not empirical—Who is the father?—but normative: What do we want him to be?” In the age of modern genetics, the answer to the question “Who’s your daddy?” remains as complicated as ever.
Who’s Your Daddy?
by Nara Milanich
Despite promising a golden age of certainty, DNA-based paternity science has failed to resolve our longstanding cultural and legal uncertainty about the meaning of fatherhood
• • •
The Thing with Fathers
by Stephanie Burt
“Fatherhood is for these poets an alternative to forms of assertion, power, and independence that constitute traditional masculinity.”
• • •
Sky Veins of Potosí
by Jordy Rosenberg
In the dystopian Age of the Ultra Families, a trans protagonist known only as Daddy recalls a forbidden romance.
• • •
The Biology of Fatherhood
by Anne Fausto-Sterling
Low testosterone is often associated with femininity and parenting. Does this mean that “real” men can’t be caregivers?
• • •
Founding Fathers, Founding Villains
by William Hogeland
The parents of the United States feared democracy, and they wrote the Constitution in large part to defeat it.
• • •
Guns in the Family
by Walter Johnson
“The day I killed the deer is the only time my father hugged me between the ages of five and twenty-two.”
• • •
What We Owe to Incarcerated Fathers
by Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Mary Lyndon Shanley
“Maintaining one’s role as a father in prison is deeply vexed. Vexed, but not impossible. The fact that people imprisoned for crimes are by definition not ideal fathers does not mean that they are not fathers.”
• • •
When Gays Wanted to Liberate Children
by Michael Bronski
In the 1970s the Gay Liberation Front challenged traditional norms of fatherhood and motherhood, and advocated for community families and child emancipation.
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Elisabether Badinter blames "naturalism" for all-consuming motherhood, but she leaves the real culprits off the hook.
Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation portrays an Iranian divorce under sharia law with sensitivity and pathos.
Swinton gives her all to the martyred victim in We Need to Talk about Kevin.