Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Big Brain Event

"Big" refers to the event, not to my brain...

Something happened today that I am not sure how to describe.

For years I have carried a certain idea in my head: the idea that people should marry before they have kids, and more specifically, that a man should become a husband before becoming a father - that the first criterion of being a great dad is being in the home.

I still believe that that should be the norm.

What happened today was that I stepped over a line, or turned a corner, in my acceptance of the demographic reality that a majority of homes in my neighborhood, and among African-Americans generally, are households headed by single women.

The path to that point went something like this: Someone posted an item on Facebook that had side-by-side pictures of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, taken at the Democratic National Convention. The captions for the photos named the designers and prices of the dresses they wore. This generated controversy, with at least one person calling it an insult, not only to Mss. Clinton and Obama, but to voters as well.

And I thought, "But some women do care about fashion." And then, to the assumed response that whoever posted the photos would likely not do the same thing with men, I thought, "And most men don't care about fashion."

The general idea was, "More women than men care about fashion, and care about it more."

Which led to this cluster, "Women and men are different in some ways beyond the obvious physiological differences. There may be differences in brains - there are, broadly speaking, differences in interests, even in, I don't know, modes of being...Masculinity and Femininity exist, and the differences between them are not nearly as simple as strength vs weakness....and they can both be either dysfunctional or...high-functioning?"

(Shout out to Mani St. Victor for sharing this piece about the possibility that men and women literally see the world differently)

And I envisioned a quadrant (much neater than this hasty drawing):
Which led to a question something like, "Given the demographic reality of female-headed households, how can we enhance whatever particular strengths women tend to have?"

But I didn't stay there long, because that led to the Big Brain Event, the asking of a question that I believe I could not have asked before, because my view of the world prevented me from asking it. My view of the world says that men should be husbands first, fathers second, and that they should be in the home with their wives and kids. But today, "Given the demographic reality" kicked in, in a way that it had not before, and I asked:

"How can a man be a great dad without living in the home?" Not an okay dad, not a tolerable dad, but a great dad?

And of course, now that I've asked it, it seems obvious that this is one of the most important questions for my neighborhood and my people to answer. DUH!

So now I'm going to be on the lookout for answers to that question; and even more, for evidence that it is being asked.

Any suggestions for where I can start looking?
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