Impregnators Are Not Fathers

Colin Brazier September 12, 2011 10:20 AM

Last month Sky interviewed a 16-year-old looter. Asked why he'd stolen he replied: "For my son". Pressed by an incredulous reporter, he admitted to being little more than a boy himself. He was 16.

On one level, while abhorring the crime, it is possible to admire his paternal solicitude. Want to care for your baby son mate - good on yer.

But on another level, on the level where real life exists, this young man was talking out of his tush. The statistics, economics and his own psychological under-development are heavily stacked against him.

Young men who become teenage fathers stand very little likelihood of being a dad for the life of that child. And, just before the poison pens start dripping, of course there are many exceptions.

Chances are this 16-year-old will not stay the course. Chances are he will not be in a relationship with the mother of his child by that child's first birthday. The chances of him walking that child through the school gates on his first day at school are vanishingly slim.

And yet, as the interview with him testified, he clearly hankered after the status of fatherhood. He enjoyed the ridiculous exculpatory notion that, Robin Hood-like, he was robbing the rich to feed his bairn.

Historically, fatherhood has been the greatest rite of passage available to men. It endowed them with respect and responsibilities. For some men, it is now only about respect - an opportunity to brag about virility, before moving on to pastures new. All rites, no responsibility.

There is a world of difference between what the majority of adult-males consider fathering to be, and the kind of 'fathering' as practised by a minority who debase its meaning. These men are not 'fathering' - they are impregnating. And it behoves men who see fathering as a life-long commitment to reclaim the word from those who lack the maturity, patience and self-sacrifice to be good fathers.

As George Orwell explained better than anyone else: such semantics matter.

Sometimes a euphemism is unmissable. Think of all those new synonyms for the word 'problem'; like 'challenge' and 'issue'. After a while people get wise, even as others get left behind. I pitied the hosts of last week's rugby league Challenge Cup. It sounds far less positive than once it did.

But other words are less obviously perjorative. And 'father' is one of them.

To 'father' a child is slipping into semantic disrepute. It is the verb people use when they really mean 'to beget' or 'to sire'. Other than biblical scholars - who talks about 'begetting' children anymore? Nobody, of course. But, as Orwell warns, a society which loses the ability to precisely define what is happening, loses something vital.

Because begetting is not the same as fathering. The 16-year-old interviewed about the riots sees himself as a father - we should not afford him that luxury; we should recoil from such smug self-designations - which devalue the currency of fatherhood.

In all probability he will be a serial impregnator and a stranger to the selflessness required to be a real dad. I do not blame him. We have created a society where such behaviour is permitted, even encouraged.


Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre


While the Government fails to have a legal presumption of equal parenting, children will continue to be denied the right to a relationship with their father.

Most birth certificates now have a wrong or no father on the certificate. The solution is to make it a legal requirement that the any named father and mother be confirmed by DNA.

Every child deserves the right to know who their DNA father and mother are. Without that legal guarantee, birth certificates will continue to have little more value than toilet paper.