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Parenting has never been easy. Merging your politics with your parenting decisions can be even more challenging. On this edition, fathers and mothers on fatherhood and how its changing. Traditional ideas about what a dad is supposed to be are slowly disappearing, but what will take their place?
- Tomas Moniz, Rad Dad creator
- Airial Clark, Sex Positive Parent blogger
- Janine Macbeth, Oh Oh Baby Boy author
- Brent Ramos, Danny Gutierrez, Craig Elliot, Jeremy Smith, Jeremy John, Jason Oppy, fathers
See Script Below
This week, on Making Contact
Tomas: “Being a rad dad is not about being cool. Its not about being hip, not about trying to be in style, not a trend. A rad dad is about radical parenting, the uncomfortable kind, the difficult kind.
Andrew Stelzer: Parenting has never been easy. Merging your politics with your parenting decisions can be even more challenging.
Gutierrez: We dont have a choice as parents, what sexual orientation our kids are. We dont have a choice on who they are attracted to, their gender. We dont have a choice in so many things. And that makes it hard and really scary and fearful that as a parent that we cant protect them all the time.
Stelzer: On this edition, fathers and mothers on fatherhood and how its changing. Traditional ideas about what a dad is supposed to be are slowly disappearing, but what will take their place?
Im Andrew Stelzer, and this is Making Contact, a program connecting people, vital ideas, and important information.
Craig Elliot: Do you want to answer what is a Rad Dad? Son: I dont know ummm a Bad Dad Elliot: A bad dad or not a bad dad? Son: A bad dad Elliot: Is a bad dad? Elliot: How about a dad that loves you? Son: Sort of Elliot: Who gives you hugs and kisses Son: Aaaaaaa I am not sure about that. But, okay. Elliot: A dad that helps you take care of bugs and animals and plants Son: Thats true Elliot: A dad that lets you be you. A dad who lets you wear different color socks Son: Thats true. Elliot: There you go. Anything else you want to say on it. Son: No
That was Craig Elliot and his son Thomas, at a Sunday afternoon gathering in Berkeley, California. About 2 dozen people came together for an event organized by Rad Dad, a zine about parenting. Throughout this show, well hear from several people at that gathering, discussing the questions—what is a rad dad? To start off, lets hear Craig Elliot, reading a pieces he wrote for an issue of Rad Dad, followed by Rad Dad creator Tomas Moniz reading a piece he calls low and slow
Elliot:So this is the Fathers day I wish to see. I know its approaching Fathers day each year only because of the pro-capitalist email and stale mail marketing for dads and grants. Otherwise I dont think I would remember. Certainly not needing to remember is a privilege of how I benefit in this patriarchal society even when I express my masculinity differently. Well, I work to resist the unearned distribution of privilege and changes social order I cant escape that I continue to benefit. Until that day it is up to me to use my power for good and attempt to shift the gender depressive system that we have. I do a lot of that by raising my kids.
I am not very fond of Fathers day. It is over marketed in a limited masculine way. Ties! Grilling equipment! Golf! It feels dishonoring in a twisted sort of way. Only because it still asks us to confirm to the essentialist normative version of a father. Which only oscillates between work and the goofy incompetent Homer Simpsons style. Neither of which is at all appealing. Except in small circles. Even the version of TV to date is not a that accessible as a model. I expect a greater emphasis on honoring the roles of fathers and the impact they have on childrens lives. Even as we continue to pretend that we continue to ignore gender, it would seem that this gender loaded would seem not be the father for commercial and cultural events. But, I guess man being man in any other way is just isnt profitable yet.
What I want is the time when the parents can be truly honored. Not just for one day. And not just I designated in a trite gendered way that is focused in stuff. I want days filled with love. Care and Caring are powerful medicines in the battle against depression and for social justice. And we do it in ways that from ones raised gender, sexuality, religion and illuminate how those constructs in care are conceived and distributed.
For me this would look like a morning with my family with breakfast that my kids made. Conservation imply with the energetic laughter and little moments that remain in your mind. The ones that remind you of deep joy of being a parent.
Kids that laugh, cry, care, hug and love is what I need everyday. This is parenting that changes the world. Thank you.
Tomas Moniz Low and Slow: A movie script about a father, three kids, the evil media and the perils of sex education. A movie script about a father, three kids, the evil media, and the perils of sex education Voice-over Imagine Morgan Freeman
Voice-over: I always thought this would be easy. I humored myself with assurances that I wouldnt handle the subject like my parents did, that I would be a beacon, a guide, dare I say, a confidant for my children.
Ah, the bullshit we tell ourselves when were rocking babies about how we will parent in the future. Let me tell you right off what the moral of this story will be: humility.
Scene 1: I was driving in my car with my thirteen-year-old son; I discovered a few days earlier hes acquired some pornographic material. I know what youre thinking. Whats the big deal about some adult magazines tucked up under a mattress. Oh, how I long for those good ol days. You see, if only I discovered a dirty magazine. Nooooo. Thanks to the Internet, instead I discovered 45-second clips of hard-core group sex on my computer desktop.
Its time for The Talk, which Ive had many times before, so this should be easy.
Hey, I found some stuff on my computer I think we need to talk about.
Really? What? He asked.
More awkward silence.
He continued, do we have to talk about it?
Cue cheesy music.
As I pulled over, I mumbled something like, well, if youre gonna look at it, I guess we need to talk about it
Ill spare you the gory discomfort (though if you are really interested, check out Rad Dad 3) but admit that: Joking about sex with him when he was ten, was nothing like having the first real conversation with him about the seriousness and the responsibilities of sexuality.
Flashback: I was standing with my father in the garage. Its dusk. I was about fifteen. I rarely had time with him alone anymore because hes a busy man, hes a silent man, but I know he loves me, I know he tried the best he could. He didnt look me in the eyes. He called me out here because he caught me the other night getting down like only teenagers can in the horrifically uncomfortable backseat of my 76 Toyota Corolla.
So now comes my The Talk.
Listen, he told me, and waited, the pause pregnant with anticipation.
He said; keep your willy in your pants. Im serious. Then he walks away.
And Im serious; thats what he said, the extent of our birds and bees conversation.
Of course, soon his advice became my way of joking with my girlfriend about getting it on, its time to release the willy; it was funny until at the age of eighteen she becomes pregnant.
Non-sequitor Flash Forward: The horror and accompanying popcorn gag as my son and I were getting ready to watch Aladdin (dont ask why my son was invited to a three year olds birthday party at a movie theater) when I witness for the first time the preview for the movie Free Willy.
Scene 2: After having a difficult discussion about drug use with my fourteen year old daughter, I jokingly asked her, well anything else we should talk about, like are you having sex?
Now, of course, I joked with her too from around age four about sex, but once again not really prepared for her response.
No, dad, I mean Ive made out with a few hot boys thats all.
I stared blankly at her.
And, once again, in a moment that highlights the generational differences between my teenage years when you had to have a girl/boyfriend to free willy, todays young people seem more empowered to be sexually active without having to have a significant other; the wisdom is ofcourse shocking.
I stuttered something like; I didnt even know you had a boyfriend
Picking up on my mental conundrum, she explained, there are boys you want to be your boyfriend and then there are hot boys you just wanna kiss.
Still stuck somewhere in the1950s, I asked, but dont you want your boyfriend to be hot?
Yeah, she said. But sometimes you just want to kiss a hot boy. Can you leave my room now?
Voice-over: The third time is really the charm. I understand that now. From the sheer horror at the need to talk with my son about masturbation and pornography, to the disorientation of generational changes with my middle child, to finally the self-reflection, the epiphany of oh Ive been here before with my youngest. Now some people may not need three children to see the light; unfortunately, I did.
Scene 3: When my youngest daughter informed me that shes joining the Gay Straight Alliance at her middle school, I almost missed it. When I was twelve, I was still playing with tractors and thought my willy was indeed a whale.
Uh huh, I mumbled while trying to decide what the hell to make for dinner for two daughters who never want the same thing.
But after a second, her words reached me. I remembered my father, the dark garage, the silences. I stopped what I was doing, and I looked at her. I told her how proud I am of her. I asked her questions, and I just listened.
And a few weeks later, I listened again as she shared with me her frustration that even people who are members of the alliance use the word gay derogatorily.
And later still, I apologized to her when she overheard me joking with a neighbor about a friend of ours who is a self-proclaimed fag hag. I saw her face; I knew immediately she only heard me saying the word fag.
Scene 4: We are watching the movie La Mission; its three teenage girls and me. At first they wanted to see Hot Tub Time Machine. To be honest, I did as well, but I knew that its not often we get to see movies that bring up issues critically. Its true though that even bad movies are opportunities to discuss the way things are messed up: sexual violence, gender rigidity, racism; but tonight I wanted to go the high road. Were in the dark, and its the scene in which the father is refusing to listen, to know about, and to acknowledge his gay sons desires. Its the familial version of dont ask, dont tell. Were in the dark, and my daughter reached to grab my hand; she leaned into me and said, I cant believe there are still people like him.
Its then that I am thankful for the privilege of being a part of communities in which the homophobia I remember as a teenager seems surreal seems like Hollywood exaggeration to my teenage daughters.
Voice-over: I rented The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and planned on watching it with my kids, but now theyre busy, now they have so many other things to do that they just wanted to watch the funny parts. Funny, you might ask. They simply loved the scenes of street life in the Castro. They commented on the clothes, the hair-dos, laughed at the Castro street parade footage, the dancing. But as the story shifted to the spontaneous memorial that moved down Market Street after Harvey Milk was killed, they watched silently; I saw their sadness, felt their disbelief. They soon left and returned to their rooms. I didnt have to say anything. They knew.
And when I tell them about the event Ill be reading at a few weeks later to celebrate the citys first annual Harvey Milk Day, they smiled and one added, thats cool, but just dont embarrass me, okay.
So its come to this. Even though I dont have to explain things anymore and even though I am so clearly the last person they want to confide in about anything sexual, I still ask questions. And they still hate it.
I still ask if they are having drugs and doing sex. They just roll their eyes and look utterly offended. My mantra now to them is low and slow; Ive stolen the line from the movie La Mission. I tell them in my best vato accent to have fun but keep it low and slow.
I think its better than telling them about willies and freedom.
That was the creator of Rad Dad, Tomas Moniz.
Danny Gutierrez: You know we dont have a choice as parents, what sexual orientation our kids are, we dont have a choice on who they are attracted to, their gender and we dont have choice in so many things and that makes it hard and scary and fearful that as parents we cant protect them all the time. We want our kids to get along to make friends and to be happy. But its really not up to us. And we have to give up some of that control and thats really scary for me. And in my family that is the obstacle that comes up day to day because of that. What they play with and what they see, I am not teaching my kids to certain that what they are doing. I am dealing with that and accepting certain things about them.
We will be right back
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Jeremy on rad dad My name is Jeremy John and I am from Washington D.C. but originally I am from Indiana. Being a rad dad means that not only are you working to raise a child whose life will be founded on principles, love and justice. But you are also trying to make the world more just, love and sustainable place to raise that child in. Also, I think that one of the things about having a kid is like this is the most important social justice mission that I have in my life is to raise this one single child. And he really is the future. If he just goes out there and you know, gets some job in corporate America marauding and imperiling other countries then I might as well not have lived my life because my entire life of struggling to for social change and struggle for love, peace and justice in community is totally invalidated. So I have to be careful of the balance between the time that I put grassroots community organizing community justice work and time that I put in for my baby son. So work-life balance which previously weakens likes poopoo and gradually its like moved towards burnout. Now its all the more important because its just not about my destiny thats at stake, it is actually the destiny of my son.
Ramos on rad dad: To me a rad dad is any kind of parent that is willing to live the way that their child would want to live. To be able to have courage to walk that path. And that kind of bounces outside norm of finances, politics and actually live that childhood dream. Almost that they had forgotten or lost and they had never really had the courage to get it. I think when you look at your kids they have that and when they look us we have kind of lost that. So for me radical parenting is important because so many people draw back to what they need to do to get through their day. Heads down and not really thinking about the world from the perspective of their kids. And I think that looking from the perspective your kid looks at is extremely radical.
I was in that situation. I was the parent. And I was the breadwinner. And I was to make decision should I risk everything for this crazy idea? I was the Kung-Fu instructor in China Town. For opening a Kung- Kung-Fu school or should I get a job in a corporate world and play it safe. And I was saying this to my daughter is four year old. I dont know what to do, people will make fun of me. I dont know if this will work and there she goes, Dad just do it and I was like Okay! Sign it right there!
I dont recommend that all the time. But inherently speaking that four year old had lot of truth in them And that sense of being brave enough to do anything possible. Now what they dont realize is the extreme amount of hard work and hardship you experience after that decision of signing that lease. But I think they naturally have that ability that we as parents and adults lose to be guide that way. So raising them, being that guide for them will help them be the person they want to be without thinking about whats right you know whom I am supposed to be gender classifications, etc. Just be happy
Jason on rad dad: So my name is Jason and I live in the Oakland area and I have a six month old girl and this is my first one. I am about 40 years old so I kind of am watching that my Radness kind of temporarily fad in front of eyes. So I am trying to survive this you know. I think Radness requires lot of free time. You got to be Skateboarding, DJing, and Surfing etc. I havent been able to do any much of any of these.
But one discussion that my partner and I have a lot is what kind of parents we want to be? What kind of people we want to be? How can we maintain a lifestyle which is worth living and for our little one also? One thing that we are considering is basically making less money and having actually talked about living out of the country. But I will be forgoing my career and I think shortly the family thing is going win out.
Arial on rad dad: Being a dad is not a passive thing for a rad dad. Rad dad is an active parent. Rad dad is actively involved in looking at them how they parent; how they connect with their kids & looking at how they connect to their community. I have two sons and I want them to be rad dad. If they choose to become fathers I want them to be connected and engaged and aware of internal misogyny, internal racism all the different things that prevent connects fathers with their kids. This idea what society tells us what a good day is versus is what actually makes a family functional and what makes kids feel supported and how partnership is connected between like not just economics like the breadwinner conversation. A Rad dad may not necessarily be the breadwinner. A Rad dad may be supporting the mother of their children; they might be supporting the other father of their children. Rad dad can go beyond sexual orientation binary; it can go beyond the gender binary. So I really appreciate the rad dad. Thus, I guess.
Craig on Rad dad: I think my version of a rad dad is to teach my kids to love, trying to make a difference in the world, helping them find their own ways of who they are, self-expression and understanding what their feeling and be able to use it especially the boys because thats such a counter narrative the way I have grown up. To understand that they are their own people and they can be what they want to be and truly love the world.
Janine Macbethauthor of Oh Oh Baby Boy: Its less revolutionary now for a dad to be involved. Its less of a surprise and the sad thing is that it is kind of a surprised. So there is still lot of opportunity for fathers to be more involved. And wanting to acknowledge that there are more fathers now who are really stepping up and really pulling their ways which probably existed before but no where near on the scale that exist now. Because moms are working outside of the home more and I feel like my mom’s generation was like one of the first generation to enter work force and was kind of like we can do it all, we can do everything and we will do everything. And in my generation I am feeling or at least for myself that it is not okay for me not have help and that I deserve to have help.
I started this when my second son was born and I would just sit back and watch my husband engage with our son who was two at that time and with our baby and realizing how his engagement and his work and his commitment in making sure they had everything that needed and I had what I needed really opened up a lot of opportunities around. Being a mom with a new born baby and realizing that post-maternal time all the while in through as the kids age is potentially a very disenfranchising time for moms and so the power of a father and any parenting partner of being involved is truly amazing and I wish that every mom and every parent had that support.
Tomas on being a rad dad: Being a rad dad is not about being cool. Its not about being hip, not about trying to be in style, not a trend. A rad dad is about radical parenting, the uncomfortable kind, the difficult kind. Radicals are not complacent as in of our impact on our children, our partners, and our environment. Radical as in taking responsibilities for the privileges some of us as have whether we want those privileges of not. Radical as in being cognizance on how we challenge patriarchy or not. How be participate in capitalism and how we depend on unquestioned roles of authority and hierarchy.
And then radical as in having courage to consider ways of changing these aspects of parenting. Lately, I have seen numerous new books and websites who are clearly trying to profit and benefit from or create a market a hip fathering. Talking about how man can still be man whatever that means and be a cool dad. So many of these books and sites lack a social critique, an understanding fathering has been intimately connected to patriarchy, to violence, to capitalism. Unless we as fathers try to change that no amount of coolness, no amount of humor, no amount of hip-hop or clothes can cover it. So my new mantra we need radical change and not radical baby accessories.
For me creating the zine, rad dad was about reaching out to community. It is not about a place to provide excuses for some of the messed ways fathering has manifested by some men in our society. Nor about absolving ourselves of our complicity in the ugly history of traditional fathering.We got to own up to it. And thats why I know I need other radical parents both mamas and papas and radical parent allies to help me see how I am caught up in this history especially, when I am unaware of it which sadly happens to often.
I need them to show them how myths of the parenting are perpetuated in the media or to help me see how fathering is being used as marketing ploy or is being packaged for consumer convenience. Rad dad for me is recognizing how I need help. It is as much as about radical parenting as much it is about fighting to change society in every aspect. So basically, I want the word father to be synonymous to dedication with nurturing. I want it to be to activist, environmentalist, feminist, anarchist, gangster. I want people to step back when we announce that we are fathers and we aint leaving until things change.
Thats it for this edition of Making Contact. Special thanks to Tomas Moniz and his Rad Dad magazine-thats the last voice you just heard. Some of the voices you heard on todays show include:
For a CD copy of this program, check out our website, radioproject.org thats also where you can get podcasts, download past shows, or make a difference by supporting our work. Like Making Contact on Facebook, or follow us on twitterour handle is Making, underscore, contact. Im Andrew Stelzer. Thanks for listening to Making Contact.