This weekend marks Father’s Day—or, as I have taken to calling it on social media, Second Legal Guardian Of Unspecified Gender Day. Obviously, this is trollery. But it’s not pure trollery: we live in a society that purports to champion fatherhood, but disparages fathering at every turn. We disparage the notion that fathers are necessary; we disparage the unique lessons fathers teach. Because some men in America are trash, too many Americans have decided that the problem is masculinity itself. The result hasn’t been a lessening of male perdition, but an exacerbation of it.
As it turns out, men do need fathers—and even more importantly, they need fathers who teach what it means to be a man to their children.
The social science on the necessity of fatherhood is absolutely clear. According to a massive recent Harvard study, the most powerful factor putting young men at risk of criminal behavior and poverty is lack of fathers in the neighborhood—not even fathers in the home, fathers in the neighborhood more generally. A prevalence of responsible men can even help compensate for lack of fathers in the home.
And it’s not a coincidence that girls from single-mother homes fare far more poorly than girls from two-parent homes. Girls from homes without a father tend to engage in more sexually risky behavior, with higher rates of drug use and dropping out of school.
Fathers provide a sense of security to their children, but they also model behavior. For boys, fathers model and teach how to be a protector; for girls, fathers model and teach how men ought to protect them.
There is a large biological component to all of this. Men are, by nature, bigger and stronger than women on average. They are also more prone to violence and more aggressive. This means that men either build and protect, or they destroy. Good men must teach their sons the art of manliness, or societies crumble. Masculinity can indeed be toxic, but only if it isn’t channeled into defense of self and others.
The #MeToo movement says men must be taught not to rape. But no good man has ever been taught not to rape. Good men are taught, generally by a male authority figure, to affirmatively stand up for women, to prevent harm. It’s not enough to teach boys “not to rape.” Boys must be taught to fight rapists.
And yet our society is unwilling to go quite that far; we’ve been told that to untrammel men’s aggressive instincts, even in defense of others, represents a mere outgrowth of toxic masculinity, and an unbased cultural assumption about the inherent weakness of women. Men have been deprived of their role in society by social levelling movements that seek to label all differences between men and women artificial, and then obliterate them.
Furthermore, men have been told that they are nice window dressing, but ultimately superfluous to the family unit. All family units are created equal, and to suggest the superiority of a generic father-mother unit is insensitive to families formed along alternative lines. This may be sensitive, but it’s bad social science, and it’s worse morality.
It leaves men without a mission. This leaves men adrift.
But men are still different from women, and they know it. Deprived of purpose, too many men turn to empty substitutes for true manliness: a macho culture that prizes sexual conquest or physical strength, for example. Men become bros rather than husbands and fathers. Liberated from responsibility, many men become users—after all, women and men are exactly the same, and to suggest that men protect women is a form of patriarchalism. So the cycle perpetuates. Without fathers, these men’s sons all too often grow up to become their absent dads.
Father’s Day is important because fathers are important; fathers are important because men are important; men are important because manliness is important. This means we need more fathers inculcating the specific and beautiful element of manliness in their sons. We don’t need to teach boys to be more feminine, or to be genderless. We need boys to grow up to be good men. And that can only happen when we don’t disparage manliness, or pretend that masculinity and femininity are pure social constructs to be discarded for purposes of emotional sensitivity.
Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” available on iTunes and syndicated across America.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.