The anthropologist presents his book ‘Papá’ and talks about the historical roles and the experience of fatherhood: “Parents feminize their bodies when they take care of their children.”
What is being a father? What does it mean? What story have they told us about fatherhood? What types of paternity have there been historically? In Papá (Bao Bab), Ritxar Bacete makes us an anthropological mosaic of this emblematic figure in our lives -sometimes silent, tyrannical, not empathetic or disappeared because of a culture of tremendous sacrifice that led them to work sun and shade no longer dedicate themselves to the care of their children. But he does it out of compassion. From the understanding. And also from constructive criticism when it comes to weaving a society where the role of active, present and co-responsible is the majority.
John Lennon, Barak Obama, Kafka, Darth Vader or historical figures such as Abraham, Confucius or Daedalus are some of the men who draw these profiles who, in some way, tried to be dissidents and to put in check the figure of the traditional, sparing father and insensitive, impervious to tenderness or communication. Bacete tells this newspaper that we have “a very presentist vision of fatherhood and motherhood” and that we have ignored “diversity” when making analyzes.
“For example, until 2017 no State had computed the fertility rates of men, nor was it problematized or posed in this liquid postmodernity of ours,” the author sighs. “If we analyze our own history, we see fascinating moments: Abraham, as a character in Judeo-Christian mythology, lived with the great desire to be a father and was crazy to form a line, but he was sterile,” he points out. It is an interesting “contradiction” in a world in which the desire to have children seems to have been attributed to the woman, while men or husbands have been the ones who have been carried away, without much enthusiasm, with the “she makes illusion ”always in the mouth.
Women, to the house; men to the bar
“We are more aware of Tutankhamun – who was a great cocoon and went down in history because he was violent and violence is rewarded in our culture – than Akhenaten, who was very loving, because just as women have been erased, they have been also erased the tender and caring men and good fathers ”, he says. In fact, he points out, good fathers have been “expelled” from masculinity or from their own groups of friends, especially in this “alcoholic” society where “a fundamental element of socialization among men has been to drown in the alcohol his incapacity to generate deep relationships and of attachment with his creatures ”. The women, to the house. And the men, in their brief leisure time, to the tavern with friends. If they weren’t there, they were shit. Some ‘tamed’.
The story of him begins in the Paleolithic, from a find of Atapuerca. It is an illustrated book without ever ceasing to be a deep investigation. “Here I speak of Benjamin, a nine-year-old girl with a serious malformation who would have difficulty walking and yet, although 450,000 years ago that was, she was protected in small clans. We do not yet know if they were all pater or mater, but it is likely that if they survived it was because there was a shared network of care, “she explains.
“It is an anthropological question. It is difficult for a society with so little control of nature to survive if all the members of the community did not perform all the tasks: it is a prepatriarchal perspective. Now we are starting to see that women also gathered and hunted and it is likely that men cared, ”she outlines.
In Greece “you could throw your children down the landfill”
Bacete points out that we have a vision of history “practically of the last two seconds of evolution”: “Before the Neolithic revolution, the forms of life that humans had were more just and balanced than today. The patriarchal system has served to legitimize the domination and violence of men over men, men over women and that of a society towards other societies ”, he reflects. “Then Aristotle already said that women were vessels that contain the power of the male seed. In Greece or Rome you could take your children to the landfill to die. In the Middle Ages, parents could imprison their children or send them to a convent ”.
The models of father that we admire and fear have been forged in recent culture, but always and in any case “there have been dissidents” that have not passed into the dominant narrative -precisely because tenderness or dedication to parenting was not rewarded in children. mens-. “All parents have shadows, I the first. Look at Kafka, who wrote 103 pages to his father in a letter and out of fear he did not dare give it to her. We are all kinda parents. But those of us who have been parents in this century have not played with dolls, we have lived in an almost pure binary model and we have not been socialized for care or to generate an eroticism of parenthood ”.
To Ritxar Bacete, his uncle told him that there were two large factories in his town and that they worked until Sundays. “The priest was going to prevent the workers from working so that they could go to mass. Imagine: working twelve hours a day every day. That means that industrialization had a brutal impact on gender relations and on the idea of the ‘provider’ father, ”he details. “In the 18th century, fathers shared more socializing space with their wife and children, because they worked together in the fields or in the village, but industrialization radically removed men from the domestic space and made them strangers to their family, all under the idealization of productivism ”.
Love or work
He emphasizes that it was his way of “loving” his own. Work, work and work. Supporting them was their way of “being present” because “they had not learned another”. “It is likely that today many men are educating our children by contrast, because many of us have grown up in the figure of the absent father and now we try to alleviate that,” he winks. This book has also served as a “healing tribute” to his own father: a way of telling him that he loves him and that he understands his circumstances. “He never went to school and he worked from the age of six in the forest. He was orphaned at one year old. What am I going to demand of him? It is a historical paradox. I appreciate everything he did. We must look with compassion and love at our parents and recognize what they did in the circumstances they had.
Bacete explains that a “quiet revolution” is taking place in the sphere of sexuality at home and that women, more and more, are empowering themselves and sustaining a “healthy coexistence”: of course a happy or complete sexuality was not possible ” with a human being who is exhausted, exploited and subjugated every day of the year, as has always happened with women ”. “In my case, I have three children and I have never wanted my partner as much as I do now. It is the most powerful relationship I have had with a woman: she is my friend, my confidante, my partner. Equity puts a lot, ”he smiles.
He talks about how important it is that men begin to occupy spaces traditionally associated with women, such as education in childhood, childbirth care -matrons- or pediatrics. “If not, a toxic and sexist stereotype impacts,” he points out, in relation to the question of whether parents trust less that their daughters or sons are in the care of a man in their early years – because of that perverse idea of mistrust of possible abuse, for example.
“Fatherhood transforms male biology”
Of course we are not yet that far from those birthdays in the town in which colleagues and the father himself put money to take the kid to the brothel to celebrate his new years. His adult life. We haven’t gotten that far yet. “The transformation processes are gradual and sticky. We all still have our feet full of chapapote, ”he says. He believes that men should attend the birth of their women “yes or yes”, because it is one of the “most magical and empowering experiences” that he has had in the “resignification of him as a man”.
He also recalls that “fatherhood transforms male biology”: “Fathers feminize their bodies when they take care of their creatures, their children. If you analyze the production of hormones in the man who cares and the man who does not care, you see that serotonin and oxytocin increase in the first: we have a part that is also feminine and that is enhanced, ”he indicates.
Finally, he emphasizes that there are many ways of being a father or a mother that do not have to do with strict biology, but with culture. “A bookseller told me the other day that she really wanted this book because she has a girl partner and they have a baby. She would say, “I am the dad.” That is true and it is absolutely fascinating that beyond biology, we are experience, we are culture. Experience and culture transform the body. There are mothers with a penis and fathers without a penis. We are what we do, beyond any label ”.