Today is the hundredth anniversary of the celebration of Father’s Day in America. Father’s Day in this country was first celebrated in Spokane Washington in 2010, on the third Sunday in June, although it took another sixty two years for the U.S. Government to officially declare it as an annual event.
I suspect that official recognition took so long because the political cost was too high until the change in views of the roles of men and women that came to a head during the late sixties and early seventies. In the decades prior to the sixties, reactions to the proposal often ranged from laughter to derision.
We now live in a world where it is understood that fathers can be an important part of their children’s everyday lives. But it wasn’t all that long ago — not even half a century — when the conventional wisdom was that the gender roles were set in stone: mothers raise the children and fathers bring in the money to support them.
People generally think of “feminism” as a movement that centers around women, including such issues as equal pay for equal work, access to birth control and freedom from sexual harassment. But the history of Father’s Day is a testament to the fact that this is an incomplete view.
Thanks to the changes wrought by the feminist moment, we now take it for granted that men too have the right to spend quality time with their children. If a man wants to take time off to take care of his newborn child, people no longer call him crazy, and his continued employment is no longer threatened.
The official recognition of Father’s Day into perpetuity was signed into law not by some liberal crusader, but by Richard M. Nixon, who happened to be president at the historical moment when society finally accepted men as valid caretakers of their own children.
But who knows? Maybe it had to be Nixon. In the words of the old Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.” †
† Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, scene 2