Showing weenie to uncles, being circumcised, "hanging out" with girls, doing the military service, getting married afterwards, becoming a father, so on and so forth... And, of course, during all these phases, fulfilling various necessities written in the book of manhood... I do not know, for instance, following football matches, gathering with a whole bunch of men and doing all kinds of boorishness, talking about "girls", watching porn and all...
Within the cycle of manhood that I have talked about, not doing the military service has probably been the only point where I broke this circle.
Fortunately, I have managed not to wear the uniform of the army of any country in the world. However, I have always wanted to be a father. Since the greenest, freshest times of my childhood, I have dreamed of becoming a father, be that solely at the level of "If I become a father one day, I will call my child such and such."
And, this year, in March, I had a baby boy. We have called him Ethem. We have given him the name of my friend Ethem Sarısülük, who was intentionally massacred by the police officer Ahmet Şahbaz during Gezi. May he live with the honor of his name.
To say in the most cliché-ridden manner, my life has changed completely after being a father. Of course, I do not solely mean the sleepless nights, the nights when I try to help him let a fart by patting him on the back till morning and his cries at the top of his lungs. My relation with everything including the world, Ethem, fatherhood, manhood, the future, the political climate of the country and my occupations as a writer and translator have taken shape from scratch. In fact, I think I can say that these relations are being reshaped over and over again as the days pass.
Let me explain it in this way: I am the child of a father, whose emphasis on manhood is extremely dominant. My father has always expected from me and my brother to be proper men, to avoid doing things that might be regarded as "faggotness" and to be such men that when we set our feet on the ground, its voice is heard and when we hit somewhere, its blood is spilled. It was at least the case until we reached a certain age. Then, he was convinced that we would and could never be such men.
During our school years, he used to give us money for every child that we beat. Frankly speaking, I did not and would not beat anyone. Every day, I made up a story about how I beat everyone in class one by one and tried to have a buck or two that he would give me. In this way, I have become a story-teller even if I could not become a predatory man.
My father and mother came to our house a week before the birth of our child. I forcibly took my father for a walk. My intention was, of course, to get a few tips, to ask for the advice of a man about fatherhood, who has been a father himself for almost forty years.
At some point during our walk, I said, "Dad, I am very excited. How will all these things work out?" My father seemed to pay almost no attention, he could not even fully understand my question. "What will happen how?", he asked and added, "He is a child after all, he will be born and grow up. Time flies for the one who is alive."
For a moment, in good faith, I wanted to believe that he was saying these things so that I would relax and would not be overwhelmed with the uncertainty of "fatherhood" which was building up before me and becoming as enormous as a mountain.
But, no, it was not the case. My father really thought that children are born and grow up by themselves. I mean, he has apparently always thought like that, but I could realize it only after Ethem was born.
Then, Ethem came into the world. Her mother could not move anywhere for some time since she delivered him by caesarean section. Therefore, I had to take over all duties of motherhood except for breast-feeding.
Of course, behind the expression of "had to" lies hidden an arrogance of manhood. It means, "Her mother was not available, I had to look after him. It is actually the duty of the mother to look after a baby. Because babies grow up by themselves after all. Mothers provide them with the things that they need and they grow up without needing the intervention of their fathers."
I am a socialist. The ideological framework of socialism has offered me a profoundly conscientious and reliable ground where I could build my worldview. I am not a stranger to feminism and women's struggle, either. I am not from the space, of course. However, it was only after I became a father, and let me confess, it was after I became a mother that I have come to realize that the thing called motherhood is a duty defined by men.
In the life adventure of Ethem, who is almost six months old now, I have taken charge of everything that one could think of, ranging from changing his diaper to washing him, from feeding him with baby food to helping him let a fart, from cutting his fingernails to changing his clothes and from putting him to sleep to waking him. And it really took me months to do all these things without thinking, "I am helping his mother."
At this point, where I have reached in time, I have realized that I redefine this state.
Putting aside the physical-organic acts such as breast-feeding, motherhood is definitely not something peculiar or something assigned to women.
Motherhood is the sum of all duties fulfilled to care for the baby and to meet its needs in different stages of its development. Of course, there is a special bond between the woman and the child for hormonal, emotional or birth-related reasons (such as pregnancy, amniotic fluid, placenta, umbilical cord, etc.).
However, this bond is not an excuse to push off a whole of duties on to women and to test and grade them in the end depending on how they fulfill these duties. It is probably the most sensible of all to differentiate between motherhood and childcare. Otherwise, it turns into a horrible imposition of manhood.
I have become the mother of my son. When it is expressed in words, it seems to be a funny or an overly idealistic expression aiming to attract attention. But, it is the essence of the matter. If "caring for the baby" or "being vigilant 24/7 to meet its needs" means motherhood, then, I am the mother of my son.
Except for breast-feeding, I can give him everything which is provided to him by her mother without taking any offence or being lazy about it. Of course, this being the case, the "my father" aspect of the issue has also come up.
Looking at it from its manly side, my father finds it "sympathetic" that I change my son's diaper. Because he thinks that behind this behavior of mine lies the cuteness of a modern father who shows the generosity of helping his wife. He says to himself, "He is a considerate man, how generously he helps his wife."
We, men, love telling women what to do, what not to do and how they are supposed to do what they will do, we love assigning duties to them. Therefore, I think we have to acknowledge that under the title of male violence stands not only inflicting physical or psychological violence on women but also casting various roles to them.
I can say without hesitation that the definition of the duty put forward as motherhood is, in fact, a crosscheck of the attempt to form a power domain called fatherhood.
In other words, woman should be the mother so that man can comfortably be the father.
Considered in the light of the reality that fatherhood is a pure authority and a loveless power figure, a man changing the diaper of his child cannot be said to have a force before the authority of "fatherhood."
In that case, fatherhood means making room for oneself by pushing women to motherhood. And this room, which is a domain where the notion of power has the free hand, is uncontrollable and does not exclude violence.
There are numerous types of male violence. Speaking for myself, it is sad that I waited for the day when I became a "father" to become aware of the type of male violence that I have talked about here.
Of course, I do not spend my energy on being embarrassed about it. But, I still cannot say that I do not regret the time that I spent until I have got rid of the arrogance of "I am helping the mother of my baby with her duty" and to be convinced that motherhood or the duty of care/ upbringing is a collective work.
Although my father still looks at the matter from the viewpoint of "My modern son is supporting his wife", I have understood the seriousness of the situation.
I would really like to elaborate on what exactly I have understood, but Ethem has woken up and I have to heat up his food. (MÜE/ŞA/APA/SD)
Images: Kemal Gökhan Gürses
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