Blog Post from our Men’s Initiative Intern, Jackson Murphy

Our Men's Initiative Intern, Jackson Murphy, discusses the film Step Up and the importance of responsible fatherhood.

Let's Talk About Fatherhood: A Reflection on the New Film Step Up

Growing up, I was always surprised when my dad told me he didn’t want anything for Fathers Day. My numerous inquiries as to why he would refuse such an opportunity for a gift always elicited the same response from him: “Because every day is Fathers Day.” After hearing this, my slightly confused 10 year old self would go on about my day, passing off this vague answer as just one of my father’s many “dad phrases.” As I reflect on my first month as a Men’s Initiative intern at Jane Doe Inc., I think about these words my dad loved to tell me, and recognize the wisdom behind their meaning. Fatherhood isn’t something to discuss, think about, or appreciate during one particular day or month. It is instead something that affects us every day from childhood into adult life, as demonstrated in Noube Rateau’s film Step Up: A Documentary on Fatherhood.

In Step Up, Rateau artfully weaves the insights and testimonies of an array of Boston area residents into an engaging narrative that delves into a long-ignored conversation about the effects of absentee fatherhood. Step Up analyzed the barriers preventing many men from involved fatherhood such as poverty and welfare policies that provide benefits only to single mothers. It also addresses issues of male privilege around sexuality as many men fail to consider the responsibility of parenthood that may come as a result of sex.

If these issues of absentee fatherhood are so prevalent, why aren’t more people concerned? The documentary begins with the statistic that one in three children in the country live in fatherless homes. This may be a surprising, concerning figure that captures the average person’s attention for a period of time. However, it is easy to archive statistics like this one into our vast mental libraries that shelve the other numbers we regularly encounter. Step Up personalizes the stories behind these numbers, evoking empathy among viewers as they consider the effects of absentee fatherhood.

Step Up reframes the statistics to represent all of the lives affected by absent fathers. One in three is no longer something we hear out of the U.S. Census Report. It is instead the single mother who comes home from work and, without any breaks or help, takes care of her child. It is also the young professional who volunteers with kids, to provide them with the positive male role model he didn’t have while growing up; or the several young men who are conflicted about letting their fathers into their lives after a childhood of absence. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this statistic represents the dads who are trying to change this trend, whether that be driving to New York every weekend to spend time with his kid, or meeting with his son’s teachers and coaches to make sure he is doing well in school. These people along with the many others featured in Step Up, illustrate the far reaching effects of fatherhood, providing stories that viewers will surely remember after watching.

In light of the issues raised in Step Up, however, we cannot overlook the efforts of community programs that support healthy fatherhood, or the men who strive to be involved, positive parents for their children. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the Fathers Family Fun Day event in Dorchester, where I saw enthusiastic dads participate in fun activities with their kids in the process of building a strong support network of fathers. This is a perfect example as to how we can talk about the importance of fatherhood. The conversation begins in our own communities as we work toward positively shaping future generations. In doing so, we will see that fatherhood represents more than a statistic, and certainly more than a single day out of the year. Fatherhood is a relationship, a responsibility, and an opportunity affecting so many lives. It is a job that prompts proud dads to forever proclaim, "Every day is Fathers Day."