Fighting the patriarchy one diaper at a time
By Marya Errin Jones
Moments after the image posts, it goes viral: a man in army fatigue cargo shorts, black tank shirt revealing his massive, muscular arms, biceps flexed, his head cocked to the side. His focus is unwavering. In his right hand, he holds an object, dwarfed by the enormity of his grip. He’s a “man’s man.” The item the man is holding is ... a kid’s hair brush.
Photos by Heidi Yount
The photo posted by blogger and father Doyin Richards to his daddydoinwork.com website caused a range of reactions, from gushing praise to racist outrage. What in the hell was that man of color doing—a black man specifically—brushing one young daughter’s hair while cradling his cherubic infant in a BabyBjorn? Wow. Big news. Oh, I’m sorry, did you say something was happening in the Ukraine right now?
“I’ve learned so much from queer fathers, from trans fathers, fathers of color. As a father, and because I didn’t want to parent through violence, I had to learn to listen.”
It’s easy to dismiss the “controversial” photo of Richards as no big deal, but it sparked a revolution of sorts for the mainstream media, not just because of the popular perception of black fathers, but of fathers in general. The image of a male parent performing a simple parental duty broke the internet for a minute and nearly broke through the phalanx of an impenetrable line of thought that suggests the day-to-day aspects of being a parent and being a father are gender-based.
Tomas Moniz, New Mexico native (now based in the Bay Area), father of three, founder of “Rad Dad Zine” and editor of Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood, offers his critique of the photo. “The irony is that women have brushed children’s hair for eons,” Moniz says. As much as he appreciates the loving photo of Richards, he notes, “Fathers shouldn’t get the glory for doing something any concerned parent should do.” He explains that, like Richards’ blog, “Rad Dad Zine” goes beyond the accepted roles of parenting, challenging limited, mainstream views of fatherhood.
Moniz established “Rad Dad Zine” in 2006 as a means of coping with the
triumphs and pitfalls of parenting. The zine was inspired in part by Ariel Gore’s zine “Hip Mama,” a mainstay for radical parenting since 1993. Like “Hip Mama,” “Rad Dad” has grown into a staple for “Left Coast” readers. Today, Moniz is ready to expand his zine’s reach, making it available in communities that need a dissenting voice to challenge the status quo of parenting. “I want to get ‘Rad Dad’ into bookstores, supermarkets and libraries in every state.”
“Rad Dad” is relaunching as a full-color, large-format zine with the support of an Indiegogo campaign. While the campaign didn’t reach its financial mark, Moniz continues to pursue his goal––to push past the patriarchy with even more stories from the frontier of radical parenting.
“There is so much more than the mainstream representations of fathering, which are mostly white and middle class,” Moniz says. “I’ve learned so much from queer fathers, from trans fathers, fathers of color. As a father, and because I didn’t want to parent through violence, I had to learn to listen. When you know [your children] are doing something ‘wrong,’ you just have to let them do it, and you have to watch them hurt. You want to grab your 16-year-old and stop her from leaving, but you know you can’t stop her from leaving.
“Through ‘Rad Dad,’ I am trying to represent fathering as a holistic, vulnerable thing,” Moniz says. “Fathers need to change––not just diapers.”
Moniz hasn’t changed a dirty diaper in a long time. His children Dylan, 23, Zora, 18, and Ella, 16, are independent people, raised by their anarchist, antiauthoritarian father to explore fully realized lives of their own making. “You have to hold as you let go,” Moniz points out. He might have an empty nest, but he has not yet begun to parent; the fathering continues. Moniz pours his nurturing into his zine and the community he’s helping to build around it.
At the LA Zine Fest a few weekends ago, the warmth in Moniz’ voice could be heard over the hum of Los Angeles hipster folk. Full of enthusiasm, he explained to a father perusing his zines that “Rad Dad” is always looking for great stories about parenting from fathers, mothers and children alike. Moniz invited the man to join the community of rad dads by contributing his own verse.“You know, if you’re feeling creative, why not?”
The father Moniz offered encouraging words to was a guy named Matt. Matt Groening. So, Bart Simpson’s dad reads “Rad Dad” now. Cool.
“I have no shame,” Moniz says. “I have to reach out. I had no idea who that was until I saw people taking pictures with him. Dope!”
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