Fathers are caring, let’s be nice to them

What better way to celebrate Father’s Day than to spray paint on the Queen’s portrait in Westminster Abbey? Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? And, if not, then at least it gets swift media attention.
The paint-happy vandal, Tim Haries, turned out to be a disgruntled daddy, belonging to a group called Fathers4Justice. He said he wanted to draw attention to his inability to get access to his children in a divorce related custody battle. In the past, this group has registered its wrath against ‘”discrimination” through fairly bizarre antics, such as climbing onto the roof of Parliament. But this week, Mr Haries decided to “attack” the Queen’s portrait to highlight the neglected “rights” of fathers. Many in the group believe — particularly during and after a divorce — that fathers are often discriminated against. And could this cry for help resonate in any other areas as well? Is there a wanton “neglect” and misrepresentation of fathers? Should we, as a society, take a pledge on Fathers Day to be nicer to papas?
Well, according to one study conducted by the Netmums online forum, many popular portrayals of fathers both on TV programmes as well as in advertisements are often contemptuous. They reinforce the image of the incompetent, bumbling father and could be worrying especially when they are targeted at children, who could be absorbing these messages. The popular Peppa Pig series, for instance, has a father just as lazy as Homer in The Simpsons. These programmes depict mothers being clever and hard working.
This “dim wit dad” stereotype could, it is felt, affect relationships that caring fathers try to build with their children. However, in reality the situation is far more complex. Since at least a million children in the UK are growing up without a father’s influence, could society do more to appreciate the contribution of dads? Is the belief that many fathers don’t want to be involved in a hands-on relationship with their children, an outdated one? And should we treat all fathers nicely? But what if they are naughty and spray paint on portraits of the Queen? Now that’s another matter.

Meanwhile, another person who somehow manages to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons is Sally Bercow, the wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons. (She has appeared so often in these columns that perhaps I should do a whole book about her, someday). Some of you might recollect that she had been told to pay damages towards libel and costs of more than £100,000 for a tweet in which she had insinuated that a Tory peer could be a paedophile. While we all understand that she probably does need to gather the cash to pay the fine, many were bemused that she began to sell furniture from the Speaker’s official apartment on eBay, even before she was landed with the libel damages. Talk about being intuitive.
While the items on sale belonged to Ms Bercow, it is surprising that the buyers were told to collect the stuff from Westminster. It seems Ms Bercow does a lot of buying and selling on eBay. According to one report in the Daily Mail, she even turns up herself to pick up a bargain from those sellers who don’t live in Westminster in a rented van. While most of the furniture Ms Bercow auctioned looked fairly ordinary, it was the background of the grand apartment that gave them a rather unique aura. No wonder all articles were sold almost immediately. Alas, I learnt about it too late. I quite fancied an Edwardian chair, which was under a 100 quid. But I am sure Ms Bercow will be at it again.
The story of whistleblower Edward Snowden and the way he revealed the US spying programme, Prism, is intriguing. But the story of his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, who said she was “lost at sea without a compass” as Mr Snowden melted away is also quite peculiar. The media was agog when this “petite’ pole dancer, who is not publicity shy at all, posted semi nude pictures of herself on the Internet claiming to be sick and exhausted. It seems she knew little of Mr Snowden’s work though she had been living with him in Hawaii. While typing on her “grief streaked keyboard” in recent days, the bohemian Ms Mills — who had longed to see herself on the cover of magazines — has finally found that her missing boyfriend had made her dream come true.
On the other hand, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is angry with the Guardian and the Washington Post as both the newspapers have not revealed the full information given by Mr Snowden, while the US is furious that so much has been revealed. But in the midst, it is interesting that out of all the media houses he could have selected, Mr Snowden chose to trust the British newspaper, the Guardian. That’s impressive because the Guardian does have a long history of liberalism. He even clandestinely got in touch with a Guardian correspondent in Brazil, and then asked him to come to Hong Kong for the revelations.
But all this has made many ordinary folks like me feel immensely flattered. At last we are part of some list, somewhere. Perhaps, right now all my boring Sainsbury Internet shopping is being scrutinised by CIA agents who are trying to figure out why I ordered three kilos of apples when one would have done…

The writer can be contacted at www.kishwardesai.com

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