By Katie Kieffer
Forget chocolate, diamonds and flowers. Women want fathers.
Not every woman has a brother. Not every woman finds or wants a husband (today just 51 percent of all adults 18 and over are married compared to 72 percent in 1960). However, I think every woman needs and desires a male role model in her life.
Pink ribbons are plastered on everything from yogurt containers to NFL uniforms. And numerous “find the cure” organizations appear to be staying in business longer than necessary because they squander their funds on non-research projects (think abortions at Planned Parenthood), leaving women on their own to find the cure to breast cancer.
Not every woman gets breast cancer (a horrible condition and certainly worthy of honest research funding.) Fathers, in contrast, are important to the health and development of all women. So, I think that one of the best things we can do for women as a whole is encourage men to be good fathers and father figures.
Ideally a “father figure” is a woman’s biological father, but not always. A friend, adoptive father, uncle, husband, grandpa or a brother can become a male role model for a woman when her biological father dies or otherwise ducks out of her life.
Some biological fathers abandon their daughters; they get a woman pregnant and then leave her to change the baby’s diapers (after kindly offering to pay for an abortion, of course.) Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs initially fell into this category: He got his on-and-off girlfriend pregnant and refused to be an active father for the first ten years of her life. Jobs eventually assumed his proper role as a father and he deeply regretted his early behavior.
Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson: “I wish I had handled it differently. I could not see myself as a father then, so I didn’t face up to it. But when the test results showed she was my daughter, it’s not true that I doubted it. I agreed to support her until she was eighteen and give some money to Chrisann [his ex-girlfriend] as well. I found a house in Palo Alto and fixed it up and let them live there rent-free. Her mother found her great schools which I paid for. I tried to do the right thing. But if I could do it over, I would do a better job.”
When Jobs married his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, he brought his daughter into his own home and took her on a special father-daughter trip to Japan as he eventually did with all three of his and Powell’s children.
Jobs understood that his first daughter was still scarred by his behavior early in her life, even at his death, although they did reconcile. He told his biographer that the reason he wanted the biography was not to explain his entrepreneurial story with Apple: “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
Jobs’ father abandoned him and gave him up for adoption. Because of this, Jobs struggled with a feeling of abandonment his entire life. Jobs ‘used to play [John Lennon’s song Mother] often,’ Isaacson writes. ‘The refrain includes the haunting chant “Mama don’t go, Daddy come home.”’ The behavior of his father probably played a huge role in Jobs’ behavior toward his own first daughter.
Fathers who only have sons are just as important: When men raise good sons, they do their sons’ future girlfriends, wives and grandchildren a huge favor. Fathers have the power to prevent or encourage bad behavior: When a young man cheats on his wife, it’s often because he saw his father cheat on his mother, confirms a 2011 study from the Charles University in Prague.
Likewise, when a young father is addicted to porn, it’s usually because his own father was a porn buff. In all, Jobs fathered three girls and one boy. He wasn’t a perfect father, but he genuinely thought about the message his actions sent to his children. Isaacson tells how, early on, Jobs insisted on a policy against porn apps for the iPhone. Jobs quipped: “Folks who want porn can buy an Android.”
Jobs’ decision to censor porn apps at his own tech company upset the editor of tech blog Valleywag, Ryan Tate. One evening, he poured himself a stinger cocktail and emailed Jobs: “I don’t want ‘freedom from porn.’ Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”
Jobs fired his own email back: “You might care more about porn when you have kids. It’s not about freedom, it’s about Apple trying to do the right thing for its users. By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others’ work and belittle their motivations?”
By sticking to his guns, Jobs impressed Tate, who later wrote: “Jobs not only built and then rebuilt his company around some very strong opinions about digital life, but he’s willing to defend them in public. Vigorously. Bluntly. At two in the morning on a weekend.”
A girl’s father shapes who she eventually finds herself attracted to. A girl whose father spoils her and stymies her with excessive attention will end up being irresponsible and incompetent. On the flip side, research shows that a girl whose father abandons her when she is young will prematurely reach sexual maturity and end up feeling both abandoned and sexually insecure. This insecurity could lead her to attach herself to smooth-talking bumpkins who use her and lose her.
I think the most influential man in every woman’s life is her father. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Be a father figure to your daughter—or a woman who needs one. You will change the world.
Key pages referenced from Walter Isaacson’s book, “Steve Jobs:” 51, 91, 551-552, 556-557.