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Privilege Lost:

An Elegy For Absentee Fathers through the Lens of 
Joan Osborne’s Pensacola

In American culture, white men are the demographic most often associated with being born with economic and socio-cultural privileges that the rest of us have to struggle to achieve. But all white men do not run Fortune 500 companies. What happens when you are white, male, and you are not successful by anyone’s standards? Are we still supposed to feel sorry for you? How much of your failure is simply bad choices? Why should anyone shed a tear for you?

Well I found him in Pensacola
In a trailer in the sand

The man from the picture
Creased and yellowed in my hand
Creased and yellowed in my hand

There exists a considerable research base that suggests that children raised in households lacking a father experience psychosocial problems with greater frequency than children with a father in the home (Allen & Daly, 2007). These problems have been found to extend into adolescence and adulthood and include an increased risk of substance use, depression, suicide, poor school performance, and contact with the criminal justice system (Allen & Daly, 2007). Lack of paternal involvement has also been associated with a higher likelihood of being bullied and experiencing abuse (Allen & Daly, 2007).

From “Father-Absent Homes: Implications for Criminal Justice and Mental Health Professionals”

—Jerrod Brown, MA


Although father absence has important implications for wellbeing across the sexes, much of the literature has focused on the effect that father absence has on the developmental and reproductive outcomes exhibited by girls as they approach and enter adulthood. Much of this body of work is informed by paternal investment theory (PIT), which is an evolutionary-based framework that predicts that fathers play an important role in the regulation of daughter's sexual development (Trivers, 1972; Draper & Harpending, 1982; Ellis, 2004; Ellis et al., 2003; Ellis et al. 2012).

              PIT posits that natural selection designed girls' brains to detect and encode information about their fathers' social behavior and investment as a basis for calibrating their own reproductive strategies. According to this perspective, if a girl grows up in a home with a high-investing father, this sends her a message that (a) she lives in the type of environment that favors heavy parental investment by mothers and fathers and (b) that the benefits of parental investment (in terms of long-term reproductive success) are high. In these types of environments, it is advantageous for women to invest heavily in their own development before reaching sexual maturity and beginning to reproduce, because it will improve their ability to create highly competitive offspring. On the other hand, if a girl grows up in a home where paternal investment is lacking, this is believed to send the opposite message: male investment cannot be relied upon in this environment and the benefits of investment in an individual offspring are insufficient to outweigh the costs of forgoing additional reproductive opportunities. In these types of mating systems, it is evolutionarily advantageous for women to shift their sexual development and decision-making in ways that promote a 'quantity over quality' mating strategy (Draper & Harpending, 1982, 1988), which is characterised by precocious sexual development and earlier age of first reproduction.

From “Absent fathers and sexual strategies”

—Sarah E. Hill, Randi P. Proffitt Leyva and Danielle J. DelPriore

He was squinting and stubbled

And standing in the door
He said, "If you've come to take that car away
I don't have it anymore
I don't have it anymore"

Repossession, colloquially repo, is a "self-help" type of action in which the party having right of ownership of a property takes the property in question back from the party having right of possession without invoking court proceedings. The property may then be sold by either the financial institution or third-party sellers.

           The extent to which repossession is authorized, and how it may be executed, greatly varies in different jurisdictions. All 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have enacted (with minor variations) Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which generally permits security interest holders to repossess goods if a debtor is in default and the repossession can be conducted without a breach of the peace. Being "in default" means that the debtor has failed to fulfill his or her obligations under the contract. The most common forms of default resulting in repossession are failing to make required payments and failing to maintain adequate insurance coverage.

He got the gospel on the radio
And the gospel on TV
He got all of the transcripts
Back to 1963
Back to 1963

Televangelism (from televangelist, a blend of television and evangelist) and occasionally termed radio evangelism or teleministry, denotes the utilization of media platforms, notably radio and television, for the marketing of religious messages, particularly Christianity.

          Televangelists are either official or self-proclaimed ministers who devote a large portion of their ministry to television broadcasting. Some televangelists are also regular pastors or ministers in their own places of worship (often a megachurch), but the majority of their followers come from TV and radio audiences. Others do not have a conventional congregation, and work primarily through television.

           Televangelism began as a uniquely American phenomenon, resulting from a largely deregulated media where access to television networks and cable TV is open to virtually anyone who can afford it, combined with a large Christian population that is able to provide the necessary funding.

He said "I sold my blood for money.
There wasn't any pain,

But I just can't stand the feeling
It's in someone else's veins
It's in someone else's veins"

Narcissism is a self–centered personality style characterized as having an excessive preoccupation with oneself and one's own needs, often at the expense of others.

​          Narcissism exists on a continuum that ranges from normal to abnormal personality expression. While many psychologists believe that a moderate degree of narcissism is normal and healthy in humans, there are also more extreme forms, observable particularly in people who are excessively self-absorbed, or who have a mental illness like narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), where the narcissistic tendency has become pathological, leading to functional impairment and psychosocial disability.

Mama took me aside

And she tried to change my mind
She said, "Don't you waste your time in looking
Where there's nothing, nothing left to find
Nothing, nothing left to find."

Children who grow up without their fathers may come to resent paternal-figures due to perceived abandonment. These feelings may burgeon from a lack of trust and result in a heightened sense of anger. As a child grows into adolescence and young adulthood, these problems may contribute to contact with the criminal justice system, use of illicit substances, as well as a variety of mental health problems. These consequences may result in interpersonal dilemmas including the inability to develop strong social bonds. For example, anger stemming from abandonment can make it difficult for juveniles to establish friendships and relationships (Poehlmann, 2005)

—Brown, “Father-Absent Homes”


Much evidence suggests that father absence shifts daughters toward accelerated development, sexuality and reproduction. For instance, researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that early paternal investment is an important determinant of pubertal timing, with daughters of less involved fathers experiencing earlier menarche relative to girls growing up with more involved fathers (Ellis et al., 2003; Ellis et al., 1999; Quinlan, 2003). Moreover, father-absent girls display a host of outcomes often experienced by early developing girls – including increased sexual promiscuity, higher rates of teen pregnancy, earlier first sexual intercourse and reproduction, and difficulty forming stable long-term relationships – with the most pronounced effects being observed for girls whose fathers were absent from an early age (Belsky et al., 1991; Chisholm et al., 2005; Draper & Harpending, 1982; Quinlan, 2003). For example, Ellis and colleagues (2003) examined the association between father absence and girls' sexual behaviour in a demographically diverse sample of girls over a 13-year span. The results revealed that adolescent girls who experienced father absence early in life were twice as likely to have had sexual intercourse and seven times more likely to have been pregnant by age 17 relative to girls whose fathers were present during their early development. Moreover, these effects appear to be specific to girls whose fathers are voluntarily absent, with daughters of widows being spared from these outcomes (Draper & Harpending, 1982; Hetherington, 1972).

—Hill, et al., “Absent Fathers”

So I left him down in Pensacola

In a trailer in the sand

In the United States, mobile-home housing goes back to the early years of cars and motorized highway travel. It was derived from the travel trailer (often referred to during the early years as "house trailers" or "trailer coaches"), a small unit with wheels attached permanently, often used for camping or extended travel. The original rationale for this type of housing was its mobility. Units were initially marketed primarily to people whose lifestyle required mobility. However, in the 1950s, the homes began to be marketed primarily as an inexpensive form of housing designed to be set up and left in a location for long periods of time or even permanently installed with a masonry foundation. Previously, units had been eight feet or fewer in width, but in 1956, the 10-foot (3.0 m) wide home ("ten-wide") was introduced, along with the new term "mobile home"

The man from the picture
Creased and yellowed in my hand
Creased and yellowed in my hand

Black-and-white negatives and prints made by the silver halide process are stable so long as the photographic substrate is stable. Some papers may yellow with age, or the gelatin matrix may yellow and crack with age. If not developed properly, small amounts of silver halide remaining in the gelatin will darken when exposed to light. In some prints, the black silver oxide is reduced to metallic silver with time, and the image takes on a metallic sheen as the dark areas reflect light instead of absorbing it. Silver can also react with sulfur in the air and form silver sulfide. A correctly processed and stored silver print or negative probably has the greatest stability of any photographic medium, as attested by the wealth of surviving historical black-and-white photographs.

             Exposure to light causes embrittlement, fading, and yellowing. The damage is cumulative and usually irreversible. UV light (including from sunlight and fluorescent light) and visible light in the blue part of the spectrum are especially harmful to photographs, but all forms of light, including incandescent and tungsten, are damaging.

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Photo Credits:

Profile Pic: Kate Hallock

All other photos by: Ronnda Cargile Jamison

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