In the movies, Batman is one gloomy, wildly wealthy heir and CEO who spends his free time attending galas and wearing capes and pursuing vigilante justice. Sometimes he hangs out with a young man named Robin. Sometimes his suits have nipples.
Now, what if in real life, Batman a) existed (please stay with me)
and b) was not one man, but many men — men who wear khakis and take heartburn medication and love watching World War II documentaries and maybe at some point had unprotected sex with your mom? What if, in short, the Bat Men were dads?
Recently, my colleague Callie Beusman observed that a “shockingly large majority of people have a very vivid story about their dad interacting with bats.” It was true! At least for me. When I was growing up, my father would tell me about the time a bat flew into my parents’ house through an open window and landed directly on his chest, clinging to his shirt. My dad walked outside (“We made eye contact — I think he knew I was trying to help him,” he told me in an email [my dad; not the bat]), shook his shirt off, and the bat “flew away into the night so we were all happy.”
Soon, other people chimed in with their own Bat Dad stories, some sweet, some gruesome.
And, of course, shared this important Bat Dad moment:
Curious if there was any science to back up Callie’s bat theory, I reached out to Amanda Lollar, the founder and president of Bat World Sanctuary, who had concerns about our story.
“I’ve heard thousands of bats stories over the years but never any that suggests bats are attracted to men,” she told me. “Frankly, some of those comments are disgusting and not the least bit funny. There is nothing comical about stomping an innocent animal to death, much less one that is critical to our own survival on Earth,” she concluded, referring to one account that ended with a woman’s family taking a (still alive!) bat they’d found to Animal Control, only to have the officer ominously write on an official form that the bat had been “stomped to death.”
“I hope your article doesn’t amplify irrational fears that some people have about bats,” she added.
Oh no. I didn’t want to make anyone afraid of bats — I think bats are cute, even the ones with the messed up noses. And, as Lollar points out, bats are critical to a healthy planet. They’re often considered a “keystone species” or a species that is essential to certain tropical and desert ecosystems, because they eat so many insects, including agricultural pests; their feces (guano) is a valuable fertilizer; and some of them even pollinate plants. Still, it’s good to know that they’re not more drawn to men in general, and fathers in particular.
To be sure, I also reached out to Javier Folgar the director of communications at Bat Conservation International (BCI), who agreed that “bats are not attracted to one sex versus the other,” and are “unbiased when it comes to gender.” Even so, it seems that bat experts have Bat Dad stories too. As Jason Corbett, BCI’s director of the subterranean program told the Cut:
“From an early age, I can recall my father, Richard Corbett, explain what those winged creatures were buzzing around the streetlights by our home. We lived about ½ mile from a colony of around 200,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that dispersed into the surrounding neighborhoods each evening. We played outside a lot as kids and during evening games of baseball on our street, bats would often zoom after errant balls. This was how I learned about how bats hunt, my dad explaining their erratic movements and interest in our baseballs, if only for a second or two.”
So, there is no scholarship to suggest a biological reason behind the phenomenon of the Bat Dad. Maybe it’s just a symptom of toxic, caveman masculinity, and the fact that when critters appear, dads are the first to get involved because they want to look macho. Or maybe all bats feel abandoned and are looking for a father figure in their life. Maybe we just wanted to do a blog about anything other than all the hot garbage in the news. Who knows.