Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The "r" word

The 'r' word

There was some point in the 20th Century when custody of Children following divorce switched from the Father to the Mother. We should revisit that history and understand how it happened.

In Japan only recently did the law switch from favouring the Father to favouring the Mother.

In many countries including Lebanon, the Father is still favoured for child custody.

There was no catastrophe when Fathers had custody of the Children. Still, I believe allowing both Parents to participate fully in a Child's life is preferable to marginalising either of them.

I am, of course, an advocate for the Presumption of Equal Parenting Time.

I believe that this is a natural right - to have full access to one's own child ('full access' means 'half access' in the case of separated parents). This natural right can only be taken away in circumstances of abuse (or negotiated where there are obvious practical problems such as living in different cities).

If there are problems with parenting in society, focus on resolving the problems ! Don't sweep the problems under the carpet by reducing access ! This achieves nothing.

To me the situation is prima facie - I shouldn't even have to argue it. We live in a society based on civil rights and this is one of them. Parenting is a civil right which has been taken away from Dads (and sometimes Mums). Dads have been hoodwinked.

It is akin to people being against, or being indecisive about, poorly educated black people having a right to vote. Or simply - universal suffrage (eg women getting the vote). In my view there is no difference.

We should be indignant. We should be outraged.

But it is politically incorrect to talk about 'rights'. We must only talk about 'the best interests of the Child'. A recent article in The Age finishes by saying "Someone has to keep an eye out for the interests of the child." Of course we should. But this sentiment has become gratuitous. It has been used for decades by the Family Court system and the Radical Feminists to keep Children and Dads apart. The sentiment is being facetiously and politically manipulated.

There is only one men's group I know which will openly talk about men's rights. All the others keep well away from this explosive word 'rights'.

Here are a couple of recent quotes by a (male) feminist which indicates how the Domestic Violence campaigns are a feminist strategy (the fear factor) being used to block the movement for increased involvement of Dads in their Children's lives following family separation:

"Recent politicking from Men's Rights groups and amendments to Family Law legislation are two examples of an apparent backlash against feminism".

Shane Hopkinson, (male) Sociology, Central Queensland University
Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research Vol 5 No2 Dec 2006 p4

The Fathers Rights Agenda
In many respoects there is a false controversy being created in the media and, it would seem, in the minds of my students, which I think is an important marker of the extent to which the backlash politics is gaining ground. It is driven by a Fathers' Rights anti-feminism which has seen the government sponsor such groups as Lone Fathers Association to the tune of $100,000 over 2 years (Summers 2003:98), and who have thus been able to promote the idea that violence is not gendered and/or that the 'issue' of domestic violence is really the product of a 'feminist industry' that exaggerates the extent of family violence and unfairly blames it all on men.

While professing a concern for male victims of violence and showing a willingness to exploit men's pain and suffering at the end of relationships, Fathers' Rights groups have been able to generate considerable sympathy and have been able to get the ear of government. Unfortunately their real agenda is a re-assertion of traditional male prerogatives over women and children. Aside from the idea of gender symmetry in family violence they have promoted the idea that children need fathers above all else and this is gradually displacing the issue of child safety as the key issue in court determinations of custody and access. Further they seek to discredit female victims by alleging that women:

1. fabricate false allegations of child abuse to deny men access to their children (in fact, cases of abuse only appear in a small number of hearings); and

2. stategically and punitively use Apprehended Violence Orders or Domestic Violence Orders as a bargaining tool in Court rather than out of any genuine fear of violence."

Shane Hopkinson, (male) Sociology, Central Queensland University
Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research Vol 5 No2 Dec 2006

Yes - only one men's organisation that I know of that dares to speak about 'men's rights' (funny how 'men's rights' has an ominous resonance, and 'women's rights' conjures up images of morality and justice. How did 'men's rights' become a dirty word ?)

However, this organisation is run by a woman (who censors my postings and has removed me from the list though I have done nothing provocative - until this e-mail at least. I am simply speaking up). Another men's group has warned me not to represent them otherwise I will face police prosecution. Bizarre as I have never attempted to represent them ! How can the movement be so immature ?

Two prominent men's groups who receive government funding are not working for a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time in my view. One says we have missed the boat, the other says we already got a good deal. (They nominally agree with the policy of a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time but they do not appear to be actively lobbying for it).

I don't want to fragment the Dad's Movement, but rather to argue that Presumption of Equal Parenting Time is not a radical extreme position, but the obvious and central goal.

Yes, Dad's have been hoodwinked. We have been led to believe that:

1. men are less worthy Parents than women,

2. equal parenting is too destabilising for Children,

3. a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time will put Children at greater risk of abuse.

All three of these myths are false.

The authorities know it. They are attempting to appease us by modifying the Family Court system culture somewhat. But we do not want appeasement. We wish our natural rights as fathers to be recognised and acted upon.

One prominent feminist has stated that if Dads want equal parenting we have to earn it. I suppose she would nominate herself to be on the judging panel for each and every Dad.

The Feminist Movement is a formidable opposition. Worse, the Labor Party will probably win the next election (we must vote for supportive Independents, and Family First - as long as Family First can make their support for a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time a little more explicit). This will not be an easy or short term campaign, but we will win in the end.

This e-mail is provocative - it is intended to be. Some Dads groups may recommend we walk softly and come in from the back door. I say we enter from the front door. But we must be well-dressed, well presented, calm, happy, and well-reasoned. Yes, it is a Public Relations competition.

Some people will label me an extremist - perhaps a 'radical masculinist'. But I promote:

1. peace, non-violence, conflict resolution, mediation, reconciliation, and respect
2. discussion and debate
3. equal rights, equity and reciprocation.

The feminist position is a radical one founded on deceit (98% of domestic violence is perpetrated by men). My experience is that Radical Feminists are generally not willing to engage in debate.

The position of a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time is a reasonable and moderate one.

But we won't make much further progress until Dads start waking up to the situation. We need to organise, and we need to be independent of government funding.

Of course I welcome women to be a part of the movement for a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time, and a number of women have already made fantastic contributions.

Also, I believe the majority of feminists, judging by opinion polls and my own experience with petition tables in the street, is that most feminists support a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time. Unfortunately the Executive is not listening to their Constituency. In fact you could probably define Radical Feminism, as distinct from mainstream Feminism, by their view on a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time. You are either for it, against, or undecided. There is no compromise position.

Each of us needs to be active on a regular basis. Integrate it into your weekly schedule.

And we need to be actively waking up other Dads to the ongoing injustice of the Family Court system, as well as the benefits of Children spending more time with their Dads.

Cheers, Geoff

(PS with no intentions of running for office or seeking government funding. So please pardon the grandstanding, but some of us have to do it).

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