The Custody Wars For Father’s Property
“The utilization of equality and civil rights language does not change the underlying call for the reinstatement of patriarchy in the fathers’ rights movement. Harkening back to a time when men had near absolute control over children as property, activists advocate for male property rights that trump both the best interests of children and the safety of battered mothers.”
Kelly Behre is a visiting associate professor of law at West Virginia University and the incoming director of the Family Protection and Legal Assistance Clinic at the University of California, Davis.
Director, Family Protection and Legal Assistance Clinic
UC Davis School of Law
Davis, CA 95616-5201
The Fathers’ Rights Movement Undermines Victims of Domestic Violence
A social movement that promotes equal rights for men who want to parent their children is essentially feminist. But the current fathers’ rights movement is not.
I could simply point to the fathers’ rights fringe groups, with their misogynist rants and close ties to the men’s rights movement, to make the case that the movement is not only anti-feminist but anti-women.
The fathers’ rights movement is characterized by thinly veiled misogyny.
But even the more moderate groups within the fathers’ rights movement engage in a backlash against feminism when they attempt to discredit the experiences of female victims of intimate partner violence and roll back legal protections for all victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Self-proclaimed fathers’ rights activists minimize the well-documented prevalenceand severity of domestic violence against women, accusing domestic violence advocates of promoting false allegations that alienate children from their parents.
Many fathers’ rights activists argue that women perpetuate as much, if not more, violence against intimate partners and that most domestic violence is mutual, ignoring or discounting all research to the contrary. They accuse programs that serve battered women of discrimination on the basis of sex, even to the point of bringing (unsuccessful) lawsuits against them on equal protection claims.
They respond to the higher rates of homicide and serious injury committed against women by intimate partners by blaming victims, advocates and court systems, rather than the actual perpetrators of violence. Many even lobbied against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
The utilization of equality and civil rights language does not change the underlying call for the reinstatement of patriarchy in the fathers’ rights movement. Harkening back to a time when men had near absolute control over children as property, activists advocate for male property rights that trump both the best interests of children and the safety of battered mothers.
in the comment section you will find the regular ranting of misogyny and then this jewel appeared –
The trepidness of the feminist response to the onslaught of anti-woman, anti-mother, anti-child legislation that is running rampant in this country ensures that it will continue. Feminists need to organize around this issue and realize that if we don’t, we are soon going to find ourselves with no rights to choose when to have a child and or how to parent the children we choose to have. Last year, in a NYC family court, a female judge ordered that a pregnant woman had no right to leave the state and equated her doing so to kidnapping–this despite the fact that the child’s father had told the mother he wanted nothing to do with it and married someone else! To begin with, feminists are going to have to abandon the language of equality. Mothers and fathers are not equal. This is basic biology. At the moment a child is born, the mother has contributed substantially more to bringing the child into the world than the father. She has, in fact, risked her life to do so. She will then, likely, proceed to produce and distribute the food the child needs to live for the next year. Only when fathers provide half of carrying the child, half of delivering the child, and half of producing the milk for the child, can we have a conversation that is based on an idea of “equality.” And that is impossible. This is a fundamentally unequal arena. Please see two excellent books by Mary Ann Mason: The History of Child Custody in the United States, and The Equality Trap.
Mary Ann Mason is currently professor and co-director of the Center, Economics & Family Security at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
Mary Ann Mason’s scholarship spans children and family law, policy, and history. Recent works have focused on working families, in particular the issues faced by the surging numbers of professional women in law, medicine, science, and the academic world. Her most recent books are, “Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower” (with Nicholas Wolfinger and Marc Goulden, 2013) and “Mothers on the Fast Track” (with daughter, Eve Mason Ekman, 2007).
In the Best Interest of the Child?
Digging beneath the Equality Language: The Influence of the Fathers’ Rights Movement on Intimate Partner Violence Public Policy Debates and Family Law
To anyone unfamiliar with the fathers’ right movement, this story may not cause concern, let alone outrage. But another look at the research and the law may raise red flags. In spite of its dissemination between and beyond the fathers’ rights movement, the evaluation conclusions bear little rational relationship to the findings. The research is at best misguided and confused, and at worst, a deliberate attempt to mislead the public in order to promote a political agenda. The new law is inexplicably redundant, as both the domestic relations code and criminal code already provide sanctions for parents who make false allegations of abuse. The law was essentially a solution created to prove a problem by shifting the public policy focus from protecting victims to questioning their motives and potentially silencing them.
At first glance, the modern fathers’ rights movement and law reform efforts appear progressive, as do the names and rhetoric of the “father’s rights” and “children’s rights” groups advocating for the reforms. They appear a long way removed from the activists who climbed on bridges dressed in superhero costumes or the member martyred by the movement after setting himself on fire on courthouse steps. Their use of civil rights language and appeal to formal gender equality is compelling. But a closer look reveals a social movement increasingly identifying itself as the opposition to the battered women’s movement and intimate partner violence advocates. Beneath a veneer of gender equality language and increased political savyness remains misogynistic undertones and a call to reinforce patriarchy.