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Long Live the Matriarchy!

by Carey Roberts    --show me more like this

Feminists possess an uncanny ability to work both sides of an issue. Take motherhood, for instance.

For years, the Sisterhood lectured us how tedious and thankless it was to be “just” a mother. It stifled women’s individuality and put a cramp in their career aspirations. Oh dear.

But it wasn’t enough to just lament the demands of motherhood. Someone had to be blamed. And sure enough that “someone” was the patriarchy [www.mensnewsdaily.com/archive/r/roberts/2004/roberts112404.htm].

In her 1986 feminist classic Of Woman Born, Adrienne Rich made the claim that the “patriarchy could not survive without motherhood.” Yes, that’s what she really wrote. According to Ms. Rich, it wasn’t enough for women to rule the world by rocking the cradle – women should also aspire to run the world by rocking the levers of political power.

But if moms were going to break through the Glass Ceiling, who was going to mind the kids? So wives began to coax and plead with their primary breadwinners to become involved dads. Men began to attend Lamaze classes, push baby strollers, and burp junior.

And lo, dads discovered the Joy of Parenting.

But there was still a tiny fly in the ointment – the sticky issue of which parent would gain custody of the kids in the unfortunate event of divorce. Knowing that half of all marriages fall apart, this is hardly an issue that should be relegated to the divorce lawyers.

In the past, custody was routinely awarded to the mother on the basis of the “best interests of the child” doctrine. But like Robin Williams of Mrs. Doubtfire fame, divorced dads said that argument was deeply flawed.

They pointed to a growing body of research which showed that continued involvement of the father was essential for a child’s welfare. For example, the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology featured an article by Dr. Robert Bauserman, who reviewed 33 studies on this critical topic. He reached this reassuring conclusion: Despite the divorce, children enjoyed better family relationships, self-esteem, and emotional adjustment when dads were allowed to remain involved in the kids’ lives.

So child advocates began to push the idea of equal parenting. That approach made sense because it would bypass the acrimony surrounding custody battles.

Looking back, it seemed like such a great idea: Women would be freed from the drudgery of full-time mothering, dads could stay in the picture, and kids would maintain their relationships with both parents. A winning proposition for all – who could argue with that?

But in one of those strange twists of history, the feminist establishment did an abrupt about-face. All across the United States, local chapters of the National Organization for Women came out in opposition to equal parenting.

For years women had been bewailing the monotony of motherhood. Now those same women were arguing against the common-sense notion of keeping dads involved, thus relieving some of the pressures on working moms.

How could this possibly happen? Because in the Matriarchy, mothers enjoy the singular authority to make decisions about their children. In other words, Mothers Rule. And the mendacious matrons at the N.O.W. saw joint custody as usurping that prerogative.

I have known some of these fathers who have been evicted from their children’s lives. I have felt their heartbreak, their profound sense of betrayal.

But these dads would not be deterred. They began to organize, they wrote letters, they lobbied their legislators.

But progress was slow. Groups like the National Association for Counsel of Children came out opposed to equal parenting. Why? Because its members make their money by milking long, drawn-out custody disputes, which can run $100,000 in legal fees.

So recently fathers’ groups in 41 states began to file class action lawsuits [www.indianacrc.org/assocsites.html]. The claims argued that divorced fathers and mothers should be assumed to be equally fit parents – what is called a legal presumption of joint custody.

Until the essential role of fathers is recognized and antiquated laws are changed, millions of American children will be deprived of the steady hand of a loving father. Those children will go to bed at night, wondering when they will be able to see their daddy.

That’s the Matriarchy at work.

Copyright © 2004
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