Carey Roberts: The Feminist Anti-Kid Crusade
by Carey Roberts --show me more like this
Call it one of those simple yet profound truths: only a father can help a boy become a man. And only a daddie can teach a girl about healthy male-female relationships.
Both dads and moms are unique and special. Maybe that's why dads love to mix it up with rough-and-tumble play. Perhaps it's why fathers teach kids a thing or two about risk-taking. And no doubt it has something to do with that tough love thing.
Countless studies point to the same conclusion: kids with hands-on dads do better in school, in the community, and in life. I could almost write a book about it -- and fortunately, someone already has: www.fatherhood.org/fatherfacts.asp .
But there's a somber side to this story. Kids who lose their father are two to three times more likely to get in trouble with the law and are more likely to suffer from a broad array of social pathologies.
The saga can be traced back to the mid-1960s when marriage was portrayed as an oppressive institution and no-fault divorce laws arrived on the scene. Within 10 years, the U.S. divorce rate almost doubled.
And what happened to the million-or-so kids whose parents divorced each year? Operating under the "tender years doctrine," family courts almost always awarded custody of the youngsters to mothers.
But the tender years apple cart was upset in 1971. That year the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Reed v. Reed case that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents courts from basing opinions on sex. Before long, gender-neutral custody statutes had replaced maternal preference standards in almost every state.
Despite those changes in the law, judicial bias persisted. In 1994, mothers were awarded custody in 85% of cases. Eight years later, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that number remained unchanged. [www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p60-217.pdf]
Keep in mind, every time a father is relegated to the status of an every-other-weekend visitor, it's the children who lose out. It's those same kids who end up as social misfits and statistics in your newspaper police report.
So children's rights advocates began to push for laws based on a presumption of joint physical custody.
Not only is joint custody firmly rooted in the notion of gender equality, it's also ideal for kids. As Dr. Joan Kelly, former president of the Academy of Family Mediators concluded, shared parenting "is a desirable outcome which clearly is in the best interests of children and families." [www.fatherseqrts.org/determin%20custody] By 1991, over 40 states had shared parenting laws in place.
But the M.O.M.s -- Mothers Opposed to Men -- were not going to remain silent. In 1996 the National Organization for Women passed a resolution that began with this chestnut: "many judges and attorneys are still biased against women, and fathers are awarded custody 70% of the time when they seek it." [www.now.org/organization/conference/1996/resoluti.html]
So there you have it -- the fact that mothers were winning custody 85% of the time was proof of widespread anti-female bias in the legal system.
The M.O.M.s then proceeded to do everything in their power to throw dirt on the joint custody idea. But nobody would listen to them. In fact powerful politicos -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- began to speak out on the importance of fatherhood.
So three years ago the M.O.M. Squad met at tiny Siena College in upstate New York to plot their next move. This time they decided to drag the domestic violence boogeyman out of the closet. [www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2006/0222roberts.html]
Soon the M.O.M.s were cranking out red-meat claims like, "In custody cases where the mother alleges battery by the father, the father is awarded custody two-thirds of the time." That shrill allegation made its way into the recent PBS fake-umentary, Breaking the Silence.
But once again, the M.O.M.s were blowing smoke. [www.fathersandfamilies.org/NEWS/BTSResearchCritiqueWithComments.pdf]
Despite the fact that kids with involved dads do better, regardless of all the joint custody laws, and in spite of the laughable antics of the M.O.M. brigade, mothers continue to be favored in custody decisions by a 7 to 1 margin.
All this, of course, is done in the name of the "best interests of the child."
Family researcher Judith Wallerstein once lamented, "I have been deeply struck by the distress children of every age suffer at losing their fathers." Maybe we should all begin by listening to the voices of the little ones.
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