by Clyde Verner
Men with intact families may not feel represented by the sometimes frenzied actions of fathers’ rights advocates.
Besides ordinary married dads, the pages of FatherMag.com report on single fathers, and fathers’ rights advocates. For the most part, the fathers’ rights activists fall into one of two categories:
1. A small group of winners: Men who got their kids and are not angry at the system. They just want more social acceptance of their role.
2. A much larger group of men who have lost their kids. This group consists of two subgroups: a- The guys who just quietly disappeared from their kids’ lives, and b- Men who lost their kids and are angry. At least some of these are very responsible fathers who were burned by very irresponsible mothers. These men are incensed at what is happening both to them and their children. They will spend the rest of their lives working to DO something about it.
This group is very vocal and agitated. Often, the members of this group seem to focus their wrath on feminism, godlessness and liberalism. They are the fiercest advocates for the importance of fathers. Their writings make up an important part of Fathering Magazine.
Dan Amneus is one of the heroes, and he argues that stable marriage depends on man’s physical, instinctive and traditional authority in the family. Strong fathers physically and morally own their families, and we call that marriage. It is marriage which makes human childhood possible. A legal system which undermines the authority of fathers strikes at the heart of procreation, and of humanity itself. (See his article Father Custody.) Dan Amneus’ view may provide us insight when comparing today’s world of weak fathers to that of the past, but what about the future?
With a planet rapidly becoming over-populated, our situation has changed. A population which outgrows its domain smothers in its own excrement. The buildup of carbon dioxide and other pollution is the excrement of humanity.
Any over-populated species becomes ill, and perhaps the death of the family is just part of the dying process.
But unless the Taliban rules, we’re not going to turn back the clock and banish divorce, feminism, or any of those other things we love to hate and blame for fatherlessness. Those who want women to again be subjugated and financially dependent on men are failing to come to terms with the changing environment in which we live. Like all species, we must adapt to our changing environment or perish.
Nature provided that men are physically stronger than women, just as it provided that parents are stronger than their brood. Humans as a species could not exist and will not survive without this natural hierarchy. There was a social, religious, and legal structure which codified this natural order into the law of man. Marriage provided a stability which reached beyond the passions of romance.
These natural and social structures fitted well in a world of large families, a world where women spent their productive years bearing and caring for children. Even today, if all the women just returned home and kept busy having twelve babies, then it might be possible to restore the natural order. A few primitive tribes still live that way, but for the rest of us it doesn’t seem likely short of global calamity. In an overpopulated world, such fruitful existence would be a calamity in itself.
The old traditional order seemed sometimes difficult and restrictive, but life is hard. The rules served humanity well by providing children the stability of intact families. Father had economic, moral, and legal control of the family unit and invested in its future. But today’s father has at best only remnants of these controls. A family’s stability today extends no further than the goodwill of its participants. When the romance dies, often so does the marriage. Now women can easily opt out of the hardships of marriage. In eight out of ten divorces, it is the woman who sees a more attractive option and chooses it unilaterally.
Short of a global disaster, trying to beat today’s woman back into economic, moral, and legal submission would require a Taliban approach of dedicated brutality.
Such a step backward, however attractive to the insulted male, won’t save us in today’s world. The only way out of this has to be forward. That means making both men and women recognize the father’s role as essential to a child’s healthy development. Father has to be someone who values his relationship to the child and is given the legal authority to maintain that relationship beyond the whims of mom. For too many kids today, “father” is just mom’s latest boyfriend. He has little or no motivation to form attachments to the brood of her previous bedmates, knowing that any such attachment could only endure until the arrival of her next heartthrob. One only invests with enthusiasm where one sees a chance to share in the future.
The fathers’ rights movement is demanding recognition for the importance of a father involvement which reaches beyond the lifetime of a romance.
This battle is not about men. It’s about our future. All of us. Let’s get men investing again in our children.
In the twelve years since the first version of this article was written, this realization has become widespread, working its way into society and into the legal system. It’s becoming archaic to refer to this concept of maximizing our investment in children as “fathers’ rights.” Both men and women are beginning to understand that most children will prosper more easily with fathers than without. Despite much progress, lagging behind is a legal system which still has built-in rewards for the ex-wife who can get everything she wants by saying something nasty about dad and urging the kids to adopt her point of view. Often a man feels that fighting her would put his kids in an even worse situation, and so he just quietly surrenders.
If we don’t yet have a remedy for the loss of male dominance, we need to at least be asking the right questions. The right question is not how do we make women dependent again. Most likely, one of the right questions is: How do we as parents design a stable and nourishing childrearing environment which fits our current reality?
This question is one which is best addressed by those who are planning families or who still have an intact family. Failure to come to grips with this question will lead to more broken families, crushed men, and fatherless children.
For the men who have already lost their children, this question is purely academic. For the men who still have intact families, the answer to this question is essential to the survival of their families, the well being of their children, and ultimately humanity.