Tails: Men’s Rights and Angry Fathers

OK… let’s do a quick Men’s Rights 101. Having kicked off with a post on feminism, it’s time to venture into the relatively murky territory of masculism, which is kinda like feminism from an alternative dimension with a goatee that likes to laugh inappropriately.

Masculism is a word, as I understand it, coined by a dissatisfied former-feminist, (pro-feminist if you prefer) who had come to believe in the importance of men’s rights as a counterpart to feminism. It has since attracted many feminist sceptics, divorced fathers, and sometimes other supporters of feminism. Where Masculism and the broader men’s rights movement stand is a subject of controversy at best. The labelling has gotten a little confusing, but generally speaking it goes something like this: (pro-)feminists think that men’s rights and women’s rights are interdependent and need a co-ordinated response, masculists think men’s rights are independent and refuse to engage women, and anti-feminists want to return to traditional gender roles to protect women.

Personally speaking, a lot of the points masculists and men’s advocates raise seem to me to be sound in principle, but not always in need of immediate action, and in general less urgent than women’s concerns. However, there are still plenty that are quite serious. I will tackle men’s issues, but be aware I’m going to come at it from a progressive, pro-feminist stance, with a concern for facts and accuracy where possible. I’m not aiming to be usurp certain well-known bloggers– we’ll be talking about rights and violations here, not feelings and not support, and I certainly won’t be calling women names. Those are important, but they’re partisan, too, and they serve to seperate us from the concerns of women, so we need to promote spaces where men and women can engage together if we’re going to progress men’s issues into the mainstream, as has been done with feminism. And we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, because frankly, men are fucking funny, and humour is a great weapon in illustrating the truth, if we use it properly.

As a member of the Men’s International Association of Organised Welfare, the most pressing concern I have is the issue of family courts being overly protective of women, particularly in Australia, where I’ve heard numerous horror stories including women who essentially date-rape men at parties in order to make them liable for child support. Of course, horror stories are just that- stories. I fully admit to having not the slightest clue of the situation on the ground.

Horror stories aside, if you visit the Aussie site I linked above, you’ll notice their most active campaign is that family courts presume a 50-50 split of parenting responsibilities in the event of separation. While the father’s movements get overly passionate sometimes, (wouldn’t you if your family had essentially been turned into a game of tug-of-war?) it’s reasonably clear that they’re coordinating reasonable strategies that don’t impinge on maternal rights. The assumption that unless a father or mother proves themselves grossly unwilling or incapable of sharing custody that it should be divided equally just seems like common sense, yet it’s not policy.

This is the state of the law that determines incredibly important decisions that try to divide families cleanly when the split. In our admirable haste to make sure women’s role as mothers is protected, we’ve provided them with friendly laws and legal funding. Yet men with similar funding issues to women do not qualify for support, in fragrant violation of the bill of rights. There is little generalised support for both fathers and mothers because it has all been given exclusively to women, and judges tend to presume women should be the carers and men should be the earners.

The whole system seems to be designed around the idea of rich, high-flyer men and housebound women without careers. What happens if she’s the alpha earner? Forty percent of wives earn more than their partners, so this is a really valid concern. Although the railing against legitimate women’s concerns should annoy us, I find it hard to see how anyone could deny that angry fathers have a point, no matter how deep pink your feminist leanings go.

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One Response

  1. Interesting article, even fairly balanced. Well done!

    One of the problems with shared custody is the stupid assumption that it’s the kids who need to migrate. Because after all, moving house every week is an essential part of a normal childhood.

    A better system would by to presume that the children get (the right to) the family home, and the parents get to visit when they have custody.

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