June 14, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
I suppose timing is everything. No sooner had Gideon Burrows’ thoroughly ignorant and misandric piece come out in the U.K.’s version of the Huffington Post than this article came out in the Daily Mail (Daily Mail, 6/11/13). I addressed the Burrows piece here and here. In a nutshell, he used the run-up to Father’s Day to trash fathers. Needless to say, that’s par for the course. It’s predictable as the sunrise that someone, usually several someones, will take advantage of the day that’s supposed to celebrate dads to denigrate them, and Gideon Burrows is such a person.
His opinion is that fathers don’t do enough parenting and need to alter their behavior. In short, fathers need to change to become more like mothers. Of course in order to come to the conclusion that fathers are deficient in the parenting department, Burrows had to ignore what fathers actually do. He proved himself to be more than equal to the task. According to Burrows, working and earning so little Andy or Jenny can eat and have shelter is utterly useless. In Burrows’ world, only the things mothers tend to do constitute parenting and so fathers’ efforts on behalf of their children not only lack value, they’re actually just selfish.
Of the social science relating to paternal and maternal behaviors, and child well-being, Burrows knows nothing. Of the laws that actively prevent father-child interaction, he’s never heard. Despite the fact that his article constitutes part of it, Burrows knows nothing about popular culture that daily portrays fathers in the most hateful light imaginable.
Burrows’ piece is little more than an exercise in sustained misandry that seeks to inform fathers that - and how - they need to change. How typical. Burrows, like so many other free-range opiners, thinks that the way to get fathers to listen to his message is to misrepresent, insult and denigrate them first.
But I suspect he won’t take it amiss when his article and his opinions are tossed in the dumpster along with the rest of the anti-father messages we see and hear so often. I suspect that because Burrows is just another of the “responsible father” crowd. They’re the ones who rightly bemoan the lack of fathers in children’s lives, but then lay the problem at the feet of fathers. You see, if fathers were “responsible,” there’d be no problem. If men would just “man up,” every child would have a dad. There’s not a family court system that cuts fathers out of their children’s lives; there’s not a child support system that sees fathers as walking wallets and jails them when they don’t perform on cue; paternity fraud doesn’t happen; the adoption industry doesn’t discriminate against single fathers; mothers don’t abduct their children; false allegations of domestic violence or child abuse for the purpose of getting custody don’t happen. No indeed.
That’s the world Burrows and countless others live in and the great irony is that they’re the ones who are being irresponsible. Yes, President Obama, I’m talking to you. (Obama’s another one who tells us that if fathers would just be responsible, everything would be OK.) By ignoring the reasons children don’t have fathers and attributing the problem solely to dads’ irresponsibility, those people effectively absolve themselves of doing anything about one of the most serious social problems of our times.
Barack Obama is the President of the United States. He could use his office to help address the issue of fatherless children. But he doesn’t. He’s scared of offending female voters, so he dodges the issue by pretending there’s nothing that lawmakers need to do. Hey, it’s all the fault of feckless dads, right?
Well, Burrows is the same. He could use his forum to address real issues, but instead he uses it to claim that, you guessed it, fathers need to change. And until they do, well, there’s nothing anyone else can do to make things better. I can just see him dusting off his hands in a self-satisfied way as if after a job well done. His contribution to popular culture’s attack on fathers is to entirely ignore the reality of the problem and depict fathers as lazy and uncaring, in short, insufficiently maternal.
Which brings us to the Daily Mail piece that reports on a recent survey done by the British organization Netmums. It seems Netmums decided to ask people what they thought about depictions of fathers in popular culture (something Burrows never did and apparently doesn’t think needs doing). The results are remarkable.
The Netmums survey - released before Father’s Day this Sunday - looked at the opinions of 1,650 mothers and 500 fathers…
Fathers are routinely misrepresented as useless and lazy in TV shows, according to a survey of parents.
Children in particular are bombarded with the ‘casual contempt’ of men and the damaging stereotype continues in adult programmes - reinforcing the negative impression.
Many parents complain it amounts to form of ‘discrimination against dads’ that would cause an outcry if women were treated the same way.
Children’s programmes guilty of the peddling the unfair depiction include, according to a Netmums report, Peppa Pig, The Simpsons and The Flintstones.
The onslaught continues in adult shows such as My Family, Outnumbered and Shameless.
An overwhelming 93 per cent of mums and dads said that the way fathers appear on television, as well as books and adverts, bears no relation to their real-life contribution to family life.
Almost half complained children were surrounded by images of feckless fathers, with over a quarter attacking the ‘subtle form of discrimination’ and a fifth saying mums wouldn’t accept being portrayed the same way…
Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard said: ‘The types of jokes aimed at dads would be banned if they were aimed at women, ethnic minorities or religious groups. Some people claim it’s just a joke but there is nothing amusing about taking away good role models.
‘Academic studies show children with involved fathers do far better at school, have a much lower chance of getting involved in crime and have better mental health, so we should be celebrating and encouraging what dads do.’
All true. The British people see what’s going on and don’t like it a bit. But elites like Gideon Burrows and Harriet Harman don’t care. They’ve got their anti-male narrative and they’re not about to change it. After all, if they acknowledged the truth, they might have to do something to change the law and pop culture. And, as the coalition government’s recent failure at amending family law so clearly demonstrates, they’re not about to do that. Why would they?
The assault on fathers has been going on for many years.
A Chartered Institute of Marketing survey in 2001 found two-thirds of women believed women were portrayed in adverts as intelligent, assertive and caring, while men were shown as pathetic and silly.
All of this comes at a time when fathers are doing far more hands-on parenting than ever before, something that should gratify Burrows and his ilk, but predictably doesn’t. Their aim is to maintain the status quo in which mothers effectively control fathers’ access to their children. So they’re not about to admit what’s actually going on.
But the British public is.
More than half agreed society was becoming ‘more appreciative of how important a dad’s role is’ and that fathers are ‘much closer to their kids than in the past’.
Nine in ten dads said they felt they were working harder than their own fathers to be a good parent.
Two thirds said they were proud to work harder to support their family and a similar proportion are ‘happier and more settled’ than before they had children…
Despite their efforts, a third of parents said mothers continue to be viewed as more important that dads. One in 20 even believe society sees fathers as ‘feckless, lazy or sperm donors’.
(One aspect of the Mail article is curiously misleading. It claims that “Nearly two-thirds of men said they were ‘hands-on and fully involved’ in parenting but only half of women agreed.” The actual figures are 59% for men and 52% for women. In short, they essentially agree about what fathers do, but the Mail converted a 7% difference into a 17% one. Strange.)
Still, as I said, timing is everything. Burrows’ article comes out one day and the Netmums survey comes out the next to slap him down. There are reasons fathers hesitate to be more involved. Popular culture is one of them.
So, with Father’s Day approaching, let’s try a different approach. Let’s give a huge shout out to dads who are doing more hands-on care than ever before and doing the lion’s share of financial support for children. And they’re doing all that in the face of odds that would daunt those less determined. Despite their denigration in popular culture, despite their marginalization by family courts and family law, despite their public abuse by the Harriet Harmans of the world, fathers soldier on.
That, Mr. Burrows, is something to celebrate. It’s something to respect. You might try doing so sometime, say, on Father’s Day.
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