October 16, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Appearing as it does in The Guardian, many of the anti-father/anti-male statements in this article by Angelina Chapin come as no surprise (The Guardian, 10/15/16). What’s more remarkable is the almost even-handed way it deals with the plight of fathers in family courts. I’ll deal with that next time.
Interestingly enough, it’s all about family courts in the U.S. If The Guardian has ever been as favorable to British dads as the article is to American ones, I’ve never seen it. Perhaps criticism of British family courts as being too blatantly pro-moms is verboten, but the issue can slip in the back door if it’s about American courts.
The article’s raison d’etre is what it calls the rise in father-friendly law firms, i.e. those who claim to be particularly invested in going to bat for the perennial underdogs in family courts. Whether that’s actually happening or not is impossible to tell and the article makes no effort to inform readers. But that question is more of an excuse for the article than a reason.
Apparently no article on the subject of fathers and family courts can appear in The Guardian without a requisite number of false claims, factual inconsistencies and other forms of intellectual dishonesty. For example:
Yet [dad-friendly law firms’] very existence if (sic) controversial. Critics claim any good lawyer is equipped to handle a man’s divorce and that instead of pushing for greater equality under the law, these firms perpetuate sexist stereotypes about women.
Really? Who are those critics and what do they say to the fact that firms specializing in representing fathers exist in the first place. After all, if “any good lawyer” is good enough to do the job, why don’t they? The article doesn’t say for reasons I suspect I know. Second, “pushing for greater equality under the law” is exactly what firms like Cordell & Cordell are doing and being criticized by The Guardian for doing so. The paper can’t have it both ways; it can’t on one hand say there’s no need for these firms and on the other claim they’re not doing their job.
And exactly how do these firms “perpetuate sexist stereotypes about women?” Again, the article is content to make the allegation with no facts to back it up. What lawyers do, regardless of whom they represent, is utilize all relevant facts at their disposal to achieve the best outcome for their clients. If that means criticizing bad behavior on the part of certain mothers in certain cases, what’s the problem? Do attorneys representing mothers not do the same?
Joseph Cordell has his own takedown of Chapin’s straw man:
But Cordell, who is a supporter of the men’s rights movement, finds these arguments absurd. He views the treatment of men in divorces as a civil rights issue, equating their struggle for equality with that of black people fighting against racism and segregation in the south. “To suggest to me that guys asking for fairness in family court are guilty of some sort of anti-feminist position or sexism is beyond response,” he says. “It’s an insult to guys.”
On that note, Chapin might want to read her own piece. She might particularly want to read her quotation of former family lawyer Anne Mitchell.
“As a society we have really come to demonize men. There’s just definitely a faction that believes all boys have the potential to grow up as rapists and are angry,” she says. “Without the right coaching … [men] show up at courts looking angry and that feeds right into the bias.”
In other words, family courts come equipped with pre-existing biases against dads and dads need to be on their best behavior to avoid the consequences of those biases. Amazingly, Chapin manages not to notice. Meanwhile, those stereotypes are happily exploited by attorneys representing mothers with nary a peep from Chapin or The Guardian.
The second set of sexist stereotypes trafficked in family court have mothers as natural nurturing caregivers to children. Chapin admits as much.
While family laws are gender neutral, there’s no doubt that judges and lawyers interpret them based on certain beliefs. In many cases, judges still consider a woman the more natural caretaker, a stubborn holdover from the decades in which mothers only worked at home.
Parenthetically, family laws are emphatically not gender neutral. Child support laws, visitation enforcement laws, adoption laws and those on paternity fraud are the furthest things from being gender-neutral. But we’ll assume Chapin meant child custody laws, which are indeed written in scrupulously neutral language.
So in fact it’s not fathers’ rights law firms that “perpetuate sexist stereotypes about women,” but judges themselves, yet another fact that escapes censure by Chapin. Indeed, she’s happy to perpetuate those very same stereotypes herself.
After all, a Pew survey shows married women spend twice as much time with their kids than (sic) their husbands do.
Astonishingly, the data for the survey Chapin cited ended in 1998. Does she know that the ensuing almost two decades have seen some hefty changes in fathering in both the U.S. and the U.K.? I guess not. If she’d taken five minutes out of her busy schedule and checked the latest American Time Use Survey courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, she’d know that fathers spend about 68% of the time caring for children that mothers do, not 50%. Mothers spend about 43 minutes per day more on childcare than do dads.
And men spend about 49 more minutes each day on work and work-related activities than do women, another fact Chapin neglected to mention. No, she’s content to allow readers to draw the conclusion that mothers slave long hours while their husbands relax. The fact of course is that the two spend almost identical amounts of time on paid and unpaid work for their families.
So, not only do courts promote the stereotype of fathers that tends to marginalize them in their children’s lives, they also promote the stereotype of mothers that tend to gain them sole or primary custody. Chapin does the same while making up criticisms of law firms like Cordell’s for perpetuating “sexist stereotypes about women.” It doesn’t get much more hypocritical than that.
But, hey, it’s The Guardian after all.
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