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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

January 4, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Like so many social justice warriors, Terence Mentor sees his main objective as finding someone to blame for injustices real or imagined. And, again like social justice warriors everywhere, that someone is preordained. Men are to blame. When it comes to strangers referring to fathers as “babysitters,” it is specifically those fathers who are to blame. Fathers are to blame for others’ remarks because, according to Mentor, they don’t do enough parenting.

Now, in my past two pieces on Mentor’s folly, I pointed out some obvious facts that he managed to ignore. I pointed out that (a) almost invariably, it’s mothers who want to be the primary parent to their children, (b) working and earning to provide for a child are the same as caring for the child and (c) fathers’ working at paid work enables mothers’ choices to do less paid work and spend more time with the kids. And of course I skimmed the biology that urges both men and women to take on exactly those traditional roles.

But, since social justice warriors prefer to emphasize politics and society over science, let’s join them. Of course Mentor’s point of departure is fathers being referred to not as parents, but as babysitters. But he also admits that that’s a pretty unimportant issue by itself.

[D]oesn’t it feel really silly to complain about something so very insignificant?

Given that, surely he understands the issue to be larger than a few “babysitter” remarks. So what does he have to say about that larger issue, i.e. that men do less hands-on childcare than do women? Well, apart from literally blaming men, not a thing. His entire take on the matter is that men don’t do enough, should do more and are to blame for falling short.

(Of course he also says the patriarchy prevents us all from making our own free choices, so how he manages to also blame individual men is left, well, vague. One of the cornerstones of social justice notions is that everything is socially dictated, but when it comes to this topic, Mentor simply punts that in order to blame men. A rigorous thinker, he’s not.)

But of course there’s a lot more to the issue than Mentor lets on. Does it occur to Mentor that, if a father takes time off work to be a hands-on dad, he still likely won’t get consideration for doing so when his wife divorces him? He’ll likely get the standard visitation period of two weekends per month plus two hours on Wednesday evening. I can introduce him to Scott Richey who was his son’s primary parent for the first seven years of his life only to be sidelined by a family court in favor of the boy’s mother who had done little parenting up to then. In short, he’ll damage himself at work with no recompense at home. Does that encourage paternal involvement?

What about maternal gatekeeping? Has Mentor ever heard of it? What happens when Dad tries to take an active, hands-on role only to be told to butt out by his wife? What happens when she calls the police and tells them he’s a child molester or a wife beater? He’ll be removed from the house. Does that encourage paternal involvement?

What about the fact that companies and countries that make provision for parental leave following the birth of a child all but invariably provide far less time to fathers than to mothers? Does that encourage paternal involvement?

How about the welter of images in popular culture depicting men as dangerous to kids and incompetent to care for them? Does that encourage paternal involvement?

What about Virgin Airlines’ policy of prohibiting men from sitting next to unaccompanied children? What about the fact that 19% of male primary school teachers in Canada have been falsely accused of child abuse in school? What about the fact that daycare centers in the U.K. can’t recruit male employees for that very reason?

Then there are putative father registries whose frank purpose is to circumvent fathers’ ability to stop the adoption of their children and gain custody. States like Utah and South Carolina actively encourage mothers to lie in order to remove Dad from the adoption process. Has Mentor ever heard of any of that? Does he think those laws encourage paternal involvement?

What about paternity fraud. The U.S. Supreme Court has called parental rights “far more precious than property rights,” but no law anywhere has ever required a woman to tell a man that she’s having (or had) his child. No man anywhere has the right to even know he has a child. And of course if she chooses to misidentify the father, no consequences – not legal, not financial - attend her doing so. Does that encourage paternal involvement?

When a mother abuses or neglects a child and has it taken by the local child protective agency, the usual practice is that the agency makes no effort to even locate the father, much less give him an opportunity to stand in as caregiver. What does that tell fathers about their value to their kids? Does it encourage paternal involvement?

Should Mom choose to deny Dad his visitation rights under a divorce decree, the legal system makes it hard for him to rectify the situation. It generally requires him to gather enough money to hire a lawyer and file a motion and attend a hearing on the matter, only to be told that the court won’t punish the mother’s behavior. Generally it takes several such incidents before the court will lift a finger, if then. In Australia, it has long been the law that those visitation orders cannot be enforced by the court’s inherent power of contempt. Alone among all courts and all cases, Australia denies that enforcement mechanism solely in child access cases. Given the fact that about 90% of those cases are brought by fathers, it looks very much like the denial of the contempt power is aimed directly at them. What does that tell Dad about his value to his child? Does it encourage paternal involvement?

Of course Mentor knows none of this. It all conflicts with his narrative of bad dads, so he covers his eyes and ears whenever mention of any of the above impends. He’s a social justice warrior, so he should acknowledge that social pressures pretty much all militate against active paternal involvement in the lives of their kids. But of course he doesn’t.  He pivots from assuming the social construction of individual behavior to

Dads are to blame.

When denigrating fathers, it’s advisable to take, shall we say, a flexible approach. The more callous among us would call that an illogical, non-fact-based and internally contradictory approach. In short, Mentor hasn’t a clue. He eagerly blames fathers for what’s not their fault. He does so rather than face the reality of the issue.

Hey, it’s the Washington Post, right?

 

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#socialjustice, #fathers, #paternityleave, #paternityfraud, #visitation, #maternalgatekeeping, #putativefatherregistries

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