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.
USA Today Recognizes Maternal Gatekeeping
Well knock me over with a feather. I would never have guessed that a publication as mainstream as USA Today would get around to recognizing, understanding and reporting on maternal gatekeeping. But they did and here it is (USA Today, 5/4/09). The article quotes the sources you'd expect on the subject and points out that, when mothers take on the gatekeeping function, men tend to abandon the field of childcare. It also describes how culturally ingrained that behavior can be. One woman is quoted as saying that giving up the power of the übermütter requires far more than just standing back and "letting" the child's father do childcare; it means accepting that, when the child falls on the playground he/she may come running not to her but to her husband. And not only that, it means dealing with feelings of peer pressure. After all, there must be something wrong with a mother whose child would do something like that, right? The article rightly points out the societal and cultural obstacles to truly shared parenting. It brings the concept of maternal gatekeeping into public discourse as it's never been before. USA Today is about as mainstream as media get, and I'd wager that few of its readers have ever heard the term. I'd also wager many of them have seen maternal gatekeeping in practice and will register a 'click' when they read the article. All that said, the piece is not without its shortcomings. Most glaring is the caption beside the photo at the top. It quotes one man saying, "'my mom strongly identified with the feminist movement,' Silas says, which is why he easily identifies with equal parenting." Cough. So now feminists support fathers' rights in family courts, which they'd have to do if they're to support equal parenting? No, in fact, NOW and other feminist organizations miss no opportunity to actively oppose fathers' rights. As but one example, just last week, New Jersey NOW held a demonstration claiming there's a "national crisis" of family courts awarding child custody to abusive fathers. The claim is nonsense; there is essentially no evidence to support it and each example its proponents offer to support it has fallen of its own weight. But NOW and other feminists keep making the imaginary claim whose sole aim is to keep more fathers from their children and more children from their fathers. In defense of the article and the man (Silas) it quotes, the feminism he grew up with did support fathers' rights, as a look at quotations from former NOW president Karen DeCrow shows. But no more. It's one of the great hypocrisies of feminism that "gender equality" has come to exclude, for them, the right of a father to have access to his child and the child's right to grow up with its father. And the USA Today piece doesn't deal with the extreme forms of maternal gatekeeping like kidnapping and murder to keep the father from the child and vice versa. But that's OK with me. That the practice of maternal gatekeeping has made it to such a level of attention is a giant stride toward making sense of our gender relations.