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The Sinister Side of the Fathers' Rights Movement
[Opinion] Family relationships set back by misogynistic campaigners
Joan M. Dawson (joanied40)     Print Article 
Published 2007-03-30 10:16 (KST)   

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"Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation."
-- Martin Luther King

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By most accounts, the men's movement began in the 1970s, although there is sporadic evidence of it occurring even earlier. By and large, the men's movement was a reaction to feminism, whether positive or negative: some inspired by it and others in reaction to it. (1) Some men were inspired to reexamine their role as breadwinner and to change their portrayal as dangerous and destructive. Others chose to aggressively challenge feminism. While there are many positive outcomes of the men's movement in general, one particular aspect, the fathers' rights group, deserves careful attention.

There has been a clear and visible rise in the number of men's groups established, most of which have been in Western countries. Many are positive and supportive in nature, like most non-profits, they pick up where government services are lacking or non-existent. Plus, the Internet has been an impetus for networking with people with similar concerns, thus creating more supportive environments for people going through similar circumstances, such as divorce.

A variety of healthy and positive groups have formed. In the U.S., Dads and Daughters is a national non-profit advocating healthy relationships between dads and daughters. The National Compadres Network promotes positive involvement of Latino males in their families, communities and societies. For men concerned with family violence, Men's Network Against Domestic Violence offers positive, constructive means to combat it. The National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization is based in North America and strives to create awareness and support for male victims of sexual violence. And, Fathers Direct in the U.K., according to their Web site, aims to "create a society that supports children to have a strong and positive relationship with their fathers and other male carers and prepares boys and girls for a future shared role in caring for children."

There is little doubt that divorce and custody issues are a painful process for all parties concerned: men, women and children. It is one of the most stressful events that we will experience in our lifetimes. At a time of crisis, it is particularly important, however, to cope positively.

The fathers' rights movement claims to support fathers in their struggles. The movement is primarily concerned with family laws and issues affecting non-custodial fathers. They're also vocal about domestic violence.

Some of these groups, however, let men down. They include men who were abusive (and not interested in reforming) or men who went through difficult divorces or custody battles. Thus, these groups tend to attract distressed men at a vulnerable point in their lives. And, rather than supporting them and promoting healthy relationships, they often build on hostility and blame. They blame women and Family Courts for their circumstances. They speak heinously of women, and feminists, in particular. Their tendency to resort to blame and victimization rather than constructive resolutions is cause for concern.

"These fathers' rights groups are well organized and funded, with strong lobbying skills." (2) For example, they have been successful in getting judges appointed who share the fathers' rights philosophies and who are responsible for child custody decisions, even to batterers. There are even lawyers who advertise that they are "fathers' rights" firms and some promise to "teach her a lesson." (3)

According to Dr. Michael Flood, a researcher on fathering, fathers' rights groups attempt to undermine legal protections for domestic violence victims and seek to set back legal policies on perpetrators. "While fathers' rights groups often claim to speak on behalf of male victims of domestic violence, these efforts undermine the policies and services that would protect and gain justice for these same men." Furthermore, according to Dr. Flood, the group makes excuses for perpetrators, acts as advocates for perpetrators, uses abusive strategies, and harasses places that work with victims of violence. (4)

RADAR is one such fathers' rights group. On their Web site, they state, "what these advocates do not understand is that there is often no 'batterer' or 'battered victim' in most of these incidents." (5) They claim that the vast majority of domestic violence is simply "conflict" rather than ongoing abuse. Others have called it "marital discord." (6) This undermines the severity and duration of domestic violence.

These groups also rationalize violence and offer sympathy or justification to perpetrators of violence. In 1989 a man gassed himself and his three kids. The Men's Confraternity said he was probably a "decent man who was pushed too far by a Family Court." (7)

Fathers' rights members accuse people and agencies of spreading lies about domestic violence. Despite the fact that most major, reliable organizations or crime bureaus provide statistics and reliable data on domestic violence, they accuse the agencies of being hijacked by feminists.

Conversely, organizations have referred to fathers' rights data as "junk science" (8) and newspapers have called them "weirdo groups." (9) Many find them ridiculous; nonetheless, they persist.

While some may view them as harmless, they are not. "They have committed murder-suicides, stabbed or shot ex-partners outside the Family Court, hired hit-men to kill their ex-wives, murdered a Family Court judge and the wife of another judge, bombed the home of another judge, and bombed a Family Court." (4)

One group, the Blackshirts, simply terrorize women and their children. They wear uniforms and masks and slander and stalk women. (10)

One fathers' Web site, in an effort to distinguish itself from these violent groups, stated a clear warning on its front page: we do not promote violence or acts of hate. (11)

The groups also write letters to newspapers and politicians -- anything to attack policies or services that affect women. They've even sued domestic violence shelters in California. (12)

In regard to the suit against shelters, a man called nine out of ten shelters. There is, in fact, a shelter in Los Angeles for men -- the one he didn't call. The other shelters offer men who have been victims of domestic violence counseling and referrals. Moreover, they have to turn away thousands of women each year due to space limitations. To sue the shelters rather than cooperate with them is an example of the tactic these groups use.

One of their strongest claims is that women commit as much violence as men. While it is definitely true that women also commit domestic violence, all reliable sources of data indicate "the great majority of perpetrators also are male. Men are most at risk of physical harm from other men..." (13) Those in the fathers' rights group, however, tend to focus on violence committed by women and ignore the violence committed by other men. Why focus on violence committed only by women?

Glenn Sacks, for example, claims "women use less detectable methods to murder intimates than men do." He claims they use poison, contract killings and have better legal representation because it's middle or upper class women who murder their husbands (while it's lower income men that murder their wives, according to Sacks). (5)

These Web sites offer one excuse after another. They give the impression of looking credible, but they lack valid, substantiated material.

On the website www.batteredmen.com, it states: "Men might remember being pushed or slapped in the last year, but might not remember it if it happened several years ago." How can you not remember getting hit? They've also expanded on the term "violence" -- thereby trivializing it -- by including such things as nagging, bouts of jealousy, running up credit cards, etc.

Personally, I've also seen comments about women being the cause of men's suicide, and the media "allowing" women to hit men. Some of the comments I have received on my own articles have been threatening and aggressive. If these men were truly interested in solving the problem of violence, they would not assume such stances.

Lastly, fathers' rights groups claim that "Family Court decisions are determined by radical feminists...and that divorce, restraining orders and apprehended violence orders should be made more difficult for women to obtain." (14) They claim that women misuse laws and should be punished for such behavior.

A Fathers' Manifesto goes even further in regard to punishing women. This male supremacy group advocates not only for fathers' custody but also to repeal women's vote, eliminate alimony, child support, food stamps, and other programs. (15)

With the rising number of fathers' rights groups, there are hundreds all over the world, there is real concern for the parallel rise in misogyny and for potential set backs in successes of the women's movement. With women's vigilance at a low, they have an opportunity to sweep in and set back progress. They may do so with aggression and vengeance. We can only hope that the healthy factions in the men's movement and those in the women's movement can stand firmly and guard the grounds that have been fought so hard to win. Domestic violence laws are still in their infancy -- many just started in the 90s. It seems barbaric that it took so long to gain protection from spousal violence, it seems even more sinister to think we might lose them.

"Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetuator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander."

-- Holocaust Museum, Washington DC
(1) http://www.faqs.org/faqs/feminism/terms/
(2) http://endabuse.org/bpi/discussion3/Summary.pdf
(3) http://www.expertlaw.com/library/child_custody/fathers_rights.html
(4) http://www.xyonline.net/Protectingperpetrators.shtml
(5) http://www.mediaradar.org
(6) http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/MULR/1999/27.html#fnB144
(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men's_rights
(8) http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/PR_PAS.html
(9) http://www.anchoragepress.com/archives-2006/flashlightvol15ed39.html
(10) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father%27s_Rights
(11) http://groups.msn.com/FathersRightsAdvocacyGroup
(12) http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/1457
(13) http://www.xyonline.net/downloads/engagingmen.pdf
(14) http://www.active.org.au/perth/news/print.php3?article_id=1466
(15) http://www.familieslink.co.uk/download/jan07/The%20usual%20suspects.pdf
©2007 OhmyNews

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