Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Example Of A Bad Poster Child

Dahlia Lithwick's article in last week's Newsweek pointed out the ridiculous nature of picking someone like Clark Rockefeller as the poster child for the beleaguered Father's Rights groups. As a general rule of thumb, it is important to not pick someone who is a possible murder suspect. But what is most of note for me is this: I find it amusing that the saner father's rights advocates and men's rights advocates actually have more in common with the feminists they disparage than they acknowledge -or even very probably know.

Father's rights groups want for good fathers to not be downgraded "from full-time dads to alternating-weekend carpool dads" who pay about 1/3 of their income for that privilege. And feminists -the sane ones (which is to say a great deal of us)- generally want the same thing; the old stereotype that Mom is the best and primary caregiver just reinforces the notions that women are 'naturally' caregivers and men are 'naturally' the wage-earners instead of acknowledging that families are different and follow different paths and we can't as a society fall back on old tropes if we truly want what is best for the children. And as anyone who has watched That 70s Show knows (1:46 seconds into the clip):

dividing up parenting time equally and well is beyond difficult. Under the traditional system, the parent who "gets" the child the most -during the week- doesn't actually normally interact with the child in any great amount due to the constraints of school and work and homework. The parent who "gets" the child the least -during the weekend- generally isn't the one who has to reinforce rules and regulations, who has to make a bedtime and deal with projects and missed deadlines. Both of those factors breed resentment -and rightfully so. Which is why it is so important for groups like those who advocate father's rights to work more closely with other groups -like feminists- who seek to reverse the generalized stereotype that so disable single men who are also fathers from getting as much 'dad time' as they and their children deserve.

But instead of recognizing that fact, these groups tend to go after feminists for the ills of what the less sane members purport to be the nature of "all" or "most" women -"most" women are gold diggers; most women will vindictively keep her ex from his child; most women, most women, most women. What they seemingly don't understand is that it is the patriarchal system -as it is set up right now- that enable some women (not all or even most or even a sizable minority, but some) to do things like trade on old ideas about masculinity and violence. If men were allowed and even encouraged to be equal caregivers as their children's mothers and if this became the norm, then the very nature of the family court system would change because that old nonsense about what women are and what men are would be irrelevant. As they should be now. But when people like Clark Rockefeller become the face of a group and symbolic of a man driven to the edge, all that ends up encouraging is the same old ideas about men and fatherhood and parental rights that has plagued the family-law system and our society for so long.

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