Children of both sexes need both a father and a mother. I do not mean that a child will die if deprived of either parent, the way a person will die if deprived of air, water or sustenance. I mean that the most important lessons a child must learn on the path to adulthood are not those taught in schools or, heaven forbid, by peers or television, but rather those which they can only be taught by their parents. Some of these lessons can only be taught by a mother. Others can only be taught by a father. Some of the lessons a mother teaches are learned by children of both sexes alike, and this is true of the lessons a father teaches as well. There are other lessons which only a mother can teach a daughter, and only a father can teach a son, just as there are lessons which a daughter must learn from a father and a son from a mother.
It is from a father that a son learns how to be a man, a husband, and a father, partly by instruction, but mostly by seeing these things modelled in his own father. Similarly it is from a mother that a daughter learns how to be a woman, a wife, and a mother. It is from their parent of the opposite sex that children learn about the sex other than their own, form their basic image of that other sex, and learn how to love, respect, and relate to members of that other sex. This process may go wrong, and they may develop a badly skewed image of and way of relating to the opposite sex based upon a bad relationship with their own father/mother, but it is almost certain that it will go wrong in the complete absence of a parent of the opposite sex.
What I have just pointed out has been obvious to everyone since the dawn of time. It is controversial to say it, however, in this day and age. There are many progressives who would like to see people who point out this sort of thing thrown in jail. They consider it to be hate speech. It is generally the sort of things that have been true and obvious since the beginning of time that are considered to be hate speech by progressives.
So what do progressives have against this particular set of true and obvious observations?
What they object to is the truth that in the upbringing of children of either sex there is no substitute for either a father or a mother. This truth contradicts one of their beloved fantasies – the idea that you can substitute two women, two men, the State, or practically anything you want, for a father and mother, without having any adverse effect upon the children This fantasy is the basis of a number of progressive stances including their idea that homosexual couples have an inalienable, natural right to adopt children and that it is oppression far worse than anything and everything dreamed up by Pharaoh, Herod, Caligula, Nero, Genghis Khan, Atilla the Hun, Vlad the Impaler, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Idi Amin, to deny them this right.
That, however, is not the issue I wish to discuss here and I mention it mostly to poke fun at the absolute inanity of the ridiculous things progressives get uptight over.
Let us return to the point we started with: all children need both a father and a mother. There have always been children who have had to grow up without one or the other due to unavoidable circumstances, such as the death of a parent. These are situations that families, hopefully with the support of extended kin and community, have to deal with as best as they can. Today, however, there are a large number of children who have to grow up without one of their parents because that parent has either chosen to abandon the duties of parenthood or has been prevented from fulfilling those duties by the other parent. In the largest number of these cases the absent parent is the father.
This is a major social problem. This trend can be found among all classes of society and in every class it hurts the children affected but it is even more devastating among the poorer classes where it is a significant contributing factor to multi-generational poverty.
Usually when this problem is recognized and attempts are made to deal with it the focus is upon the fathers who have voluntarily abandoned their duties. While this part of the problem does deserve attention it is not what I wish to focus on here. Rather I wish to address the other part of the problem, fathers who are prevented fulfilling their duties as fathers, by the mothers of their children.
As with so many other problems that beset us in this day of rampant egalitarianism, triumphant liberalism, and social and moral collapse, when we go looking for the root cause we find the ideological movement known as feminism.
Feminism is the ideology of the equality of the sexes. It was dreamed up in the nineteenth century by radical intellectuals such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Friedrich Engels. It helped inspire the women’s suffrage movement in the early twentieth century, but was fully translated into a movement of political and social activism after the Second World War by such colourful individuals as Simone de Beauvoir, an existentialist novelist, Betty Friedan, a Marxist journalist masquerading as a normal suburban housewife, and Gloria Steinem, whose previous career included such highlights as waiting on tables in a skimpy bunny outfit in one of Hugh Hefner’s clubs and working for a CIA front.
Feminism is the implacable enemy of motherhood, which, in turn, is the implacable enemy of feminism. Motherhood, far more than any “male power structure” or “old boys’ network”, is the major impediment to feminism achieving its dream of a world in which males and females are equally represented on every rung of every ladder – social, political, and economic. This dream is unattainable as long as women keep getting pregnant, carrying their children to term, giving birth to them, and nursing and raising them. Feminism, therefore, has done everything in its power to smash motherhood. It has promoted birth control, abortion, and the transfer of the raising of children to state institutions.
Despite all of these efforts, women are still giving birth to, loving, and raising their children. Motherhood has been battered, but it has withstood the assaults of feminism. Ironically, it is fatherhood that has taken a much heavier hit from feminism.
There is a reason for this. Feminism, in its crusade to obtain what it regarded as fair treatment for women, identified the patriarchal family as the source of all injustice towards women and set out to dismantle the laws, mores, and traditions which supported the patriarchal family. These laws, mores, and traditions, however, and the patriarchal family which they upheld, were the foundation upon which fatherhood stood.
Both fatherhood and motherhood involve much more than the mere biological production of offspring. Indeed, the biological production of offspring is not an absolutely necessary component of either. The one exception to the rule that there is no substitute for a child’s having both a father and mother is when the child is adopted from birth. The reason this is an exception is because parents who adopt children from birth are not really a substitute for a father and mother – they are a father and mother in everything except the biology. When a man and woman choose to so adopt, they decide together to accept a child born to someone else as their own and love and raise that child accordingly. When this happens each parent in the adopting couple is fully aware that they are accepting someone else’s child as there own and that their partner is doing the exact same thing.
Thus adoptive parents avoid a difficulty that can cause problems for natural parents. That difficulty is that, until the very recent development of accurate paternity tests, a mother knew with absolute certainty who her children were but a father had to depend upon the word of the mother. The fear of being cuckolded, of being tricked into raising someone else’s children, down through history has been a powerful force working against fathers accepting their duties, taking responsibility for the children they sired, and shouldering their share of the burden of raising them. That force, however, was held in check by the patriarchal family, and by the laws and traditions which supported it. This, for example, was the reason for the traditional emphasis upon the importance of virginity in a bride. It was not, as the feminists falsely averred, to create a “double standard” so that men could be promiscuous themselves while insisting on purity in their wives. By lessoning the threat of cuckoldry, this tradition promoted responsible fatherhood.
Now paternal uncertainty does not in any way benefit women, although some have been foolish enough to think of it as a weapon to use against the fathers of their children. When a father is not certain that the children he is told are his actually are he is less likely to take his responsibilities as a father seriously, and if he shirks those responsibilities this increases the burden upon the mother, a burden which is already uneven due to nature as it is. Feminism, therefore, in attacking the traditions, laws, and institutions which promote responsible fatherhood as being unfair and oppressive to women, and promoting the kind of behaviour that increases paternal uncertainty and, consequently, irresponsibility, is no friend to the women it purports to speak for.
The feminist movement also considered marriage to be an instrument of oppression for women and so it demanded the liberalization of divorce laws. It campaigned for the laws to be changed so as to greatly expand the grounds for divorce and to provide for “no-fault divorce” in which the court dissolves a marriage without assigning blame to either partner if both consent to the divorce. In each of these campaigns feminism was victorious. Divorce became much easier to obtain, marriages now had less legal protection than the average business contract, and the divorce rates went through the roof.
Once rubber-stamped divorces were readily available the courts had to deal with the problem of what to do with the children of dissolved marriages. Do they give custody to the mother, to the father, or do they split custody equally?
Now this created a dilemma for the feminist movement. If they took the position that custody of the children should be awarded to the mother they would be saying that children belong with their mother which would be tantamount to saying that mothers belong with their children, a truth upon the denial of which the entire feminist movement was built. If, on the other hand, they took the position that custody of the children should be awarded to the father, would they not be handing over the children to the big, bad, patriarchy that they had put so much time and energy into denouncing and combating?
Oh my! Given a choice like that what’s a feminist to do?
Then the feminists got an idea. An awful idea. They had a wonderful, awful, idea. (1)
The courts, the feminists said, should award custody of the children to their mothers. Mothers should have sole custody, with the absolute right to determine what contact, if any a father has with his children, and what influence, if any, he has over them. Their decision would be enforced by the courts and the police. Fathers could still contribute to the raising of their children. In fact they would be made to do so. The court would order them to hand over a sizable percentage of their paycheque to the mother of their children and they would be expected to do so regardless of whether they were allowed any contact with their children or any say in how they are raised.
What if a father could not afford to pay the amount that his ex-wife’s new sugar daddy the judge decided she was entitled to? After all, it is far bigger drain on a man’s resources to support a family he is not living with than to support one he is living with. Well now, he should have thought of that before his wife decided to divorce him, then, shouldn’t he?
It was at this point that a new stock villain was added to the “Most Wanted’ roster, i.e., the “deadbeat dad”. “Deadbeat dad” is an expression that you or I might use to refer to some irresponsible bounder who for entirely selfish reasons, at least as far as we can determine, walks out on his wife, his children, and his duties. On the tongues and lips of feminists, however, and the foolish young women who were convinced by feminism that they could exile the fathers of their children from their homes and lives, and the lives of their children while still laying claim to financial support from those men, it tended to refer to men who objected to the injustice of all of this and defaulted on the payments.
Meanwhile a new generic saint was added to the secular canon, i.e., the “single mom”, who is a rather different character from the widow or abandoned mother.
I say all of this to add some needed perspective to the discussion of fathers who shirk their duties, a discussion that is usually rather one-sided, and do not mean to suggest that the misdeeds of a mother absolve a father from his responsibility to his children or that his contribution to their upkeep should be considered a quid pro quo for the right to see and spend time with his children. Nor do I mean to suggest that things would have been better if the courts had made the awarding of full custody to fathers the default or that there have been no situations where fathers who have been awarded custody have treated the mothers of their children unjustly.
Nor has the legal situation gone unchallenged or completely unamended. Various fathers groups have challenged the system, accused it of bias and discrimination, and demanded that some type of shared custody arrangement be made the default, and the courts have shown varying degrees of sympathy to this.
There is both good and bad in this. It is good that the situation is being slowly adjusted to be less unjust. I say “less unjust” because there can never be a truly just outcome to a divorce and a custody battle. It is not so good that the mens’ or fathers’ movement has been largely organized with the same tactics and same victim mentality as feminism. The last thing we need are yet more groups crying “unfair” and accusing society of discrimination.
Shared custody may be the best way of handling custody after a divorce. That does not mean that it is the best thing for the child. Think back to our initial point. Children of both sexes need both a father and a mother. That is true, but it turns out that something was missing from this statement, so let us revise it. Children of both sexes, need both a father and a mother, who are raising their children together in mutual love and cooperation.
That is something that traditional marriage, the traditional family, and the laws and customs that supported these things could provide children. It is not something that even the fairest of shared custody arrangements can provide. If we are truly concerned about the needs of children, perhaps we need to start asking ourselves how we can make the system support the traditional arrangement again instead of working to undermine it.
Happy Fathers’ Day!
(1) My apologies to Dr. Seuss for the shameless borrowing of his words and to the Grinch for the implied comparison.
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