Once again it is Father’s Day and once again I am both pleased and moderately surprised that we are still allowed to celebrate it, that it has not been cancelled, banned, or renamed as outdated, sexist, and completely unacceptable to the progressive, forward thinking, spirit of the day. For the spirit of the day is nothing if it is not completely and utterly patriphobic.
You can see this patriphobia everywhere you look. It is there in the way television shows and movies routinely depict fathers as arrogant and incompetent buffoons who are constantly being shown up by their much wiser and humbler wives and children. It can be seen in the misandrist, vaginocentric, readings of literature, culture, and history to which our unfortunate students are subjected in the halls of higher learning and which are becoming more and more ubiquitous in primary and secondary education as well. It is clearly there in how we have been re-writing and re-interpreting our laws and administering our social programs in such a way so as to render fathers a superfluous and perhaps even unwanted appendage to the reduced nuclear family of mother and children.
Sadly, it can also be seen in much purportedly pro-fatherhood material put out by well-meaning Christian groups. Such groups, in response to the alarming increase in fatherless families over the last few decades, rightly wish to promote fatherhood. The problem is that they often uncritically accept the feminist narrative in which the blame for the fatherless family is placed entirely upon the failure of men to face up to their responsibilities as fathers.
To be sure this is a part of the problem. It is far from being the whole story, however. It is hardly fair to say that fathers who have been barred from having any contact with their children by vindictive mothers backed by sympathetic courts – and there are more than a few of these – are all “deadbeat dads” who refuse to grow up and face their responsibilities. Furthermore, while it would be wrong to excuse fathers who do shirk their responsibilities it must be pointed out that the hostility of the present cultural climate to fathers and fatherhood is a strong disincentive to assuming that role and those responsibilities. Yet more often than not it is the same individuals and groups that have done the most to generate this toxic patriphobic atmosphere who try to place the entire blame for the growing epidemic of children being raised without their fathers upon paternal abandonment.
This all started several decades ago when marriage law was rewritten to facilitate divorce. Marriages, in which a man and a woman solemnly vow to be forever loyal and faithful to one another, are traditionally alliances between families and sacred covenants blessed by the church. For everyone involved, couple, families, and church, marriage was intended to be a permanent union and the law of the land was expected to support and uphold that, rather than to provide an easy way out. Until very recently, to get a divorce you had to sue your spouse and prove that the marriage had been broken by infidelity and even then the culture strongly encouraged you to try and work things out rather than seek a divorce.
This changed after the Second World War when the civil authorities of Western countries came under pressure to streamline and expedite the divorce process. In the forefront of the various groups clamouring for easy divorce was the feminist movement. The feminists made their demand for easy divorce on the grounds that an escape route was necessary for women trapped in abusive relationships. Feminist ideology, however, would suggest that there was a deeper motivation. Feminism was and is strongly antagonistic towards marriage and family, its aversion being based upon a Marxist reading of the history of the relationship between the sexes as one of an oppressor class (men) and an oppressed class (women). Marriage and the family were regarded as instruments of this oppression, despite it being quite evident that if there was any oppression in these traditional family arrangements it went in the opposite direction, and it is telling that the feminists chose to call the societal structure and arrangements they opposed, the patriarchy, a term which denotes the authority and rule of fathers. The feminists did not think much of motherhood either, regarding domesticity as yet another tool of the male oppression which thwarted the clear intentions of destiny that all women be CEOs and cabinet ministers , and insisting that women be given unlimited access to abortion and state-funded daycare. There is one exception to feminism’s generally anti-mother attitude, however, and that is when the interests of the mother come in conflict with those of the father after divorce.
With the introduction of easy, no-fault, divorce, came the dilemma of what to do about the children of broken families. The feminists insisted that custody should be awarded to the mother, along with alimony and child support payments that were often not easy for the father, who now had to maintain himself in a separate home from his children and former wife, to pay. If the father failed to make the payments he would be cut off from all access to his children. The courts, in part motivated by the vestigial traces of chivalry, tended to agree with the feminists.
So many fathers now found themselves exiled from the lives of their children after their wives obtained easy divorces and full custody of the children with expenses that were more difficult to meet now that separate establishments were involved. If they failed to meet these costs their vindictive ex-wives would refuse to let them see their children and would often try to poison the relationship between the fathers and their children by badmouthing the former to the latter, telling them what a “loser” and a “deadbeat” their father is. To make matters worse, the feminists had also demanded that the authorities clamp down on domestic violence, which was and is certainly a real problem, but one of which the feminists painted an exaggerated, distorted, and extremely one-sided picture. Today, feminists continue to cling to the idea that domestic abuse is always or almost always male-on-female, despite the fact that this idea has been thoroughly debunked and women have been shown to be just as likely – some studies suggest more likely – to initiate violence as men. The courts, however, accepted the picture painted by the feminists and, again perhaps motivated by a vestigial chivalry that refuses to consider the possibility of manipulative deception or anything less than spotless purity on the part of a woman, developed a presumption of guilt against any man accused of violence towards his wife and children. Thus, if an ex-wife was feeling especially vindictive, she could accuse the father of her children of abuse and obtain a restraining order against him which would effectively ban the father from his children’s lives upon threat of jail time without having to provide any substantial evidence. The very threat of making such an accusation became a weapon in her hands.
The injustice of all of this has been challenged by the father’s rights movement since the 1980s and many corrections to it have been made. Unfortunately, the system towards which we are moving in which divorced parents have equal shared custody and equal access to their children, while better than the one in which children are pawns in a battle between warring exes is not a step back towards what we really need, a system where the culture and law again support marriage and the family. For children need both their father and their mother, and not separately, but together. Likewise our society needs a culture that honours and respects fathers, rather than alternating between mocking them as buffoons and preaching at them over their shortcomings.
A Protestant Christian, patriotic Canadian, and a reactionary High Tory with a libertarian streak, at the same time a monarchist, indeed a royal absolutist, and a minarchist.
You can e-mail me at gerrytneal(at)hotmail(dot)ca