(1) Women moving away from Feminism: stop nagging men, clean the loo, pick up their socks
(2) The Netherlands: Religious schools can ban gay teachers
(3) Is There Really a Fatherhood Crisis?
(1) Women moving away from Feminism: stop nagging men, clean the loo, pick up their socks
Liberated ladies going slowly Gaga
October 9, 2009
While women were once proud to loudly associate themselves with the fight for genuine equality between the genders, those of younger generations have been less eager than expected to take up the mantle.
Or at least to take said mantle in the same direction.
The reason for feminism's unpopularity seems to be the straitlaced stigma of the word.
Feminism is associated with a dour and comprehensive agenda of concerns. There is negotiation of fair salaries, the tragically unequal status of women in less-developed nations, reproductive rights, the trafficking of women for sex work … and the list continues.
Younger women, on the other hand, tend to be distracted by the glamour and rhetoric of sexual freedom already achieved for them by previous waves of reformers.
At the forefront of this movement are trend-setting celebrities like Lady Gaga, a New York pop singer best known for performing in outfits akin to knickers and heels.
Her appearance is aggressively sexual and in control, like many a male rock star. She has also attracted attention for her blatant rejection of feminism. In a recent interview she said: "I'm not a feminist - I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle cars."
In another interview, she equated feminism with man-hating. "I think it's great to be a sexy, beautiful woman who can f--- her man after she makes him dinner. There's a stigma around feminism that's a little bit man-hating. And I don't promote hatred, ever." Her take on what it does and doesn't mean to be a strong woman these days is not unique.
It's a common perception among young women that feminism will be unpopular with men or is somehow anti-men.
There has always been a tension between the pleasure to be found in femininity and the efforts necessary to achieve equality. Femininity seems to have captured more interest since young women who have grown up with the privilege of opportunities fought for by older generations now often prefer to be seen as sexy rather than progressive.
On the other hand, older generations of women are apparently renouncing this rebranding of feminism. World-renowned feminist and author of The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, recently confessed: "I don't know if I am a feminist." This one-line answer sounds bad but came in a more complicated context in which she questioned the direction and breadth of the interests currently commanding feminism.
The British national treasure and actress, Judi Dench, said: "No, I wouldn't call myself a feminist at all really. I don't know what a feminist is." Fay Weldon, who once immortalised the she-devil in her bestselling novel, now tells women to stop nagging men to clean up after themselves. Clean "the loo" and pick up men's socks, she says, because then we'll all be happier.
These famous feminists with sudden misgivings still support the rights of women to have opportunities that equal those available to men (although Fay Weldon might be off on her own tangent), but questions remain about the direction and point of feminism.
It was therefore a timely reminder when an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman's office revealed that Australian women asking for maternity leave are at risk of being frozen out of their workplaces.
Some new mothers who are being granted maternity leave find the office rearranged in their absence so that it becomes impossible for them to return. Their jobs have been filled or made unrecognisable and unwelcoming while they have been faffing about with the business of breastfeeding and expanding the nation.
The issue under investigation here is not a paid maternity leave scheme, which will be available to Australian women in 2011 - just a reasonable amount of time taken off from work to deal with the birth of a child.
Sexual liberation was a vital aspect of the feminist movement. It is an essential, wonderful freedom. But the current emphasis on the glitz of sex and image is a distraction.
Obstacles remain to equality and the new brand of feminism must prioritise social justice concerns such as the need to protect maternity leave. One need only follow the career path of Hillary Clinton to see that females in positions of power still face particular scrutiny.
As well, survey after survey reveal salaries among men and women in corporate jobs to be uneven and now and then women still get fired for trying to start a family.
Emma Young is a Sydney writer.
(2) The Netherlands: Religious schools can ban gay teachers
From: WVNS <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 05.10.2009 02:21 PM
Religious schools will be able to continue refusing to employ homosexual teachers, despite home affairs ministry plans to amend discrimination laws, it emerged on Tuesday.
The government is to scrap a clause which bans discrimination against people simply on the grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation or nationality because it is 'confusing', home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst told MPs on Tuesday.
And schools will still be able to refuse to employ gay teachers who practise homosexuality because it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
The change in the law maintains the balance between anti-discrimination laws and freedom of education and religion, the minister said.
The Netherlands has dozens of fundamentalist Christian schools which oppose homosexuality on Biblical principles. While funded by the government, they are run independently. Such schools may not discriminate but are free under European rules to determine their own 'professional demands' for teachers, the paper says.
In May a strict Protestant primary school in Gelderland suspended a teacher because he was gay and lived with another man. That case is being taken to the equal opportunities commission.
Gay rights groups said they are very disappointed at the decision. There is a real chance that certain schools will feel their anti-gay stand is now legitimate, Wouter Neerings, of the COC lobby group told Nos tv.
MPs are due to debate the issue on Wednesday.
(3) Is There Really a Fatherhood Crisis?
Written by Dr. Stephan Baskerville
Tuesday, 15 June 2004 08:28
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American ideal assumes that self governance begins with the family. Fatherhood has been under a long-term attack in America. For some, the motive for this attack goes to the core of the battle about the role of government. Modern political philosophers understand that with the emergence of a global collective, the governing role of family diminishes as central government assumes the greater authority over marriage and children. Dr. Stephan Baskerville of Howard University examines how family law in America works to destroy family units and family authority.
During the past decade, family issues such as marriage and fatherhood have rocketed to the top of the domestic-policy agenda. The past two presidential administrations, along with numerous local governments, have responded to the continuing crisis of the family by devising measures to involve governmental machinery directly in the management of what had previously been considered private family life. The Bush administration has proposed $300 million annually to "promote responsible fatherhood" and for federal promotion of "healthy marriages." Earlier, President Bill Clinton created a "Presidential Fatherhood Initiative," and Vice President Al Gore chaired a federal staff conference on "nurturing fatherhood." Congress has established bipartisan task forces on fatherhood promotion and issued a resolution affirming the importance of fathers. Almost 80 percent of the respondents to a 1996 Gallup poll saw fatherhood as the most serious social problem today (NCF 1996).
A generation of fatherhood advocates has emerged who insist that fatherlessness is the most critical social issue of our time. In Fatherless America, David Blankenhorn calls the crisis of fatherless children "the most destructive trend of our generation" (1995, 1). Their case is powerful. Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherless children: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and psychological disorders-all correlating more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other single factor, surpassing even race and poverty. The majority of prisoners, juvenile detention inmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists come from fatherless homes (Daniels 1998, passim). Children from affluent but broken families are much more likely to get into trouble than children from poor but intact ones, and white children from separated families are at higher risk than black children in intact families (McLanahan 1998, 88). The connection between single-parent households and crime is so strong that controlling for this factor erases the relationship between race and crime as well as between low income and crime (Kamarck and Galston 1990, 14).
Given these seemingly irrefutable findings, a case might be made that both liberals and conservatives should rethink their priorities. Rather than spending more on antipoverty programs, as the left advocates, or on ever harsher law enforcement, beloved of the right, both sides should get together and help restore fatherhood as a solution to social ills. On its surface, the government's fatherhood campaign seems to make good sense. As currently conceived, however, it may be having precisely the opposite effect of that advertised.
The policymakers' discovery of fatherhood has a disturbing side. In August 2002, Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Tommy Thompson announced mass arrests of parents he says have disobeyed government orders, calling them the "most wanted deadbeat parents." The roundups were carried out under a program started by the Clinton administration called Project Save Our Children. The Clinton years saw repeated and increasingly harsh measures against "deadbeat dads." The 1998 Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act was accompanied by a "child support crackdown ... to identify, analyze, and investigate [parents] for criminal prosecution." HHS secretary Donna Shalala announced the Federal Case Registry to monitor almost 20 million parents, whether or not they had child-support arrearages, and the Directory of New Hires database, which records the name of every newly hired individual in the country (HHS 1998b).
Amid all this attention, little informed discussion has occurred about the appropriate role of public policy with respect to fatherhood and families. Marshalling federal agencies to "promote" something as private and personal as a parent's relationship with his own children raises questions. The assumption that the government has a legitimate role in ameliorating the problem of fatherlessness also glides quickly over the more fundamental question of whether the government has had a role in creating the problem. What we see in the "fatherhood crisis" may be an optical illusion. What many are led to believe is a social problem may in reality be an exercise of power by the state.
The conventional wisdom - enunciated by political leaders, media commentators, and scholars - assumes that the problem stems from paternal abandonment. Clinton claimed that the fathers pursued by his administration "have chosen to abandon their children" (1992). Blankenhorn writes, "Today, the principal cause of fatherlessness is paternal choice ... the rising rate of paternal abandonment" (1995, 22-23). David Popenoe, author of the essay "Life Without Father," writes that fathers "choose to relinquish" the responsibilities of fatherhood (1998, 34). Yet none of these policymakers or writers cites any evidence for this claim; in fact, no government or academic study has ever shown that large numbers of fathers are abandoning their children. Moreover, studies that answer the question directly have arrived at a different conclusion.
In the largest federally funded study ever undertaken on the subject, Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver demonstrated that few married fathers voluntarily leave their children. Braver found that overwhelmingly it is mothers, not fathers, who are walking away from marriages. Moreover, most of these women do so not with legal grounds such as abuse or adultery but for reasons such as "not feeling loved or appreciated." The forcibly divorced fathers were also found to pay virtually all child support when they are employed and when they are permitted to see the children they have allegedly abandoned (1998, chap. 7).
Other studies have reached similar conclusions. Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen found that women file for divorce in some 70 percent of cases. "Not only do they file more often, but ... they are more likely to instigate separation." Most significantly, the principal incentive is not grounds such as desertion, adultery, or violence, but control of the children. "We have found that who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce" (2000, 126-27, 129, 158, emphasis in original). One might interpret this statistic to mean that what we call divorce has become in effect a kind of legalized parental kidnapping.
Moreover, the vast machinery devoted to divorce and custody litigation now has the power not only to seize children whose parents have done nothing legally wrong, but also to turn forcibly divorced parents into outlaws without any wrong action on their part and in ways they are powerless to avoid. What we are seeing today is nothing less than the criminalization of parents, most often the fathers. A father who is legally unimpeachable can be turned into a criminal by the regime of involuntary divorce.
Partly responsible is "no-fault" divorce, or what marriage advocate Maggie Gallagher terms "unilateral" divorce, which allows one spouse to abrogate the marriage contract without incurring any liability for the consequences (1996, 143-52). "In all other areas of contract law those who break a contract are expected to compensate their partner or partners," writes researcher Robert Whelan, "but under a system of 'no fault' divorce, this essential element of contract law is abrogated" (1995, 3). When children are involved, their separation from one parent is then enforced by the state, with criminal penalties against that parent for literally "no fault" of his own. ...
Government's Family Machinery
For all the recent concern about both family breakdown and judicial power, it is surprising that so little attention is focused on family courts. They are certainly the arm of government that routinely reaches deepest into individuals and families' private lives. "The family court is the most powerful branch of the judiciary," according to Judge Robert Page of the New Jersey Family Court. "The power of family court judges," by their own assessment, "is almost unlimited" (1993, 9, 11). Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas once characterized them as "kangaroo court[s]" (In Re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 27-28 ).
Very little information is available on these courts. They usually operate behind closed doors and leave no records. Statistics are virtually nonexistent because judges and bar associations lobby to prevent the compilation of figures (Levy, Gang, and Thompson 1997).
Most strikingly, they claim exemption from due process of law and even from the Constitution itself. As one father reports being told by the chief judicial investigator in New Jersey, "The provisions of the U.S. Constitution do not apply in domestic relations cases since they are determined in a Court of Equity rather than [in a] Court of Law." A connected rule known as the "domestic relations exception" is said to justify the federal courts' refusal to scrutinize family-law cases for constitutional rights violations (60 U.S.L.W. 4532 [June 15, 1992]). A substantial body of federal case law recognizes parenting as an "essential" constitutional right "far more precious than property rights" that "undeniably warrants deference, and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection." This "fundamental liberty interest," federal courts have held, "cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions" (Hubin 1999, 124). Yet divorce courts virtually never apply such apparently unequivocal constitutional principles, and the federal courts resist becoming involved. ...
Batterers or Protectors?
A punitive quality seems to pervade the treatment of fathers in general throughout divorce court, but the presumption of guilt becomes explicit with accusations of spousal or child abuse. Fathers accused of abuse during divorce are seldom formally charged, tried, or convicted because there is usually no evidence against them; hence, they never receive due process of law or the opportunity to clear their names, let alone recover their children. Yet the accusation alone prohibits a father's contact with his children and causes his name to be entered into a national database of sex offenders (Parke and Brott 1999, 49-50).
Although initial accusations do not necessarily result in the father's arrest, they do confirm his status as a quasi-criminal whose movements are controlled by the court. This control takes the form of an ex parte restraining order, whose violation results in imprisonment. Orders separating fathers from their children for months, years, and even life are issued without the presentation of any evidence of wrongdoing. They are often issued at a hearing at which the father is not present and about which he may not even know, or they may be issued over the telephone or by fax with no hearing at all. A father receiving an order must vacate his residence immediately and make no further contact with his children.
Boston attorney Elaine Epstein, former president of the Massachusetts Women's Bar Association, has written that "allegations of abuse are now used for tactical advantage" in custody cases and that restraining orders are doled out "like candy." "Restraining orders and orders to vacate are granted to virtually all who apply," and "the facts have become irrelevant," she writes. "In virtually all cases, no notice, meaningful hearing, or impartial weighing of evidence is to be had." Massachusetts judges alone issue some sixty thousand orders each year (1993, 1).
Arresting fathers for attending public events such as their children's musical recitals or sports activities -events any stranger may attend - is common. In 1997, National Public Radio reported on a father arrested in church for attending his daughter's first communion. During the segment, an eight-year-old girl wails and begs to know when her father will be able to see or call her. The answer, because of a lifetime restraining order, is never. Even accidental contact in public places is punished with arrest. New Jersey municipal court judge Richard Russell captured the rationale in a 1994 judges' training seminar: "Your job is not to become concerned about the constitutional rights of the man that you're violating as you grant a restraining order. Throw [the man] out on the street, give him the clothes on his back and tell him, see ya around. ... They have declared domestic violence to be an evil in our society. So we don't have to worry about the rights" (qtd. in Bleemer 1995, 1).
Some argue that judges must "balance" the rights of accused men with the genuine need of women for protection, yet we do not normally restrain citizens from their basic constitutional rights, including the right of free movement and free association (especially with their own children) merely because someone asks us to do so. We assume that all citizens are innocent until proven guilty, that they have a right to due process of law, that they should enjoy basic freedom until evidence of an infraction is presented against them, and that knowingly false accusations will be punished.
Some suggest that protective orders are issued on the principle of "better safe than sorry," yet this suggestion begs the most telling question of how protective orders can prevent violence, inasmuch as violence is already illegal. A father whose wife obtained a restraining order against him was, according to the St. Petersburg Times, "enjoined and restrained from committing any domestic violence upon her" (Schroeder and Sharp 1992, 2). Was he, along with the rest of us, not so restrained to begin with? The orders seem designed not so much to prevent wrongdoing as to eliminate and criminalize fathers. Forcing a father to stay away from his children even though he has done no wrong may provoke precisely the kind of violent response it ostensibly intends to prevent. "Few lives, if any, have been saved, but much harm, and possibly loss of lives, has come from the issuance of restraining orders and the arrests and conflicts ensuing therefrom," retired judge Milton Raphaelson of the Dudley, Massachusetts, District Court writes. "This is not only my opinion; it is the opinion of many who remain quiet due to the political climate. Innocent men and their children are deprived of each other" (2001, 4).
Connected here is the rapidly growing system of government-funded visitation centers for which fathers not necessarily convicted of any crime must pay as much as $80 an hour to see their own children under the gaze of social workers. "People yell at you in front of the children. They try to degrade the father in the child's eyes," the Massachusetts News quotes father Jim O'Brien in August 1999. "I wish I'd never come here. ... They belittle you." When O'Brien asked his daughter if she'd made her first communion in the six years since he had seen her, the social worker jumped in and said, "You're not allowed to ask that!" (Maguire 2000).
The practice of supervised visits is promoted by the Supervised Visitation Network (SVN), a group whose membership has mushroomed since its founding in 1992. ...
Domestic violence is now a major industry funded through interlocking government programs at the federal, state, and local levels and by private foundations and international organizations. The premise on which this industry is largely based - that domestic violence is a political crime perpetrated exclusively by men against women - has already been refuted by many studies that show that men and women commit domestic violence at roughly equally rates, so it requires no further treatment here (Fiebert 1997; Straus forthcoming). ...
What matters here is to what degree this domestic violence hysteria is aimed specifically at removing children from their fathers. There is reason to believe that this objective is the main thrust behind it. Feminists point out that most domestic violence occurs during "custody battles" and that the vast preponderance of domestic violence takes place among divorced and separated couples (Rennison and Welchans 2000, 4-5). Susan Sarnoff of Ohio State University points out that the Violence Against Women Act II, passed by Congress in 2000, not only legitimizes the making of knowingly false accusations, "but ... offers abundant rewards for doing so - including the 'rights' to refuse custody and even visitation to accused fathers-with virtually no requirements of proof." Moreover, "the bill's definition of domestic violence ... is so broad that it does not even require that the violence be physical" (1998, 1, 12). ...
Advocates of unilateral divorce portray it as a "citizen's right" and a "civil liberty," yet in practice the regime of involuntary divorce has led to authoritarian measures against forcibly divorced parents and others. Some sixty thousand government agents, some of them armed, now enforce child support, approximately thirteen times the worldwide number of Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
These plainclothes police now command sweeping powers to seize property and persons involved involuntarily in divorce proceedings, including the power to issue arrest warrants. ...
In Britain, the London Times editorialized in 1999 that the nation's Child Support Agency had become "a monstrous bureaucracy, chasing responsible parents and wrecking the families it was meant to support."...
Fathers who lose their jobs are seldom able to hire lawyers to have their childsupport payment lowered, and judges rarely lower it anyway. Yet government lawyers will prosecute a father free of charge, regardless of his or the mothers' income. It is also now a federal crime for a father who is behind in child support, for whatever reason, to leave his state, even if doing so is his only way to find work. This law has even been used to prosecute a father whose former wife moved to another state with his children (Parke and Brott, 64-65).
Why so many divorced fathers seem to be unemployed or penurious may be accounted for by the strains that legal proceedings place on their emotions and work schedules. ...
Promoting Marriage or Divorce?
The relentless (il)logic of the child-support system extends up to the level of federal policy, to the point where the tail seems to wag the dog. Although new federal programs claim to "promote fatherhood" and "enhance relationships," no explanation is forthcoming from HHS of how precisely the government can achieve these objectives. What requires no explanation is that the government can arrest and incarcerate people, which seems to be what it is doing to those whose marriages it is unable to save.
In May 2003, HHS announced grants to "faith-based groups." In Idaho, Healthy Families Nampa (whose name seems tailored to the federal program) will use $544,400 for "counseling and other supportive services to parents who are interested in marrying each other," Assistant Secretary Wade Horn told the Associated Press. Horn said the grants are "targeted at preventing divorce among those who are married and at improving parenting skills of both married and non-married couples" (qtd. in Meckler 2003). HHS documents make clear, however, that in fact the grants are for collecting child support. Michigan's enforcement agency will receive almost a million dollars above its regular federal subsidies. Horn claimed the aim is to "enhance the overall goals and effectiveness of the child support enforcement program by integrating the promotion of healthy marriage into existing child support services" (HHS 2003). He did not explain how law enforcement agents can enhance anyone's marriage.
Evidence suggests that these agents are having precisely the opposite effect. Bryce Christensen of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society points to "evidence of the linkage between aggressive child-support policies and the erosion of wedlock" because child-support enforcement subsidizes divorce. The latest moves by HHS seem to validate Christensen's conclusion. "Politicians who have framed such [child-support] policies ... have-however unintentionally-actually reduced the likelihood that a growing number of children will enjoy the tremendous economic, social, and psychological benefits which the realization of that ideal [of a two-parent family] can bring" (2001, 67, 63).
Here we have the ingredients of a government perpetual-growth machine, one that extends well beyond family policy. Identifying fathers rather than governments as the culprits behind family dissolution not only justifies harsh law enforcement measures, but also rationalizes policies that contribute further to the absence of fathers, which they ostensibly are meant to prevent. Further-given the undeniable correlation that the fatherhood advocates have established between fatherlessness and today's larger social pathologies, such as poverty, crime, and substance abuse-it allows officials to ignore the simplest and safest solution to these ills, which is to stop eliminating fathers. Instead, governments devise elaborate schemes, invariably extending their reach and power, to deal with the problems that their removal of the fathers has created: not only fatherhood promotion and marriage therapy, but larger antipoverty programs beloved of the left and law enforcement measures dear to the right. By concocting a fatherhood crisis where none previously existed, government across the spectrum has neutered the principal rival to its power and created an unlimited supply of problems for itself to solve.
1. Standard legal authorities insist this distinction no longer exists. "With the procedural merger of law and equity in the federal and most state courts, equity courts have been abolished" (Black's Law Dictionary, 6th ed., s.v. "Equity, courts of"). back
2. West 2000, and accompanying accounts by and interviews with Armstrong's family. The U.S. Attorney's office in Concord, New Hampshire, has refused to discuss the case. back
3. Account compiled from interviews with White's daughter and with Todd Eckert of the Parent and Child Advocacy Coalition, who was assisting White before his death, and from reports by Donna Laframboise in the National Post, March 23, 25, and 27, 2000, in the Vancouver Sun, March 24, 2000, and in the Ottawa Citizen, March 24 and 27, 2000. Attacks on White in the Toronto Sun (April 9, 2000) and in other newspapers did not contest the essential facts. back
Abraham, Jed. 1999. From Courtship to Courtroom: What Divorce Law Is Doing to Marriage. New York: Bloch.
Akins, William. 2000. Why Georgia's Child Support Guidelines Are Unconstitutional. Georgia Bar Journal 6, no. 2: 8-14, 54-57. Also available at: http://www.economic-indicators.com/GABarJourAkins.htm.
Baskerville, Stephen. 2003. The Politics of Child Support. PS: Political Science and Politics 36, no. 4: 719-20.
Bieniewicz, Donald. 1999. Improving State Child Support Guidelines. Testimony to the Virginia Child Support Quadrennial Review Panel. Available at: http://www.guidelineeconomics.com/files/VA_Bieniewicz1999.pdf.
Blankenhorn, David. 1995. Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem. New York: Basic.
Bleemer, Russ. 1995. N.J. Judges Told to Ignore Rights in Abuse TROs. New Jersey Law Journal 140 (April 24): 1-14.
Boczkiewicz, Robert. 2000. State Fighting Feds in Appeals Court. Topeka Capital-Journal, January 22. Available at: http://www.cjonline.com/stories/012200/kan_appealscrt.shtml.
Braver, Sanford. 1998. Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myth
Is There Really a Fatherhood Crisis? by Dr. Stephan Baskerville