I have tangled with the Men’s Rights movement before, usually in the comments section of my Good Men Project articles. The most frustrating thing about that crew, besides their vitriolic hate speech towards feminists and the occasional personal insult, is that sometimes they are right.
There are gender biases that cut in all directions, and I don’t think it’s fair for feminists to argue that women always get the brunt of it. Most of the time? Yes (especially in these last trying months). But are there are occasions where men get screwed based on sex-based prejudice? Yes. Should we rectify those as well? Absolutely.
Massachusetts is putting together a task force to reconsider its child custody laws. From the Boston Globe:
“Advocates for custody reform aren’t going away; they are among the loudest and most persistent constituencies to lobby state government today. Their passion bespeaks a genuine need to examine the workings of family courts, and to determine whether some complaints about bias have merit. And while some shared-parenting advocates won’t be satisfied with anything less than joint custody in all cases, others have suggested smaller changes in law and practice that are worthy of discussion. These include tweaks in the language used in domestic relations cases – such as replacing the term “visitation’’ with “parenting time’’ – and changes in the restraining-order process that would encourage more healthy contact between parents and children.”
As the child of a less-than-amicable divorce but a successful joint-custody arrangement, I have strong feelings on the subject. I think the presumptive default should be joint custody, and then you work from there. I don’t think that one situation fits all families (and thus I would not be in favor of a mandated arrangement), but I do believe we need to begin with the assumption that both parents have equal access to and engagement with their children.
Part of my feminism is ceding the assumption that women are “naturally” better parents. Our culture favors caregiving for women and breadwinning for men in a myriad of de facto and de jure ways. We need to fix the legal double standards (i.e .provide parental leave across the board), and we need work to scrub the prejudice from judicial discretion as well. Beginning from a place of equality seems like a good start.
Do women request full custody more often then men? Yes. Will you still likely end up with more custody arrangements that favor the mother, probably yes. But, you will also end up with fewer disenfranchised fathers, and fewer “every other weekend” models, and fewer kids that view their dads as glorified babysitters instead of engaged parents. Using gender as the launching point for a conversation about custody is unfair to dads, reinforces stereotypes about men and parenting, and deprives kids of seeing their fathers as primary caregivers.
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