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Towards Parental Equality

By Steven Swoboda

Dr. Farrell has always had a particular talent for crystallizing inequities hidden in social patterns, and this has never been more in evidence than here.

If it is true that the best interest of the children is the primary reason for overwhelmingly awarding custody to women, then such women ought to have the OBLIGATION (not merely the OPTION) to be the primary parent after divorce.

Moreover, feminists argue FOR women’s equal rights to jointly created career assets emanating from the male financial womb, but argue AGAINST men’s equal rights to jointly created children that came from the women’s childbearing womb. When fairness to dads is competing with the tradition of motherhood, “tradition runs thicker than equality.”

There are many other truths which Dr. Farrell wants to tell us. Industrialisation allowed women to become specialists in nurturing, while alienating fathers from their children (due to the requirement that they be working away from home) in rough proportion to the number of children they had fathered.

Typical male parenting is different from female parenting, and the synergy richly benefits the child tenfold over just one or the other. Our laws exact punishment when the male role is taken to an extreme, as with sexual harassment or date rape, but not for the female role taken to an extreme, as with suffocating overprotection or emotional incest.

This is related to society’s understanding of the value of mothering and its imperfect grasp of the different yet equal worth of fathering. This blindness has the gravest of results, making fathers’ natural style vulnerable to false accusations of child abuse, which in turn often separate children from the dads they desperately need. And this, he notes, is the REAL child abuse.

Farrell has a rare knack for analyzing even the most overlyfamiliar facts with a fresh ear and a clear eye. He deftly demonstrates the unthinkability–if genders were reversed–of a prolonged suspicion of Elian Gonzalez’ father, keeping a child from his mother for many months, when at the same time the father’s relatives who were Elian’s caretakers had recent histories of various crimes.

“Father and Child Reunion” also impresses in what has in the past been one of Farrell’s weak points–his practical proposals to effect change.

Here he suggests that the government must fund research into false accusations, violations of due process, and denial of fathering time, and should pay for introducing courses in “relationship language” in our schools.

Farrell proposes a win-win requirement that women notify men regarding a pregnancy (and that they undergo a DNA test to prove the father’s identity) as soon as they become aware of it. (This facilitates the couple’s processing of the information and decisionmaking together.)

Encouraging a daughter to ask out boys she likes even though her rejection rate will be higher may improve her own success at finding a favorable match, is likely to advance her skills at assertiveness and her self-confidence, and in the long run will help the salutary process of developing comfort with both sides of traditional gender roles.

As usual, Dr. Farrell unearths some priceless gems, such as the Census Bureau’s survey asking the main reason why regular child support payments were not received, and offering only two reasons, “the father [not “the custodial parent”] refused to pay” or “you were unable to locate the father.”

His facility with the felicitous and revealing turn of phrase is again in evidence: “Women’s traditional support systems support women being vulnerable; men’s traditional support systems support men being invulnerable.” “When a man fails as a wallet, we put him in prison; when a woman fails as a mother, we offer her social services.

We’re taking a criminal approach to men, a social-services approach to women.”

“Father and Child Reunion” is a work of effortless brilliance, likely to prove one of the most important books on any topic to have been written in the early years of this new millennium.

By focusing on the sole issue in which (as he shows us) the value and necessity of men’s contribution absolutely cannot be denied, Dr. Farrell has penned a work which should play to the masses even more smoothly than the relationship communication outlined in Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say.

And, for a society whose gender malaise and confusion about parenting styles has nearly reached critical mass, it may be just in time.

Steven Swoboda is a Guam-based Human Rights lawyer and author for Sydney-based magazine Certified Male.

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