Thursday, September 27, 2012

Angry, Radical Men's Groups - They Are Dangerous And They Need To Be Stopped.


Attack of the 50-Foot Feminist Agenda

Angry, radical men's groups believe males are being victimized by out-of-control judges and politicians. They're wrong and they're dangerous and they need to be stopped.

By Barry Nolan | Boston Magazine, September 2012

angrymenIllustration by Chris Kasch

Every Wednesday at noon, the Governor’s Council gathers at the Massachusetts State House. The eight-member council is an elected but little-known body that serves as the governor’s advisory board; oversees things such as pardons; and approves or rejects appointments for state judgeships. That means it has a lot of influence on how state laws wind up getting interpreted and carried out.

Amid the smattering of lobbyists and state officials at council meetings, there is always a member of the Fatherhood Coalition, a Massachusetts-based organization that was founded in 1993 to steer state laws in a direction more favorable to fathers. Sometimes it’s Joe Ureneck, the group’s chairman, who attends. He’s a small-business owner who, while going through a divorce, became concerned with the system’s “sexist bias.” Other times it’s Patrick McCabe, a soft-spoken part-time accountant from Hyde Park whose divorce left him similarly disturbed. McCabe, in fact, is running for a seat on the council this November.

Ureneck and McCabe aren’t exactly shy and retiring at the meetings. Along with the rest of the Fatherhood Coalition, they do their best to shut down judicial nominees they view as insufficiently sympathetic to their agenda. A nominee, for instance, like David Aptaker, who in 2010 was up for a position as a Middlesex probate judge. As a bit of background, one thing the Fatherhood Council is particularly concerned about is restraining orders, which it insists are used in a way that’s biased against men. In fact, the group has been pushing legislation to change the system. That’s why the coalition was alarmed by Aptaker’s nomination—according to a post on its website, Aptaker’s “lack of understanding of the restraining order laws made it clear he was not fit for the bench.” So after discovering that the nominee had failed to disclose donations he’d made to two disgraced politicians, the Fatherhood Coalition showed up at a public hearing, registering complaints that he couldn’t be trusted because of his donations. Under pressure, Aptaker eventually withdrew his application. “Whether you agree with them or not, their point of view has become the elephant in the room,” says Mary-Ellen Manning, a council member from Salem. Watertown’s Marilyn Petitto Devaney, who’s been on the council for 14 years, says the presence of the Fatherhood Coalition has “changed the way we do business here.”

Aptaker’s story underscores a disturbing trend: Men’s rights groups, convinced that men are the biggest victims of modern society, have been busy attacking, defunding, and repealing laws that have been very effective at protecting women and lowering rates of domestic violence. And rather than just ranting and raving on the Internet, these men have been pulling political levers to change both state and federal laws. That they’ve done so with remarkable success ought to make everyone very, very scared.

If your last memory of men’s groups is Robert Bly and the boys banging on drums in the woods, you likely have no idea how the movement has mutated. Today, men’s rights groups tend to be organized around the belief that this country has launched a “war on fatherhood.” To them, the rise of feminism resulted in the fall of man, with males now being relegated to the periphery of society. In their eyes, the media portray men as feckless buffoons, legislative bodies unfairly target them, and biased courts blindly punish guiltless husbands. (Full disclosure: I was a producer of the 2011 documentary No Way Out But One, which examined the family court system.)

Nationally, groups like Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) and A Voice for Men have helped slow the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act—which would provide $660 million in funding for shelters, legal aid, and other programs to protect battered women—by convincing conservative House Republicans that the law shouldn’t include immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBT victims. SAVE claims the law is biased, noting in a fact sheet titled “Seven Key Facts About Domestic Violence” that “female initiation of partner violence is the leading reason for the woman becoming a victim of subsequent violence.” In other words: She was asking for it, officer.

Locally, the Fatherhood Coalition (which has seven active chapters and a few hundred members across the state) is joined by Fathers and Families, a “family court reform” advocacy group founded in 1998 that now has 50,000 e-mail newsletter subscribers. Fathers and Families claims to have the “largest membership base, the highest media profile, the most funding, and the most successful legislative representation of any family court reform organization.” It’s a bold claim—and quite accurate. In 2001, for example, the group won changes in Massachusetts law that lowered child support by 15 percent.

Then, last year, Fathers and Families and the Fatherhood Coalition achieved a major victory with the passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which removed the requirement that men pay alimony after retirement. The success of that bill allowed them to fine-tune their technique of advancing legislation: Get the governor to appoint a task force to examine the issue, secure a seat on the task force, influence the ultimate consensus, and then send it to the legislature.

Also last year, the men’s groups tried another approach to changing laws: submitting a ballot initiative. They had hoped to use that strategy to overturn 209A, a law that seeks to prevent domestic violence by allowing judges to grant emergency protective orders to men or women who have a reasonable fear of harm from another person, often a partner. That law is stacked against men, according to Ureneck, who also helms the Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform, a conservative group advocating for tougher enforcement of immigration laws. “The fundamental idea behind 209A,” Ureneck tells me, “is that men are inherently batterers and women are fundamentally victims.” Ultimately, Attorney General Martha Coakley shut down the group’s attempts to overturn the law via ballot initiative because the state constitution doesn’t allow such initiatives to deal with the “powers of courts.”

Now, men’s rights groups are pushing another bill that would change court guidelines in custody proceedings, moving from the standard of doing what is in the best interest of the child to making shared custody the default. That sounds reasonable enough—good parents should certainly be able to play a meaningful role in their children’s lives after a divorce—but the proposed law has no provision for judges to determine whether one of the parents was violent in the relationship, which is a pretty glaring hole. And studies show that shared custody is one way that emotionally abusive spouses often seek to extend their control after a marital breakup.

In spite of that, men’s groups have convinced more than a quarter of Massachusetts House members to cosponsor the bill. In the face of that pressure, Governor Patrick in July appointed 18 people to the Working Group on Child-Centered Family Laws, which is examining current regulations and trying to come up with a consensus on future guidelines. Men’s rights groups, including the Fatherhood Coalition and Fathers and Families, managed to get three of their members in the group, but there are no representatives from mothers’ groups. (One member comes from a domestic violence organization, however, and another from the Women’s Bar Association.)

“They’re organized,” says a Beacon Hill insider. “They’re vocal, they can be vociferous…and they’ve capitalized on the success they had with the reform alimony laws.”

And men’s groups are having successes like this all over the country. Rita Smith of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence told the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report that such groups have “taken over the courts,” and that they have “been able to get custody evaluators, mediators, guardians ad litem, and child protective service workers to believe that women and children lie about abuse.”

Let’s be clear: There is no “war on men.” It’s true that the family courts should be better staffed, and better trained to sort out the truth, assess the risks, and ensure that kids are kept safe, happy, and healthy. And men’s groups certainly have every right to try to change the law. That’s how democracy works.

But that’s all the more reason that civil rights and women’s groups need to wake up and get involved, something they’ve been slow to do. When I spoke to Toni Troop of Jane Doe Inc., a Massachusetts sexual assault and domestic violence advocacy group, she assured me that “People see through their rhetoric and their repeated attempts to undermine safety for the real victims of domestic violence.” Really? Then why have they been so successful at changing the law? More women’s and mothers’ groups need to start attending these meetings and demanding a seat at the table.

They also need to remember how bad the past was. Back in 1993, before the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, then-Senator Joe Biden conducted a three-year investigation into the causes and effects of violence against women. Afterward, he issued a searing report that helped lead to the 1994 passage of the original bill. In that report, Biden wrote, “…violence against women reflects as much a failure of our nation’s collective moral imagination as it does the failure of our nation’s laws and regulations…it deserves our profound public outrage.” Nearly 20 years later, it’s time to get outraged again.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

My Friend, My Sweet Dear Susan Murphy–Milano

(((susan))) holding you close in my heart baby.
Funding Challenge

Susan with Dr. Akoury at first chemo treatment

As quoted in a Chicago Tribune article over the weekend, Susan Murphy Milano says she doesn't know if she'll make through the end of the year with her cancer battle. That could very well be true.

Susan has had a total of 4 chemo treatments, has done very well with them, made progress, but has to commit to 9 more chemo treatments, as well as strictly follow a regimen to build up her body in order to prepare it for surgery in several weeks. She has a great team, all working together with her to make this happen and to continue with ongoing treatment.

The challenge to make this happen is funding. Although many have stepped up and generously given from their hearts and pocketbooks, we must, once again, appeal to the public for help.

In order to fulfill the commitment to the treatments we need to raise at least $1000-$1500 per week for the next 9 weeks. Yes, do the math, it's quite a sum!

We know that there are many of you who have donated that can not afford to do any more, we thank you and understand, but, do you know people, perhaps in your circle of friends, who may wish to participate?

The outpouring has been great, and we really hate to keep asking, but don't know what else to do.

We are working diligently to follow up on all of the resources many of you have sent our way. Sometimes it seems like we're buried under mountains of papers to fill out, swimming upstream with so little time to devote to it.

As we once again appeal to you, we'd also like to thank each and every one on the supporter's list on this site, with special thanks to CUE Center for Missing Persons volunteers. What a family you all are! You do so much as it is, on your own time and your own dime, to help families of the missing, it just amazes us that you've taken Susan under your wing and called her your own.

To Denise Brown and Danielle Pierre for stepping up and featuring many colleagues of Susan's on their tribute radio show, we thank you for the donations your show was able to bring in and we hope they will continue.

Also, to all of you who have consistently shared articles about Susan, the EAA, Document the Abuse, and the work that will continue, no matter what, we offer our gratitude. Especially to Document the Abuse colleagues Sandra Brown of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction, Pastor Neil Schori and all others connected who have given their time and dollars. It can't be done without you all.

And...every day we are thankful to Dr. Dalal Akoury, MD at AwareMed for being the compassionate, knowledgeable and caring physician that she is. She's been so generous with her time and resources and is determined to do all she can to help Susan get the cancer under control.

We are running out of options, as well as time. Susan has a terrific team of doctor, oncologist, surgeon, and caretakers who are all working very hard to keep her going, but, with no health insurance, and no income to help with expenses, there's only so much that can be done.

Delilah at 4:16 AM

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Leaving The War Zone: A Battered Mothers Memoirs For her Daughter

CHAPTER 7 – The Witch’s Hat


The Witch’s Hat

This past few weeks have been pretty good. I usually get very sad when summer ends. The pool, the heat. This has been one of the absolute hottest summers I can ever recall in my 46 years. Triple digits were the normal. On Labor Day, my window AC went out. So the following week I stayed in the pool. Stayed cool. I love the solitude of being out in the country. The quiet, the peace. My raw nerves – turned inside out this past two decades have taken such a toll on me. The stress, the emotional pain has shown its self through physical outlets.

During the summer, the memories of being in the pool with my daughter, growing up in a pool myself, and the memories’ of my mother. Memories suck. Their were so many bad ones. So much suffering. The torture camps not unlike those of the concentration camps, the fear, the 24-7 fear.

The beatings were almost like a release. A Release of that constant fear. As then for a a day, maybe two. All was quiet. Constant chaos soon followed.

Present day, in healing from trauma, sometimes one simply cannot recall all the ‘things’ that happened. The mind works like that. It takes care of us. So when trauma is enduring to survive within the mind, you block that ‘trauma’ out. This is a normal thing, a healthy thing and one that is built in to our human composition, of coping adapting and evolving.

The thing is, with the blocking of all that bad – went the few precious moments we had, Rikki and I. With even thinking about her, the pain of her loss the pain of the past ‘constant’ 14 years of court litigation (Continued abuse, torment) I have had to put her few pictures away. This past year I have slowly began to convert the old VHS tapes into digital and DVD. I have for all these years been unable to look at them. The pain immense. Even in her photographs, complete strangers could even see in her once very happy , dancing sparkling eyes disappear. Each years school photo they diminished until finally the light was gone altogether.

The only photos I was allowed to have, from kindergarten through 6th grade. In them alone shows the years of agony she suffered. SCAN PHOTOS HERE Each year, her eyes were darker, until finally the light in them was completely gone. So in order to survive, I have had to put those photos away, in a scrap book. Again, at the loss the helplessness and agony of my baby girl who was robbed of everything, especially her mother. A childhood of fear, loss and torment. Destined to follow her through adulthood.

The good memories are precious few, those years were as well stolen, tainted with the ever ending struggle of court abuse, but we were together and we made those few times good. It is no wonder that when the bad is blocked the good as well because they are all attached to the torment our human rights, we had none. We still do not.

But this year, as I was packing up my summer clothes, preparing for winter, thankful in fact as the summer damn near killed me. To hot even for hell. I was going through what few things remain from my life. Not much. A few old boxes. It was sorta like a treasure hunt, I saw of course things that reminded me of all the bad, things of my baby girl that I have promised to preserve for her. A gentle smile crossed my face.

Then just out of nowhere a Witch’s hat. My hat. Then I recalled the most wonderful of all memories. Halloween. Fall, the entire month was always ours. That was the only one thing that was consistent, one thing that did not come with pain inflicted by the abuser himself or his court whore proxy’s.

No one wanted that day, Halloween, not like every other holiday, even mother’s day we were robbed of all. Dad always got her every single holiday. As he was the non custodial parent, I just the evil bitch mom who wanted to set herself and her daughter free of torture. But, Halloween….. became ours. We celebrated the fall the holiday throughout the month. We decorated beginning with fall and working into the Halloween spirit. On this day, we could be anything we wanted. This day was always a ‘safe’ day for us. Nothing bad ever happened. It was ours, it was special and we had so much fun.

Every year we would add more to our ‘holiday’ boxes - cool Halloween decorations themes. We had an entire 12 x 15 ft. room filled with storage boxes of nothing but fall and Halloween decorations. Throughout these last 13 true hell years, those were all but lost a little at a time, then a lot. Until about 3 years ago, when I stopped seeing anything. As I did not put them up. Eventually, it left my mind as well. Once again, Those precious few good memories attached to the bad.

But this witch’s hat, out of nowhere - in what few things are left at all, (not even enough to fill a 10 x 10 ft room) this hat was ‘just’ there. Instantly I had a very comforting feeling, placed it on my head and continued to go through seeking winter clothing, packing summer clothing. Not really thinking about it nor the significance of the hat - just that all was well, like it had always been there. Just a nice feeling, a feeling odd to me, comfortable somehow ‘connected’ in a life long ago forgotten. The hat has been with me every day since, not consciously aware that, I kept it nor that it is always close to me.

But as the days began to pass I realized that it was in my car, on the couch,- kinda like with your keys and billfold. The peacefulness of fall all around, the critters all doing their scurrying around, the trees with the ever so slight sound of the old tired leaves scorched from the summer also awaiting the first freeze, before they turn the most vibrant of all colors - fall colors. The winds slightly beginning to shift. Yes the world, the seasons, Mother Nature. So very beautiful. So with all this and preparing my little house for winter, cleaning rearranging, feeling alive, being creative, thinking about absolutely nothing. There sits this witch’s hat.

About a week later, actually just a few days ago - the movie ‘twister’ came on TV late I just happened to be up the with the rain storms this week, they have gone from muggy hot to the classic fall cool. Rikki’s absolute number one favorite movie back then in the late 90’s was “Twister”. As I watched it I was thinking about how granny had dubbed her soaps over Rikki’s twister tape, and Rikki in tears said “granny, you taped your soaps on my twister tape’ – she was heartbroken. Lmao  - So was Granny, bless her heart, she was able to get not one but several more tapes of “Twister”. Yes that was a good memory. J

Still the witch’s hat, sits near. I see it has a purple feather and purple stone. Then, I recall why I bought that particular witch’s hat, its purple for the color of anti domestic violence. Even way back then as new a survivor, that purple was sacred. So now I have not only the memory of the Halloween but the subtle deeper meanings coming through as well. I survived, my daughter was safe. (back then – late 90’s) But, Still all is well. These memories are without any fear or pain. They just feel good. Atop my aching heart as I grieve the loss of my child. And at this point all resources long ago depleted to keep that special connection with her. It died when my mother died. The courts and daddy made sure that we never spoke again, nothing. Just gone. Like my mom. But in a more brutal way. You see I know my mom is with Jesus, Rikki however is with pure evil. Brutal does not come close.

Then the following day, the movie ‘Hocus Pocus’ came on…. Then it was more freeking awesomeness…!! To go along with the rest our ‘safe’ zone of Halloween of course our favorite Halloween movies!! All Disney of course, Rikki was not in school yet and she was legally kidnapped by the age of 7.She began kindergarten in the house of hell, and without her mother. He killed her soul then, a thousand deaths she went through. I was not allowed to be anywhere near her, not allowed to comfort her, to just hold her. L It was several year before I was even allowed to see her ‘supervised’ and then we could not hug we could not talk about what happened, we could not talk about hope, the future, we could not talk about our past out home our life, only what Rikki was currently doing with daddy dearest. Her sadness poured out of every pore her entire body eminated a pain that would knock the wind out of any ‘real’ human.


With “Hocus Pocus”, I watched it, loved it, and with warm memories of Rikki (before dad stole her). Then came the movie ‘Halloweentown’ omg. This was absolutely number one favorite for our ‘safe zone’ time. There were two. HalloweenTown and HalloweenTown 2. As I watched them, a flood of so many wonderful memories opened up.

Like I had opened up the door and let the fresh air in, these movies, inspired by the witch’s hat were the answer. If I can get to Rikki these movies especially HalloweenTown, deep inside her blocked off heart - a door will open for her too. I somehow know this with every fiber of my being.

I have time. My main goal is for her to just ‘watch’ them. I have began to rip and burn them for myself, but I want Rikki to ‘watch’ them. So I will buy them and have them sent to her. Not from me of course and hope they still make it into her DVD player- just movies packaged and sealed, nothing mom could have ‘sneaked’ in. Nothing from ‘mom’ so perhaps she will one day watch it. Directly to her from Amazon maybe.

My hopes are that now – perhaps I can begin to write to you. As I said before, it just hurts to bad to the point of panic, anxiety, chest pains and inability to breath. Avoid pain. That’s what we do naturally. And although it pains my heart now as I write this, it is not debilitating, it is welcome, and it just feels right. Like everything else around me - and busy it is – fall. The power of higher than anything else - that special power of Mother Nature. God’s creations and the ‘ultimate justice’. Just wait - the leaves have not even begun to change yet and I plan on doing every fall Halloween activity I can, the healing has finally begun. I guess, it is just time.

The witch’s hat made me feel good. LoL as I look at it now. It sits kinda like the witch hat in harry potter, bent over at middle, old and knowing just comfortable. I smile. I love you my daughter my dearest sweet Rikki.

Just believe what the heck - you ain’t got nothing to loose, I sure do not, plus - it just feels good. I do not know where I will be from one day to the next or even if I will be. Weather this will be the first day of the rest of my life or the last day - it will be the best day I can make it.

Of all that I have done, wished to have done – MOTHER was and is the BEST Blessing, the truest love, the Laws of Nature and everything that I had never dreamed of- but what I wanted more than anything.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Patriarchy, Feminism, Fathers Rights and Feminism. Equality? Divorce and Child Custody -Why we are where we are now - and how we got there.

A very important history lesson for Every Woman, man and “offspring”. Reproduced with permission The Liz Library

It's a misguided notion that speaking out against "fathers' rights" is anti-male gender bias.

Prior to the 1960s, women rarely could get out of marriages in which they were abused or just plain miserable.  In order to obtain a divorce, they had to prove "fault." Some of the first speakers against the fault-based laws, and against the difficulty women had in leaving marriages in which they were unhappy were feminists.  Before much changed, however, mens' rights groups discovered that the words and ideas of feminism could in fact cleverly be turned around and used against women, and for the advantage of men.

Thus it began...

The pattern of women's making gains on one hand without realizing that something else has been taken from them on the other has been one of the pervasive problems for feminist activism.

One of the reasons it's been able to happen is that women by and large simply have been newbies in the political process. Women have not even yet become astute about the impact of compromised agendas, or visionary about how compromises and nice-sounding rhetoric will "pan out" in practice and down the road.

Additionally, women's information networks move slow -- much slower than the existing old boy networks, which are highly organized, both formally and informally.  Consider how the father's rights activism has permeated the internet over the past few years, making noise. creating new organizations, and establishing "names" and "credentials" for itself far out of proportion to the numbers of men actually involved.

Changes Without Progress.

What has happened over the last thirty years in family law legislation has been, in the main, for women, a series of gains on the one hand coupled with reversals on the other, all of which have occurred without fanfare or critical media commentary or, outside of very limited feminist legal scholarship circles, much of any feminist awareness.  Why.

First, as more and more women moved into the workforce during the 70s (as much the result of economic factors as any success of the feminist movement), anti-mother, pro-career rhetoric was picked up strongly by the media.

The media liked the career-woman theme because, well, frankly, it was trendy.  Different. Free sex, bra-burning, the E.R.A... gender-neutrality was stylish.  Titillating.

During this period, as they gained recognition of workplace inequities, women went from leery to terrified of showing much overt interest in family and children, lest they lose hard-won and still-unsecured employment and lifestyle choices, and women's "place" be redefined again for them as *only* wives and mothers.

The woman versus woman nonsense (careerist versus homemaker) largely was (and still is) misunderstood. It is just a variation on the old popular theme (slut versus madonna) which, by labelling women, seeks to limit and control them. When we are not whole, and denied a part of ourselves, or the ability to be true to ourselves, we have lost power. And when those who have accordant interests nevertheless believe that reality is otherwise, then they are not a powerful and united group. Not recognizing this, however, many students of 70s feminism, in attempting to avoid being limited as "girls," and "housewives," bought into the woman-dividing in its insideous 70s variation. [liznote #1]

Then as now, both women and men, including feminists, fell (and still fall) for this simplistic either-or characterizing of "kinds of women."

And falling for this, as far too many self-identified feminists in fact did through the 70s and into the 80s, and out of misplaced fear that continuing interest in their families would harm women's rights progress on other fronts, all major feminist and women's organizations have, until very recently, sorely neglected the family law arena. They focused instead on the peripheral impacting domestic violence and abortion rights areas, as well as a gender-neutral ("we can do it just like-- just as good as -- men") focus on employment rights.

Never mind that most women DO get married and have children. The intense fear of defining ALL women as wives and mothers created an arguable paramount priority. Whether justifiable or merely excusable, it was a short-sighted priority. (After all these years, we still don't have decent child care options, do we. Or an economic workplace reflecting that it itself exists FOR the benefit of individuals and families, the enhancement of life, and the good and functioning of society generally, and not vice versa.)

Lack of a holistic feminist policy and vision.

Family law has been the area of most academic feminist ignorance and least feminist activism, largely due to the fact that motherhood and older women's lives never have been and *still* are not the subjects naturally of most interest to young, scholarly college women. Family issues also have not seemed terribly pressing to women who do not choose to marry men and have children -- and many of these women disproportioniately are feminist activists, precisely because traditional patriarchal notions of women's roles offer nothing for them.

Added to this, of course, is that, good intentions aside, there are some things that a person just has to live to actually understand.  Like what one's children mean and really involve in time, effort and emotional investment.

While cultural womanhood freely embraces, or at least gives lipservice to notions of "sisterhood," an ageless and roleless and safe term right out of childhood, note, the culture's often schizophrenic, negative and limiting woman-labelling has, perhaps, prevented an empathetic identification of all grown women with "motherhood." (Contrast the readily embraced, frequently metaphorized, and always respected notions of "fatherhood.")

But perhaps the biggest reason the importance of family laws to women's lives has not been conveyed successfully to the feminist front-lines has been that women with children, and especially women on welfare, are overall the most isolated, poorest and least-connected group in the society, and the group that has the least time for activism.

The "Feminization of Poverty."

What happens to women and children after divorce? They struggle, and struggle mightily! The question is: why haven't decades and decades of broadening career and educational opportunities yet assured women of economic viability? Well, yes, there's the discrimination in the workplace, overt and covert, in all the ways and all the kinds we know about.  But the real answer is simply that women STILL bear and care for the children in this world.  This is not "equal," it's not "gender-neutral," and it never will be. [See liznotes on primary parenting and the effects of pregnancy.]

Both men and women each get the same 24 hours in a day, but by and large, women with children have to allocate their time between two jobs.  NO ONE can be in two places at the same time, doing two incompatible things at the same time, both caring for children and a household AND earning a living.  A list of economic studies [#2] compiled by Lynn Hecht Shafran illustrates how this pans out post-divorce, once the support system of marriage is no longer in place (it's not debatable.)

The following is from an article by Harriet Newman Cohen, author of The Divorce Book for Men and Women,Avon Books l994, and a partner in the matrimonial law firm of Cohen Hennessy & Bienstock, in New York City:

"Fourteen years have elapsed since the equitable distribution law was passed in New York (on June l9, l980) and even more since similar "reforms" were passed, including no-fault divorce on demand in parts of the country.

"No more "alimony drones," the phrase to describe the bum rap women suffered in the seventies and earlier, when alimony was all a woman could get in courts that were not statutorily empowered to divide up property.

"With the "new laws," women traded long-term, even lifetime, alimony for anticipated property distribution and the promised dignity that would accompany it...

"We start with assumptions [about]... the relative worth of each party. She... is supported, dependent, and a receiver at his sufferance. These views are frequently held by him, her, the lawyers, and the courts -- throwbacks to another era. They are reinforced by society. After all, the government has refused to enact laws entitling homemakers to Social Security and IRA contributions based on their homemaking services.

"And people still ask mothers, "Do you work?" It smarts. Outside the house in "gainful" employment, do they mean? The principles of equal partnership characterized by different work assignments in a marriage have not caught hold...

"... The equitable distribution laws that were supposed to reform family law premised that women who had been out of the paid work force to raise children and be homemakers -- or simply out of the work force because that was the partners' deal -- could be recycled (i.e. reeducated, retrained, and deployed into a higher-paying job) in short order.

"Before that dubious premise could even be tested, short-term spousal support -- about five years even for a long-term marriage -- became the norm. "No-fault" states also became "no support" states. Yet studies showed that a five-year turnaround period... was not enough. Routinely, his standard of living went up, and hers and the children's went down. A new phrase was born: the feminization of poverty... "

--Family Advocate Summer l994, American Bar Association

Over the last twenty or thirty years, in many respects, divorce laws have become more and more punitive and dangerous for women.

In the beginning.

Women used to have difficulty getting out of marriages. Traditionally, in patriarchal societies, even today around the world, and in our culture until the last century, women simply had no effective way to get divorced. Divorce largely was a male prerogative. In the rare instances in which women had this legal option, often they effectively were kept in marriage by economic disabilities that prevented them from having any real choice to go it alone.

Even after some of the economic barriers to women's obtaining divorces began to dissolve, in order to gain the permission of the state to dissolve what only "until death do us part," egregious fault had to be proved.  By the 20th century, however, for those women who in fact WERE in the most abusive of marriages, that fault could be proven -- and proving it meant custody of the children and some award of support (which wasn't always paid, but at least the need for it was recognized.)  In addition, in all those marriages in which MEN wanted out, women had a "bargaining chip" in the fault laws: they could refuse a divorce unless they received a fair property settlement and alimony.

This is not to say that there weren't BIG problems of other kinds with fault-based divorce, or with many of the other divorce and family laws preceding the current era. [See, e.g. the comments by U. S. Civil Rights Commission in connection with its support for the failed Equal Rights Amendment.]

One problem with fault-based divorce was that while men would just leave marriages without obtaining a divorce, economic pragmatics effectively prevented women from "abandoning" their marriages in this way. Lest they be found themselves to have "abandoned" their marriage for unwarranted reasons, and in the absence of being able to prove "fault" based on other grounds, "non-abandoned" women frequently found themselves stuck in miserable situations. Those who were in the worst situations, however, ultimately couldget their divorces. And where men were the ones found to be "at fault," or who wanted out of their marriages in order to remarry, the fault-based laws did offer some protections for the "not-at-fault" spouse in the way of bargaining power. The men found to be "at fault" paid. But those women who just could not adequately prove the degree of fault required, or who had less than exemplary marital track records themselves were in trouble. Proving what few or no third parties may have observed behind the closed doors of a marital home (or a paramour's bedroom) was not always feasible. Physical abuse did not always amount (legally) to "mental cruelty." And so feminists from suffragette days onward campaigned for reforms to enable women to more easily get a divorce when they needed or desired one.

Ironically, though, while feminists had long sought reforms that would enable women to end marriages that were untenable, as the divorce laws began to loosen and as substantive economic and procedural reforms began to achieve more parity and safety for women, by the time the no-fault divorce laws were enacted, they actually were enacted for, and in ways that benefitted, not women, but men.

Although many women still believe that "no-fault" somehow was the end result of women's long-sought-after marriage dissolution rights, "no-fault" ultimately was the way men counter-moved to evade their worsening "held hostage" situation of having to make property settlements and pay alimony (and the more fault the more alimony) as divorce became more easily and safely obtainable by women. The "no-fault" language was presented as the logical extension of "making divorce easier to obtain," and it was cleverly and timely coupled with a distorted application of 70s feminist rhetoric about women's "independence" and supporting themselves. "Fault" as a basis for equitable remedy in connection with a divorce was abandoned right along with "fault" as a ground for divorce.

Once the no-fault divorce laws, coupled with gender-equality/neutrality rhetoric took hold in the late 70s and early 80s, the bad news for women was that in all but seven states in the country, most of the marital property was titled solely in husband's names -- and they walked out with it upon divorce.

In addition, with the discarding of fault as the basis for equitable remedy in divorce, "no-fault" presumptions actually came down hardest on, and yielded the worst outcomes for precisely those women who suffered the most during their marriages to abusive, nonsupporting, or dysfunctional men! One step forward, two steps back. [liznote #3]

"Equitable Distribution" and "Equality."

Once the problems with "no-fault" divorce (as it had been fashioned) started to become apparent, another wave of "divorce reform" via "corrective" legislation started rolling along, and it came about largely in the way of something known as "equitable distribution."  But that wasn't all. It is no accident that timing-wise, it followed in the 80s right on the heels of women's greater entry into the workforce in the 70s, and feminists' clamoring for equality. Mens-rights forces coopted the idea of equality, and turned it back into their favor, using the the same "equitable" language. To this day, many persons -- judges and scholars included -- have difficulty distinguishing between the terms "equitable," and "equal."

The claim was made by men and bought by many women, including (or even particularly) many self-described feminist women, that inasmuch as men and women now were "equal partners," and inasmuch as women would be getting an "equitable distribution" upon divorce, women should no longer "childishly" depend on being "supported."

The women who fell for this, a good percentage of them optimistic young women, often childless, in academia, and also women lawyers, many married to successful and supportive men, and also "overachiever" types desperate to be seen to be as fully as capable as their male peers, unfortunately pretty much represented the "consensus" of women's voices heard from on these issues. They were the only women who HAD a "voice" and a platform from which to be heard. (This problem remains pervasive today in connection with women's issues in areas outside of domestic violence activism and abortion rights.)

The mens-rights interests succeeded in coupling most of the equitable distribution laws with anti-alimony laws.

The (faulty or fraudulent, you pick) thinking was: why should women be supported if they are "equal?" Divide the accumulated marital "partnership" property, and then henceforth, the former husband and wife would have "equal opportunity" to work and support themselves. [liznote #4]

But fifty-year-old women, who had spent all of their married lives moving where their husbands had moved, entertaining his clients or working for his business, or simply picking up all of life's other chores and child-rearing to enable him to work, found themselves being told that they could "rehabilitate" themselves, and that they had "equal opportunity" to work.

Such thinking ignores that in commencing the economic race ten, twenty or thirty years behind out of the starting gate, there simply is never going to be any kind of catch-up. There's no catch-up in salary levels or overall career achievement, there's no catch-up in pension plan vesting, and there's no catch-up in post-marriage asset accumulation. Equitable distribution standing alone is a particularly noxious remedy where, for one reason or another, at the time of the divorce, there isn't much marital property to be "equitably divided," and the couple's biggest maritally-developed asset, the result of the joint efforts of both, is the husband's future earning power. And it's a double-whammy when women, already operating under THIS impairment, also have children to continue to care for.

For young women, with one or several infants and young children, not only have fewer marital assets accumulated or pension plans vested, but also it's just not reasonable to expect that an individual with children to care for -- even a mother with the very same education, experience and ability as her former husband -- will be able to earn equivalently to her ex-husband.

Without even getting into the employment sector barriers which still exist, it's flat-out not possible to both care for children and work in outside employment at the same time. Either childcare or financial care is needed. Even with babies warehoused for inappropriate and unhealthy amounts of time in third party care, the cost of such care leaves mothers with little or no earnings remaining after taxes and other expenses of employment. Even with optimal child care, mother's employment is hampered by contraints on travel, distance, hours, overtime, emergency flexibility, sick children, breastfeeding requirements, daytime errands, and the weight of "buck-stops-here" responsibility for little others' lives.

The rise of joint custody theory and politics.

By the time the flaws in equitable distribution/no-alimony schemes became apparent in the late 70s and 80s, divorce reform was humming long at breakneck speed, along with an increase in divorces, breeding its own systemic problems to be addressed (such as more courts.) A more sophisticated political wave and a counter-wave rose at the same time, posing as an ostensible "fix."

To mend some of the holes left by the first equitable distribution laws, in the 80s, feminist activists helped get recognition for women's contributions to mens' schooling and careers, and helped strengthen "rehabilitative alimony" laws, and child support laws. As these bills came into legislatures, however, they threatened to take from men their beloved possessions.

While feminists worked to enact laws that would help women retain their share of some of the economic security they had "in partnership" helped accumulate, along came joint custody theory and joint custody laws -- once again, using feminists' own words about equality against them, and in a weird way, rendering children yet another possession for equitable division.

The (faulty or fraudulent, you pick) thinking was: If women are entitled to seek equality in the workforce, well, then men are entitled to seek it in custody laws. Equity and the interests of the children be damned. Never mind that women who had achieved some personal semblance of "equality" in the workforce had in fact taken considerable initiative to do so, gaining the education and experience, and putting in the requisite time and effort toward that career. In the home, men, on the whole had done nothing much different from what they always had done, with only minor increases in male parenting time with children, largely in the area of recreational time.

Affirmative action? This is hardly the time for it. It's not the time for it, even if "affirmative action" in the workplace were analogous to a theory of "affirmative action" by one divorcing mother to benefit one husband. And it's hardly analogous given that children are not property to be divvied up and experimented with like just so many entry-level jobs or freshman class openings.

One of the specious arguments goes: this will free up mothers' time, enabling them to work, and improving the quality of their life!  Ridiculous. If an alternate custody arrangement were beneficial to a particular mother, she hardly would need to have it mandated by law. Half-time children don't free up full-time career needs: few employers pay full time salaries plus benefits for part time work. Or offer jobs of one week on, one week off. Nor are women's lives in the throes of divorce and afterward likely to be improved by adding economic pressure and visitation packing and schlepping onto everything else they have to do, not to mention "negotiating" childcare minutiae with a hostile ex.

The ideas about "equal parenting" and "fathers are parents too," etc. are about men's wants, not "equality" vis a vis women, and *certainly* not about children' needs! It's all about men, who, having taken advantage of women's different reproductive and child-rearing role during marriage, and having made no effort during marriage to take on an equalizing *greater* share of the housework, suddenly, upon divorce, realizing that it would be cheaper to replace the mother altogether with the second wife (or the girlfriend, or the housekeeper, or grandma.)

Joint custody is a backlash response to the increased enforcement of men's post-divorce financial obligations. The primary political goal is the reduction (or elimination altogether) of the payment of child support. Of secondary appeal is the promise it holds out for two separate autonomous and ostensibly "equal" households, minimizing the need for contact and cooperation with the ex-wife.

Joint custody also appeals to those individuals who seek to regain the means to continue to control the family members they once controlled. In practice, it frequently devolves post-order and over time into a time-share arrangement that differs little from traditional sole custody with visitation (but differs a lot in the amount of the child support order.) Where this does NOT happen, that's because the male-option-granting joint custody order is sought and used as a means for a later second bite at the custody determination apple. Joint custody (in both forms, legal and physical) is a legally-engineered decision-delayer, and a stepping-stone for use by the nonprimary parent in marriage to later seek and obtain full custody. IF he wants to. He's free to come and go, start another family, move or not, always paying less child support than he otherwise would have paid. Well what about his wanting to "parent" his child? Where this isn't about something a bit squeamish and mawkish, chances are very good it's all about replacing the fungible woman/mother/caregiver with one he prefers, and maybe even "saving" some money in the process.

The parent seeking joint custody is almost always that parent who would not be the custodial choice on an up-front either-or determination. After a few years, however, and perhaps a new wife, and coupled with the decreased financial support and ostensible "increased involvement" that accompanies "shared parenting" schemes, it sets up men as the advantaged party in a later custody redetermination de novo (another side benefit.) The need for a redetermination down the road is virtually guaranteed, when, as should have been predicted, joint custody is found to be unworkable over the long haul. [See Nick's comments on this issue.]

Unwed father's rights.

At first, after the enactment of no-fault divorce, and perhaps with the increased social rhetoric of equality making unhappy marriages even less tolerable, where once they would have remained, miserable "for the sake of the kids" -- especially since fault-ground divorce was a long, drawn-out process anyway -- more and more women began filing for divorce in the earliest years of their marriages. As they did, however, and with small children, it became clear that instead of the egalitarian partnership that those who had pushed for the original family law reforms had sought to create, the original no-fault changes themselves had created new inequities. While Band-aid revision after Band-aid revision was enacted in every state, and with each correction in the laws, along came a new set of "unforeseen" hurdles and counterproductive consequences, all moving toward putting women back in their traditional place.

In response to women's legal and social ability to leave marriage, and to the correction after correction in the laws impeding them, and to the simultaneous trend of women marrying later or shunning marriage altogether (coinciding with women's increased entry into the employment sector), the men's rights, and religious right anti-abortion forces became more agitated and threatened, and more and more vocal. Anti-abortion, anti-divorce, anti-welfare and "pro-family/fathers" sentiment grew throughout the capitalistic, merger-and-acquistion 80s. While this trend was observed, all of ts manifestations and repercussions were not. This had an interesting effect.

Women's groups happily (and shortsightedly) bought into the anti-welfare pro-child support movement initiated by those whose actual primary interest was in reducing government spending and replenishing welfare coffers, and whose secondary interest was in re-restricting women's freedom to "break up" families by reimposing the old economic disabilities that had for centuries forced women to get into marriages and remain married.

In joining in the movement seeking increases in child support guidelines and stronger enforcement neasures, women missed the concurrent fathers-rights countermotion. Once again couched in the rhetoric of equality, father's rights groups used some of the very same arguments to achieve a surge of support for father's rights, including the revolutionary UNWED father's rights, all under the same guise of "parental responsibility." Even many feminists embraced "equal parental responsibility" rhetoric along with the post-hippy-era California notion of "joint custody," which ironically, set up the perfect ploy toward an ultimate agenda of doing away with child support altogether!!

Pushing for "child support" post-divorce as "parental responsibility" appealed to feminists for several reasons. First, it eliminated the need to argue roles and choices in marriage, and all those distasteful issues of women's economic dependence -- a continuing factor notwithstanding two decades of second wave feminism and women's entry into the workforce. Second, it provided a way to enable financial support for mothers that did not carry the negative connotations of "alimony." It looked "neutral" and unassailable as a theory. It would be fair, and predictable, and not subject to the vagaries of who had the better lawyer, or a judge's discretionary biases.

But there is no "responsibility" without concurrent "rights." And there's the kicker.

All the focus on child support (child support being "owed" to the child and all), kept the scholar's focus away from examining issues of marriage, contract, and support that might in fact be owed to a *woman* who has, at great and usually lifetime cost to herself far in excess of the mere loss of current income, provided a man with the child or children to which he lays equal claim.

Collecting "child support," and talking about "parental responsibility" felt much more palatable to those women who had bought into being shamed at the idea of receiving support for themselves (that alimony drone argument.) And it came packaged in the gender-neutral surface appeal, if one did not dig deeper, of the "equality words." As could have been predicted, the "parental responsibility" rhetoric was swiftly plucked up by the anti-woman forces straight from the child support arena and plunked down into the child custody arena, where many bought it.

The "parental responsibility-child support" bandwagon also lent itself wonderfully to louder and louder finger-pointing cries of unwed welfare mother "irresponsibility." While the FRs were quick to seize upon the usage "deadbeat dad" as unfairly painting all divorced men in a ngative light (a specious claim to begin with), neither they nor the government nor the media have had any compunction against blaming nearly all of the society's problems on "feminism" and "single motherhood."

Even as the financial detriments still facing women post-divorce were becoming apparent, the stage was being set for widespead propaganda against single mothers generally, previously married or not, responsibe or not. Feminists missed the big picture, and continued to carry the child support ball, originally thrown by the anti-welfare set, of pushing for more and more (and more and more draconian) "child support enforcement." They pushed for it without thinking about or making any cognitive distinction between child support for previously married women (an idea arising out of marriage contract and divorce law theory and substituting for what probably should have been alimony in the first place) and child support "for the children" of never-married women (an idea with no basis in jurisprudential logic, supported by those interested solely in reducing government spending, and believed in by those who never understood that "for the child" was a subrogation fiction.)

While all this was occurring, young women were busily resolving to have their families anyway, but in a new feminist-inspired and "responsible" planned way: to prepare for them first with educational and economic achievement and then, once careers were set, if no compatible partner came along, to just "go it alone."Young women who still planned on marriage were encouraged with the idea that if they only "established" themselves in a career first, they could avoid economic dependency in marriage when babies came along. [liznote: probably not.] Focusing on this notion, though, ended up delaying marriage and motherhood for educated women generally, and thwarted the likelihood of marriage for some women -- but pointing this out has been seen as subversive fear-mongering.

Murphy Brown, et al. instead became the better, and trendy but fleeting feminist answer. It won't be permitted to succeed as a solution.

Economically and socially viable unwed motherhood is the ultimate in women's independence -- complete autonomy over their own bodies, lives and families, IF they wish it. Not that most women would ever really want lives without partners, but recognizing that reality does not appear in the anti-feminist position for a number of reasons.

Women's merely having the OPTION to bear and rear children and go life alone without men would grant women the complete and unfettered marital bargaining power that nature's biology originally gave them, as well as a powerful chip to play in achieving full equal social gender status, notwithstanding motherhood.

It's a threatening prospect, particularly to men who have had women leave them, or who have doubts about their own self-worth, abilities and desirability. And so it only added more fuel to the backlash fires.

The response to "Murphy Brown" was that mens-rights groups (using the rubrik of gender equality) successfully started to advocate for the ultimate control over adult women's bodies and lives: fathers' rights completely outside of marriage, and with no obligations at all to the *mothers* of their children. The push to seek child support from unmarried fathers provided the perfect tit-for-tat "equitable" argument, and guaranteed an easy ride for this absolute nonsense.

Some scholars, e.g. Martha Fineman, have recognized that "unwed father's rights," never before widely acknowledged in the history of the world, and an idea that that largely has cropped up in the United States only in the last 15-20 years, is essentially the imposition back again on women of the marriage laws, a definition of the family as man-woman-child, and a way for the government to get around women's thinking that they are free to conduct their lives, bear children, or use their own bodies as they will outside of the constraints of marriage or men's approval and collaboration.

However, THIS imposition of "family" laws on women's sexual and reproductive independence comes without ANY history or promise of relationship or obligation of the fathers to the mothers of the children. All of the detriments without even a semblance of benefit.

If marriage ever was *anything* remotely partnership in the abstract social theory, it was the bargain by which a woman shared her reproductive investments, her children, and unrecupable time and effort from her life in return for a supportive partner. But patriarchal notions and social, economic and political disabilities traditionally imposed on women in order to force them to enter and remain in marriage as the ONLY viable route open to them, cheapened women's worth and reduced their "bargaining power" and expectations in return for what they had to "trade." An "agreement" made under duress and disability is hardly an equal partnership arrangement.

Patriarchy 's promise to the loyal troops and patriots and believers and followers, is that the behavior from them that will be rewarded with a "chick in every pot" is effort for and in support of the sovereign, not devotion to a woman. Women are not life partners, but possessions and spoils. It's a system of maintaining sovereign authority. Male sovereign authority.

In supporting notions of child support obligations and "equal parental responsibility" OUTSIDE of marriage, OUTSIDE of a contracted-for relationship and "deal," women have been DISabling their bargaining power and their hopes for appropriate laws and equal power IN marriage, IN partnership with men, and as mothers. Since most women will be mothers during their lifetimes, this has the domino effect of disempowering all women generally in all other spheres of life.

The upshot is that in the family laws, women have taken one or two steps forward, and then one or two steps back. Women have made, on balance, NO gains at all in rectifying gender inequity in marriage and divorce.

And if women have no equality in marriage and in their personal lives, then they have no equality in the workforce, either. "Equal pay" is an illusion when there's an unequal personal price that has to be traded for it. [See liznote on gender neutral inequality.]

The Father's Rights Movement.

"Men's rights" began as germ of an idea born of feminism's equality notions, and feminism's pointing out the real ways in which patriarchy has harmed and also controls men. But don't kid yourself that that's what it's really about. Words are easy to use. And when it comes down to politics, very few persons are interested in social theories that don't make a good rationale for laws that appear to address for them their immediate personal desires and disappointments.

"Father's rights" is a synonym for "mens rights," since ultimately, everything -- from the success of the economic systems in place to the religions to the politics -- boils down to patriarchal control of the efforts and fruit of women's bodies and lives.

The groups that are fighting women's efforts on anti-domestic violence laws are "fathers' rights" groups. The groups that are against laws protecting children from child abuse are "fathers' rights" groups. The groups that seek to prevent women from obtaining divorces, or to continue marital controls and rights over them even if they do via shared or father custody, and child support and alimony manipulation are "father's rights" groups.

Listen closely: whether they couch their ideas in terms of religion or liberalism, and regardless of whether they disagree on a particular route or rhetoric, e.g. "joint custody" versus "father custody," listen for the theme in common. Whether it's about the "Father in Heaven," or the "Founding Fathers," or "parenting fathers," there's one paramount interest that's shared, and it isn't about women's -- or children's -- best interests. [See liznotes on the father's rights movement.]

Oh you'll hear a lot about "children's rights," too. When all other arguments are shown up as specious, they have no choice but to fall onto that one. But it's not about children at all. At least not in the sense of being a hands-on caregiver. It's about doing what's good for men and controlling women.

Odd, isn't it, that when the mothers of men's children are under their control, fathers aren't complaining about not being the caregiver. [See liznotes on joint custody, and in response to Wade Horn's position on "fatherlessness." Also see a divorced father's opinion.]

Whether it's a group which has coopted the rhetoric of gender-neutrality and equality, or whether it's a group that makes no bones about being dead-set against feminism, it's one and the same thing: these are still the old boy networks, and with their recruits and their literal armies of grunt foot-soldiers, they still have the connections, wealth, power, political acumen and propaganda machines to decimate women's rights if feminists -- if women -- don't wake up soon.

The propaganda often *sounds* innocuous. Who could be against "equal rights?"

Who would agree that they are not an "independent" or "self-sufficient" woman?

The rhetoric of gender bias has been turned against women, and sadly, it's been bought, hook, line and sinker by more than a few.

(And I'm talking to some of you women lawyers out there, too, who are so indoctrinated in male ways of perceiving the world -- and some, still so hung up on male approval -- that you don't use the brains and training you should have to see what's right in front of your nose!)

Every time women have made a gain in the family laws, whether married, divorced or single, if they had children, the fathers-rights backlash has responded. Proportionately, women have got poorer and poorer financially, and more and more constrained in their freedom, while fathers-rights groups have got enacted laws and amendments to laws that more and more will keep the mother of/and any child of theirs within their control, given that they now cannot do that through preventing divorce. (Although, note, divorce prevention rhetoric appears to be the next bandwagon song, and from there it will be only a short step to "really doing something" with "teeth in it.")

It would appear that the (only) way for any woman to keep her life completely outside the dictates of a man would be for the woman grow to adulthood, not marry, and to not have children at all. But this appearance is deceptive, too. In not supporting mothers IN motherhood and marriage, women who want none of it at all remain at risk and in numbers far too small and powerless to ensure their own options.

Under a pure patriarchy, even the option to remain childless is denied women. Hand-in-hand with the unwed father's rights movement, more and more men, and not for religious, but for political reasons, also have been demanding the end to abortion rights and demanding the right to "input" over the abortion decision, along with demanding that unwed fathers get a veto power over a woman's giving her baby up for adoption. It's no mere "oversight" that insurance companies generally don't cover women's contraceptive health care, but have rushed right in to offer the new "viagra."

The men's clamoring notwithstanding, remaining unmarried and childless is not any solution for most women on a more basic ground. They like men, they want to be married with a partner, and they want to have children and families that include a lifetime partner!  In the last decade, there has been plenty of documentation of childless women in their thirties and forties and up questioning their having had to accept child-free/family-free lives as the price of "equality" and freedom -- a price that men have never had to pay.

Note the agonizing from feminists on both sides of this issue. As with the "mommy-track" issue, those who fear the loss of gains in the employment sector, and the loss of lifestyle choices, immediately suspect, and not without some credible evidence, that the media brouhahas over these kinds of reports are moved, at least in part, by the ulteriorly motivated, backlash propaganda attempting to turn back the clock on women's choices. Other women, often those who have come to some awakening upon their actually having children, but with full feminist goals and sympathies nevertheless intact, are conflicted as to how to deal with these issues and the division in the feminist community over it. These latter women (I submit these are mostwomen) would welcome the opportunity to be able to *choose* to take a relatively small period of their lives in which to focus on and care for the children they *do* have, without suffering life-long economic punishment and repercussions as a result.


Since permanent singlehood just isn't a viable choice for most women, feminist efforts in the 70s and 80s did try to recharacterize marriage and alternative relationships as a "partnership."

A great deal of lipservice (and you'll hear it from some younger and childless women) still is given to the notion of the "new man," i.e. men's "sharing" of homemaking and parenting. It's very fashionable for young, childless couples, as well as professional-type young couples with one young child to babble about their equal arrangements. Lots and lots of media coverage and movies about those Mr. Moms reinforce it. The grand ideas didn't get implemented in any widespread practice; only the rhetoric did. The arrangement just doesn't work in real lives. And the rhetoric will never become the reality. [See liznotes primary parentingarticle.] It's had its opportunity, and we're well past that now. (Even in the "egalitarian" Scandinavian countries that have given men fully-paid childcare leaves, men rarely take them -- when they have, it's frequently been used as a vacation -- and Norway had to go so far as passing legislation in 1998 requiring men to take childcare leaves against their will!)

It's also about words that easily are misunderstood and coopted for distorted ideas by the male-power contingent, e.g. Warren Farrell et al. Gender-neutral participation arguments are misleading when most families have, if any children, more than one. "We share everything" sounds just so easy to the newly coupled and childless, or the equal professionals, in love, in commitment, and with one child and plenty of money. Almost all of them are in for a rude awakening.

The reality is: men's "equal participation" in either homemaking or childcare during marriage is a myth. Save for the exception which proves the rule and the isolated case, it hasn't happened, and in the main, it never will.

Many women over the past couple of decades, even feminists and scholars have indeed bought into notions of "equal partnership" that a little thinking could have foreseen would actually result in women's both bearing and rearing children for men, and providing half or more of the family support -- two steps back to *doubly* servicing men! Doing two jobs to his one. That's not equality! [The Whirlpool Foundation Study 5/10/95 found that in 45% of intact households, women provided half to all of the income.]

Women going it utterly alone? The fathers-rights answer has been the attack on welfare, the attack on jobs programs, and to slander single motherhood as the cause of crime and immorality.

A compromise alternative? Nonmarital "egalitarian" partnerships with no protections and no guarantees?

Unwed father's rights. All the burdens without even the semblance of benefits or relationship history that was marriage.

Father's rights is about control of women, and it comes in many flavors ...whatever it takes to make sure that women will never have the option of living a life in which they are permitted to use their own uteruses and keep the children they grew in them without first obtaining the blessing of, or submitting their lives and freedom to live them as they choose to some measure of control by a man.

When I talk against the "fathers' rights" groups, immediately I am accused of "daddy-bashing." Nonsense. "Father's Rights" isn't the counterpart to some "Mother's Rights" organization -- how many of these as feminist groups have you EVER even heard of (!) (WHERE are they!!?)

It's clever propaganda.

"You're a feminist -- or a lawyer, or an educated individual, or a fair person. You wouldn't be against something that stood for equality, would you?"

"You wouldn't advocate for fairness for mothers but not fathers, would you?"

You wouldn't be in favor of a group that called itself "Anti-woman's Rights" now WOULD you? C'mon. Smarten up.


liznote 1. Notice that now, in the 90s, that women have made gains in the employment arena and have turned some focus back to family considerations, the media has begun a campaign of blasting working women.  It's always been the most fun to pit women against each other, and define women as one-dimensional subhumans. RETURN TO TEXT


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Bell, Rosalyn B., "Alimony and the Financially Dependent Spouse in Montgomery County, Maryland," 22 Family Law Quarterly 225 (Fall l988)

Brett, Leslie J., Sharon T. Shepela & Janet Kniffen, "Women and CHildren Beware: The Economic Conseqences of Divorce in Connecticut" (Summer l990)

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Weitzman, Lenore, The Divorce Revolution (l985) [California]

Wishik, Heather R. "Economics of Divorce: An Exploratory Study," 20 Family Law Quarterly 79 (l986) [Vermont]

-- compiled by Attorney Lynn Hecht Shafran, director of the National Judicial Education Program to Promote Equality for Women and Men in the Courts, a project of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in cooperation with the National Association of Women Judge. RETURN TO TEXT

liznote 3. To a great extent, this is still true. One factor evidencing lawyers' attempts in the face of equitable distribution to achieve some measure of compensation and justice for their clients can be seen in the creeping back in of "fault" through the "back door" -- tort actions connected with separation and dissolution proceedings.

Also read: Mason, Mary Ann. _The Equality Trap_ Simon and Shuster, New York, 1988.

Fineman, Martha. _The Neutered Mother, the Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies_ Rutledge, New York (1995).

Fineman, Martha. _The Illusion of Equality: the Rhetoric and Reality of Divorce Reform_ Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1991.) RETURN TO TEXT

liznote 4. Meanwhile, the federal bankruptcy laws were amended to protect from discharge debts arising for "spousal support," equitable *property distribution* laws were omitted from coverage. And, notwithstanding recent *new* changes in the bankruptcy laws, this remains largely the case. The result, almost axiomatic: he files for bankruptcy post-divorce! No property, no alimony, nothing... The right hand giveth and the left hand taketh away...] RETURN TO TEXT

liznote 5. WOMEN: THE NEW PROVIDERS, an extensive study released May 10, l995 by Louis Harris and Associates, Families and Work Institute, funded by the Whirlpool Foundation, indicates:

In 45% of two-parent households, women provide half or more than half of the household income; in single parent households, women provide more than half to all of the income 82% of the time.

In 88% of households, women are charged with the responsibility for family care (childcare and housework, family social life, elder care...)

If mothers were able to choose freely:

--51% would not work at paid employment, spending their time instead caring for family and doing volunteer work

--33% would work part-time

--15% would choose to work full-time