Separated fathers often feel profound grief, distress, and anger at the end of their relationships with their partners and their children. Some participate in ‘fathers’ rights’ groups, a movement which claims to advocate on behalf of men and fathers who are the victims of discrimination and injustice in the Family Court and elsewhere. Yet such groups may do little to help fathers heal or to build or maintain ongoing and positive relationships with their children. Some men do find support in these groups, but they also may be incited into anger, blame, and destructive strategies of litigation. The fathers’ rights movement prioritises formal principles of equality over positive parenting and the well-being of women and children. Some groups seem more concerned with re-establishing paternal authority and fathers’ decision-making related to their children’s and ex-partners’ lives than with actual involvements with children. However, other responses to separated fathers are more constructive.
Men's & fathers' rights
There has been in Australia, for a long time, a kind of network of anti-feminist men’s groups. Some men’s rights groups focus on general issues of gender and violence and so on, and some have a particular focus on fathering and family law. And those men’s and fathers’ rights group overlap. I’ve described them as an anti-feminist backlash because of their views on women and gender and because of the political strategies they adopt.
[…] I think they have an understanding which is, in fact, fairly widespread—that feminism is definned by a hostility towards men, and a kind of unreasonable and irrational desire to put women on top. I think fathers’ rights and men’s rights groups, to some degree, simply repeat the negative stereotypes about feminism that are part of popular culture and part of the media. They extend them and intensify them, in terms of seeing women as malicious and hostile and devious and so on, and in attributing great power to feminism—feminism now dominates our political agendas or dominates our culture. I think they exaggerate the extent to which men are now victims in our culture.
‘Fathers’ rights’ refers to organized groups or networks of fathers who act in support of the collective interests of fathers, especially separated fathers whose children do not reside with them. Fathers’ rights (hereafter ‘FR’) groups are active particularly in lobbying for changes in *family law.
FR is defined by the claim that fathers are deprived of their ‘rights’ and subjected to systematic discrimination as men and fathers, in a system biased towards women and dominated by feminists. FR groups overlap with *men’s rights groups and both represent an organised backlash to feminism. While other networks also promote fathers’ involvement in families, the FR movement is distinguished by its *anti-feminist discourse of men or fathers as victims. At the same time, FR perspectives do have a wide currency across the political spectrum.
Men's rights groups are the focus of a series of articles published by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
This XY special collection brings together a range of critiques of 'fathers' rights' groups - anti-feminist men's groups focused on issues of family law, fathering, and other areas. Such groups overlap with 'men's rights' groups. Flood's chapter "What's wrong with fathers' rights?" provides a short introduction, while other other pieces provide more detailed commentary. See the end of this page for the pieces, in PDF. The collection includes the following pieces:
The world of misogynist men's rights activist online trolls isn't as huge as one might think. The question posed to Yahoo Answers below is made by a guy named Nifty. He is the Yahoo friend of Doodlebugjim in his current incarnation. If you don't recall who Doodlebugjim is from a previous post (a mention in comments, actually), I'll update you below. And then we'll move right along to Nifty's question and a rebuttal response.
This was written for a newsletter published by an organisation* working to make custody decisions in Australia centered on what is in the best interests for children, based on principles of justice and compassion, not in service to abusive husbands and fathers. It is for one woman in particular. May her daughter be returned to her soon, removed from the custody of the man who has abused them both.
*Here is the link to that organisation: www.safety4parentsandkids.org.au
The Heart of Justice
Women routinely make up allegations of domestic violence and rape, including to gain advantage in family law cases. And women use protection orders to remove men from their homes or deny contact with children.
- The risk of domestic violence increases at the time of separation.
- Most allegations of domestic violence in the context of family law proceedings are made in good faith and with support and evidence for their claims.
- Rates of false accusations of rape are very low.
- Women living with domestic violence often do not take out protection orders and do so only as a last resort.
- Protection orders provide an effective means of reducing women’s vulnerability to violence.
Feminism’s achievements regarding violence against women are a key target for the fathers’ rights movement. This article provides an overview of the impact of the fathers’ rights movement on men’s violence against women. It documents the ways in which fathers’ rights groups in Australia have influenced changes in family law, which privilege parental contact over safety, particularly through moves toward a presumption of children’s joint residence. They have attempted to discredit female victims of violence, to wind back the legal protections available to victims and the sanctions imposed on perpetrators, and to undermine services for the victims of men’s violence.
Twenty years ago I joined my first anti-sexist men’s group. I’ve had a passionate commitment to profeminism ever since, nurtured through men’s anti-violence activism, Women’s and Gender Studies, editing a profeminist magazine, and now pursuing a career in feminist scholarship. Men’s violence against women is an obvious area for anti-sexist men’s activism, as it’s one of the bluntest and most brutal forms of gender inequality. I’ve organised campaigns in groups like Men Against Sexual Assault, run workshops in schools, helped run a national White Ribbon Campaign, designed violence prevention programs for athletes and others, and done research and writing on violence against women. But I’ve also been forced to critique and confront anti-feminist men in ‘men’s rights’ and ‘fathers’ rights’ groups. Their efforts are having a growing influence on community understandings of, and policy responses to, gender issues.