Men's & fathers' rights
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
Fact Sheet #2: The myth of women’s false accusations of domestic violence and rape and misuse of protection orders
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.
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.
By Ben Atherton-Zeman, with Lorien Castelle and Casey Keene
I was thrilled to perform my one-man play, “Voices of Men” for the San Diego Men’s Leadership Forum. I flew to San Diego and was driven to the auditorium where the event was to take place – my hosts told me there would be over 300 men in attendance, many of them from the nearby military base. All the men had committed themselves to taking the initiative to stop men’s violence against women.
As my host drove us up to the event, it became clear we were not the only group of men there. I was greeted by signs saying “Man-Hating Conference Here,” “Domestic Violence Law is a Feminist Scam,” and “Save Our Troops from Feminist Man-Hating.”
The following is a compilation of examples of bomb threats, other forms of abuse or harassment, actual bombings, and other criminal behaviour (such as planned kidnapping) committed largely in the UK but also in Australia, by fathers’ right activists. It also includes some cases where fathers’ rights activists have convictions for domestic violence, although it concentrates on the use of bomb threats and other forms of public violence. These news reports demonstrate that fathers’ rights groups have used tactics of intimidation and violence, such incidents are well documented, they are being used now rather than only in the past, and at times they have resulted in injuries or deaths.
Myth: Women routinely make false accusations of child abuse or domestic violence to gain advantage in family law proceedings and to arbitrarily deny their ex-partners’ access to the children.
Facts: Allegations of child abuse are rare. False allegations are rare; False allegations are made by fathers and mothers at equal rates; The child abuse often takes place in families where there is also domestic violence; Allegations of child abuse rarely result in the denial of parental contact.
Fact Sheet #3: How the fathers’ rights movement undermines the protections available to victims of violence and protects the perpetrators of violence
Fathers’ rights groups have attempted to: Wind back the legal protections available to victims of violence; Wind back the legal sanctions imposed on perpetrators of violence.
While fathers’ rights groups often claim to speak on behalf of male victims of domestic violence, these efforts undermine the policies and services that would protect and gain justice for these same men.
Fathers’ rights advocates also: Make excuses for perpetrators; Act as direct advocates for perpetrators or alleged perpetrators of violence against women; Use abusive strategies themselves; Work to undermine and harass the services and institutions that work with the victims and survivors of violence.
The fathers’ rights movement 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. Michael Flood provides a critical assessment of the impact of fathers' rights groups on family law and their claims regarding violence.
Men have responded in complex and contradictory ways to the profound changes of the last three decades, changes set in motion by the women’s movements, changes in family organisation, economic and social shifts and other forces. Small numbers of men have responded by mobilising in support of feminist goals, changing their own behaviour and working with women to shift gender relations in progressive directions. Yet other men have mobilised in opposition to feminism and the changes in gender with which it is associated, forming “men’s rights” and “fathers’ rights” groups. An organised backlash to feminism is now visible among men in Australia, as in most other Western capitalist countries.