Jo Phillips, who is of the female persuasion, reckons women need to stop demonising absent fathers and men in general.
In the aftermath of last week’s riots, there has been a torrent of evidence and opinion about the detrimental affect of absent fathers, followed by outraged indignation at anything that might constitute criticism of single mothers.It is a fact that one in three children whose parents split up loses contact with their fathers but in many cases, that is because of a family justice system that still favours the mother as the “better” parent.
Mum gets to stay in the family home while Dad is forced to move out, maybe staying with friends or renting but invariably unable to afford to create a second home for the children, because he’s having to pay their mother maintenance. Mum gets a new boyfriend who moves in to the family home, he doesn’t like the contact with the ex and gradually the visits become more difficult and a bargaining tool where the children are the currency.
Hardly surprising then that for many men, the gradual disintegration before their eyes of what they once loved becomes too much to bear and they walk away. Yes, of course that is simplistic and many people manage to make sensible shared parenting arrangements that work just as there are many women and children abandoned men. And yes, there have been some long overdue reforms to the Family Justice system but there are still far too many men who are “Mac Dads” , with nowhere else to go on the odd Saturdays they are allowed to see their children apart from a burger bar – hardly conducive to maintaining and nurturing a relationship.
Grandparents and other family members have been excluded post separation through an adversarial system that forces families to take sides and children are goods for barter and all reinforced by the lazy journalism in which women “ struggle “ to bring up children and men rarely get any credit.
I am absolutely committed to equality between men and women in every field, be it employment rights, pay, healthcare and access to opportunity but the feminist agenda has inflicted some terrible and pernicious damage on society – and men in particular. Women of my generation campaigned for equality and naively believed we could have it all. We now know that not to be true and have, to a certain extent, allowed what Shaun Bailey called the “nationalisation of child care” to happen right under our noses because it was more acceptable than facing the consequences which in our hearts we know to be true; if your kids are being cared for by someone else for 12 hours a day – who has the most influence on them? And so the compensation of gifts and toys and rubbish food and late nights and no discipline seep in to our homes.
For the father that abandons his partner and children, there will also be mothers who breed from serially dysfunctional relationships with different men but while we may tut in private, rarely does anyone raise the question whether the children would be better with their birth father and he given the social and financial support to make a home for them. We talk about parenting skills but little about how to manage parenting when a relationship breaks down.
The disaster that was the Child Support Agency and cock-up of CAFCASS were ill thought out and extremely damaging, based on a notion of threat and retribution against men – who were in the main those who most affected.
Not all men are potential rapists, nor are they potential paedophiles, abusers or violently inclined towards women. But it is hardly surprising that few want to become primary school teachers or social workers when they are treated as pariahs by the women around them. The insidious notion that men are to blame (bankers, politicians, greedy capitalists – mainly men ) more than women for the breakdown in law and order we saw last week is completely wrong and if we have achieved anything out of the past decades of feminism, then we should have the confidence to believe in our own sons, and have the balls to stop demonising men just because we can get away with it in the name of equality.
Jo Phillips is a broadcaster & writer and former press secretary to Paddy Ashdown.