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MENZ Issues August 1999 Volume 4 Issue 7

Dad’s Army 2000 Pickets Violence Conference A group of male protesters, ranging from pre-schoolers to pensioners, greeted social service workers attending the recent "Behind Closed Doors" domestic violence conference.

Men’s Centre Introduces Weekly Seminars for Men on North Shore Since July, we have been running regular weekly meetings for men and their female supporters.

Man Banned From Lesbian Violence Presentation A reader of MENZ Issues paid to attend the conference to learn more about Maryclare Machen’s study of Lesbian Violence, but he was told to leave the workshop.

Men’s Hour Radio Show Ends After two years, July 5th turned out to be the last Men’s Hour broadcast on Access Community Radio.

Father-Friendly Database Mail-out Creates Controversy When Jim Bailey of Shore Fathers sent out over 600 packages of material to fathers in June, repercussions followed swiftly.

Two Local Men Elected to New Zealand Father & Child Society Warwick Pudney, Director of Man Alive, and Craig Davis, convenor of Shore Fathers, were elected on to the inaugural committee in April.

The Domestic Violence Act – A New Form of Violence Used by the wrong person, the Domestic Violence Act can become a tool of abuse itself.

Fathering the Future Trust Newsletter #3 Three working parties have been meeting to ascertain vision and unified direction.

Mana Men’s Rights Group Bruce Cheriton "would rather wrestle a large and rather ugly grizzly bear than to have to go through the Family Court system to resolve custody."

Book Review: Ceasefire! by Cathy Young "Take gender politics out of the war on domestic violence. The media should take a serious look at intimate violence by women."

New Political Party – A Future "Let’s change the law. The fastest and most sure way to do this is to be a political force. I would like to form a political party for this election."

Buddies – Interview with Martin Lewis about mentoring "I was matched up with a Little Buddy approx a year ago. He was 10, now 11. I am told this had quite a transformative effect within only a few months.

Waitakere Boys in Schools Conference Warwick Pudney challenged all men, at the conference and outside, to become guardians of boys, and to give them male affirmation.

Group_protesters Picketers at the AIT Akoranga Campus, angry about Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC).

Dad’s Army 2000 Pickets Violence Conference

A group of male protesters, (pictured above) ranging from pre-schoolers to pensioners, greeted social service workers attending the recent "Behind Closed Doors" domestic violence conference. Held at the North Shore campus of the Auckland Institute of Technology, the conference was run by Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care.

The protesters, calling themselves "Dad’s Army 2000", were angry that the presenters advertised did not represent the complete spectrum of views on such an important topic, and that some espouse extreme ideologies that are not accepted by the wider New Zealand community.

It was incorrectly suggested to the audience at the conference that the protest was by an extremist "North Shore men’s rights group." This repeated inaccurate characterisation of Men’s Centre North Shore as a ‘men’s rights’ group (with the assumption that these ‘rights’ will be at the expense of women) is never accompanied by any evidence that this is part of our agenda. As for us being extremist, this accusation is rather undermined by the increasingly strong statements coming from our colleagues in other parts of the country.

In other ‘campaigns’, Dad’s Army has recently picketed several Family Courts in the Auckland area, handing out leaflets and copies of MENZ Issues, and collecting signatures for the Separated Fathers Trust’s Family Court Reform Petition. While Men’s Centre North Shore is not in any way affiliated with Dad’s Army, some of our members support the group on an individual basis.

Because the current management committee has chosen to focus Men’s Centre activities on what we believe to be the core functions of providing information and support to men in crisis, there has previously not been an outlet for those of our members who favour direct protest action. Although Men’s Centre North Shore does not necessarily endorse everything Dad’s Army says, we support them in principle, providing the protests continue to be peaceful and in accordance with the law.

Stop excuse women.jpg (8672 bytes)

The Men’s Centre committee has been criticised at times by men who feel we have not been politically active enough. As we are supposed to ensure our services are ‘client driven’, (and we have to face re-election once a year), we have to pay attention to what our members tell us. On the other hand, funding bodies have made it clear that they are not prepared to support activism (the male variety at any rate), and we have to be sure we can demonstrate that grants are used only for welfare or education purposes where applicable. The committee also has the responsibility of keeping the organisation’s stated goals in focus so that energy is not dissipated in making ineffective gestures, given that all of us have limited time availability. One of the key goals in this context is "to prepare well-researched submissions on matters affecting men and to raise public awareness on issues", and we consider this to be our primary way of contributing to the cause.

In response to a growing awareness among ordinary New Zealand blokes that many of their fellow men are being forced into intolerable situations, men’s and fathers’ support organisations have sprung up all over the country in the last five years. The difficulty all of them face is that current social policy is contributing to high levels of stress and anger in increasing numbers of males, and it is obvious that the need for change has become urgent. For those of us at the coal-face, on the end of the telephone, or running a men’s support group, political action of some kind becomes inevitable.

Men must be encouraged to channel this anger into organised, legitimate political action, rather than the desperado acts of extreme violence that some fantasize about, and a few regrettably carry out. We have a certain understanding and acceptance of what is labelled ‘maternal rage’, which a mother experiences when separated from her baby. As more and more fathers become involved in the care of young children, and the level of paternal bonding within society increases, we should expect increasing levels of distress and dysfunction among fathers who are forcibly separated from their children. We cannot continue to ignore these problems, because we know a proportion of these men will go ‘over the edge’, and become dangerous to themselves and others.

Men’s, fathers’ and family support organisations must inevitably become political, or they will be irrelevant. As Bruce Tichbon points out: "FARE [Families Apart Require Equality] has had this line time and again, that we are political, and therefore in the minds of some we should be dismissed out of hand. Family law is a political issue through and through."

Because of laws regarding the publication of details involving cases in the Family Court, most members of Dad’s Army cannot be publicly identified. This has been an inhibiting factor for many men wishing to make contact with others, because they fear that by drawing attention to themselves they may make matters worse. This fear is not without foundation. One man in a North Island town recently formed a group called "Men Against Emotional Abuse" and advertised his contact details. His ex-partner complained and he was convicted of breaching the Domestic Violence Protection Order she had previously taken out.

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The new group’s name was inspired by the NZ Herald article written by Peter Calder and Jan Corbett on June 19th 1999 titled "The New Dad’s Army on the March." This report identified the key issues as being Family Court bias against men, the denial of this fact by feminists, the secrecy involved in court processes and the misuse of protection orders. In the same issue the Herald, under the headline "Family Face off", the same two reporters told the stories of five men and two women who have not been served well by the adversarial nature of the current family law system. One of the men interviewed for this story was outraged to see Judge Jan Doogue reported as commenting on his case: "There must have been some evidence of abuse, beyond the mother’s allegation."

When this underlying assumption that ‘where there is smoke there must be fire’ is held by individuals in the judiciary before they have even heard what evidence (or lack thereof) exists, what chance has a father of receiving a fair outcome? If this assumption is held by one or two dominant and persuasive jurors in a criminal trial it is certain that they will sometimes send innocent men to prison. In the context of a bitter custody dispute, ‘smoke’ is more likely to be a cover for lies and manipulations, than an indication of ‘fire’.

The local media were all advised of the Dad’s Army picket, but none of them thought it newsworthy enough to cover. One television channel was even honest enough to advise the caller that they would not consider covering any kind of anti-feminist protest. Although dozens of reporters received a copy of the July MENZ Issues, readers of mainstream media would still be largely unaware that the radical feminist domination of the family violence discourse is over.

The Men’s Centre media focus group has been monitoring gender-related stories in local newspapers over recent months, and it is clear there is a definite bias towards news about women’s organisations, and feminist issues. For example, a single (anonymous) Women’s Refuge worker travelling to the UK to tell a conference how badly NZ handles domestic violence is considered newsworthy. A group of Auckland men with placards protesting on local streets is not. On the odd occasion that Men’s Centre does get a mention in the local press it is inevitably in the form of a personal attack, with little or no discussion of the issues we raise.

Visiting American child abuse ‘expert’ Astrid Heger, criticised on Pg. 9 of the July MENZ Issues, got her photograph on the front page of the July 6th Herald, under the headline: "Wake-up call on abuse." She was reported as being "deeply critical of New Zealand’s failure to tackle family violence, blaming lack of leadership by the government." Invited to speak to 650 people gathered in Wellington for a Children and Family Violence Conference on July 5th, Heger is advocating "one-stop shop child abuse centres" modelled on her California clinic. No government ministers attended the conference.

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JJ Taylor, the Police National Family Violence Co-ordinator, discussing section 15 of the Children, Young Persons & their Families Act, told the Wellington conference that "given that child abuse and family violence mean the same, this is the section that we are using to change police family violence practice." Family violence workers (all those on the North Shore at any rate) must subscribe to the feminist dogma that 95% of domestic violence is committed by men. If trainee police are successfully indoctrinated with this kind of misinformation, the "father-removal industry" will be able to consider this the best marketing ploy devised yet.

JJ Taylor’s presentation is here:

www.justice.govt.nz/pubs/reports/1999/family_conference/author_8.html< /p>

Members of Dad’s Army will be attending the Monday Men’s Centre meetings at Northcote if you’re interested in joining up.

John Potter.

Men’s Centre Introduces Weekly Seminars for Men on North Shore

Since the beginning of July, Men’s Centre North Shore has been running regular weekly meetings for men and their female supporters. The Legal Clinic on 19th attracted 17 men, and we haven’t even sent the brochures out yet!

Men will have the opportunity to ask questions and advice of professionals with expertise in the areas where confusion and stress often arise.

The phone calls received by the Men’s Centre over the past year have given us a pretty good idea of where current social policies are failing to meet the needs of men, and we expect the demand for these meetings to be high, especially once they are widely publicised.

Warren Heap, of the Separated Fathers Support Trust, has also begun holding legal clinics in other parts of Auckland.

Men attending the North Shore seminars will also meet representatives from most of the locally available men’s support services.

Thanks to the support of a big group of men who are all generously donating their time to help others, there will be no charge for these meetings, although donations are welcome.

Details of the new seminars are on our "What’s On" page, which includes a map showing where to find us.

Man Banned From Lesbian Violence Presentation

One of the protesters who paid to attend the domestic violence conference found the weekend most interesting. Unfortunately it confirmed what he believed; that the meeting was not about solving the real problem of domestic violence, but one of talking to the converted. A reader of MENZ Issues, he signed up for the conference expecting to learn more about Maryclare Machen’s study of Lesbian Violence, discussed on Pg. 5 of the March 99 edition. To his astonishment, he was asked to leave the workshop because his reasons for attending were not considered acceptable.

He wrote to DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care), asking for a refund, saying that his expulsion from the workshop on lesbian violence was sexist and discriminatory. He said it was also dishonest because the advertising for the conference had naturally led him to believe that he would be able to find out the extent and magnitude of lesbian violence.

Vivienne Coyle replied that his expulsion was not the responsibility of the organisers and said DSAC would not offer any type of refund under this circumstance.

Men’s Hour Radio Show Ends

After broadcasting monthly for two years, July 5th turned out to be the last Men’s Hour hosted by the Men’s Centre North Shore on Access Community Radio. Increasing demands on the time of the production team has meant that something had to give, and sadly, the show has had to end.

MensHour presenters - Evan, Peter, Mark, JohnP

The first programme was broadcast on 14th July 1997, inspired by John Parry-Jones, who came along on that first night to show us how it is done.

In those bad old empty-coffer days, the show’s financial future was taken care of by a generous monthly donation from Craig Wedge, which has paid for the airtime ever since.

We also are grateful to Mike the technician, without whom we were pathetically helpless when faced with all those knobs and switches.

Despite broadcasting some pretty hard-hitting and political statements at times, Station Manager Leona Bresnehan only had to discipline the show once, when the name of a female serial false accuser suppressed by the Court accidentally slipped into a discussion.

Father-Friendly Database Mail-out Creates Controversy

In June, Jim Bailey of Shore Fathers sent out over 600 packages of material to fathers, their supporters, and to some people who are perceived to block fathering. His covering note says "The industry built on family breakdown is fuelling that breakdown". He said he has met many good people who are blind to their role in the destruction of our society and families. He criticises "ignorant" statements such as ‘95% of family violence is perpetrated by males’, which come from within the industry.

Bailey suggests the database can serve many purposes:

  • Putting men in anguish in touch with those who will honour them,
  • Building a mailing list that will distribute information and news of events,
  • A vehicle to encourage dads to stand up and be counted,
  • A means for those who block fathering to see the other side of the story.

He included information about the activities of Shore Fathers, material from IRD Child Support, the Separated Fathers Support Trust Petition, and a copy of the May 99 MENZ Issues. Although the Shore Fathers committee met on numerous occasions to try and draft a statement they all approved of, this proved impossible. Bailey, who had been planning to establish a newsletter for the group wrote: "I have found it too restricting working within the confines of a community project…..I will withdraw from the committee to build an independent database and mail-out system as soon as possible without disruption."

Repercussions from the mail-out followed swiftly. Jim was banned from attending the feminist-controlled North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project meetings, where he had been the Shore Fathers representative. They labelled him ‘abusive’, because he dared to suggest in a meeting that perhaps they should consider the issue of women’s violence.

On Tuesday 13 July The North Shore Times Advertiser carried an article headlined "John Potter article link upsets fathers group". It claimed that "feelings were running high" and that Shore Fathers convener Craig Davis is not happy to be associated with the newsletter from the Men’s Centre North Shore or the fact it features articles by John Potter. Davis was reported as saying he thinks we are a political body and wants nothing to do with us, and that many members of Shore Fathers are also upset a being associated with this "highly political" group.

The paper asked Bailey to comment, but he declined, saying that he had written what he wanted to say in the letter attached to the mail-out.

The reporter also interviewed Men’s Centre committee member Peter Manning, who pointed out that we had no direct involvement in the mail-out, and that anyone was welcome to copy and distribute MENZ Issues. He agreed that there is a political element to the Men’s Centre because it reflects the feeling of men across the country. He said "every week we deal with the men who fall through the cracks in the system – some who are even suicidal – who are shattered by the unfair treatment they get from the justice system."

Two Local Men Elected to New Zealand Father & Child Society

Recently, Men’s Centre received the June newsletter of the Christchurch-based Father & Child Trust. It reports on the first meeting of the New Zealand Father & Child Society in Wellington during the Father’s Families and the Future Forum last April. Warwick Pudney, Director of Man Alive, and Craig Davis, convenor of Shore Fathers, were elected on to the committee. The president is Philip Chapman from the Nelson Father’s Group, and the national co-ordinator is Harald Breiding-Buss, who founded the Christchurch Father and Child Trust back in 1997.

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The Society hopes to establish local Father and Child Trusts in all the main centres, and plans a national resource centre on fatherhood. Breiding-Buss says that the greatest achievement so far is the emerging co-operation between all the main father’s groups in the country. He says this co-operation is crucial where things need to change on a national level. "Fathers feel discriminated [against] by the Family Court because their viewpoint is simply not recognised. Individuals sometimes kick up a big fuss because they have been treated badly, but as long as they are fighting as individuals at a local level, their voice is not being heard where it counts."

Inaugural president of the Father & Child Society Philip Chapman told David Manning of The Nelson Mail (6 May 1999) that he wants a better deal for dads. When he started working at Nelson’s Neighbourhood Centre, he couldn’t believe how many of the children there came from single-parent families, and didn’t have a father living with them. He wondered where the fathers were – then his interest in men as parents was heightened by the onset of a portrayal of men as untrustworthy and to be feared.

"I thought there was a society swing to ‘women good, men bad’. It was like a witch-hunt. For instance, there was a TV ad showing a girl in bed crying and the lights are out — and the ad says it’s not the dark she’s frightened of, and there’s this male shadow near her."

He began to sense that many men were becoming scared of even showing affection towards children, even their own, because of how it might be interpreted in such a climate of mistrust. In his work with sports clubs, Mr Chapman found it was hard to get men as coaches. "There were no mentors for the kids. Men just didn’t seem to be around like they used to be."

He says the newly-formed New Zealand Father and Child Society puts the needs of the child first, and promotes positive, caring fathering and co-parenting. They are also seeking to influence social policymaking from the perspective of fathers.

The other executive members of the new F&C Society are:

  • Mike Wignall, co-ordinator of the Wellington F&C Trust; Vice-president.
  • Aaron Williams, community worker for the Christchurch F&C Trust; Secretary.
  • Rene Smit, co-ordinator of the Dunedin F&C Trust; Treasurer.
  • Don Rowlands, Caring Fathers group co-ordinator (Ch.ch.)
  • Paul Callister, independent social and economic researcher.
  • Stuart Birks, Director of Massey University’s Institute for Public Policy Evaluation.
  • Rob Thomson, Kapiti MaleNet.
  • Peter Crossland, WellingMen network leader.

The Christchurch Father & Child website is here: fatherandchild.org.nz

The Domestic Violence Act – A New Form of Violence

Also in the June Father & Child newsletter, a series of feature articles discuss some of the problems fathers have with the Domestic Violence Act and Supervised Access. Harald Breiding-Buss explains how the Act can become a weapon when things turn sour:

"While the Act fails to protect many victims, because the threshold for disclosing the abuse and going through the system still appears too high to a victim, it has at the same time created a new class of victims: the wrongly accused. The Act carries no penalties for making a false allegation, and it will in most cases secure full custody for the person making this allegation. Used by the wrong person, the Domestic Violence Act can become a tool of abuse itself…"

Breiding-Buss points out "in mutually violent relationships – a significant proportion of Domestic Violence cases according to a growing body of research – the Act simply shifts the balance of power to the person who uses it first." He concludes: "There is no doubt that the Act is being abused, especially when custody is being disputed, but also as a way of exerting power and control over another person.

There are also two moving stories of men failed by the system. ‘Jack’ was up against a Counsel for Child who told him "The best place for a child is with its mother, even if the mother is abusive."

‘Mike’ has an ex-wife who uses his access to his son as a means of maintaining power and control over him, three years after they split. He told Father & Child "The Barnardoes’ supervised access scheme must remain the most humiliating experience of my 33 years on this planet."

This quarterly magazine gets better with every issue. It is free to members of the Father & Child Trust, which you can join by sending $15.00 to:

Freepost 106040, PO Box 26040, Christchurch.

Fathering the Future Trust Newsletter #3

Janine Rogers, manager of the Christchurch-based Fathering the Future Trust, says the basic concept is to get the people of New Zealand recognising the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. Three working parties have been meeting with Brian Barnes-Duckmanton of the Department of Internal Affairs to ascertain vision and unified direction.

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The Fathers and Schools group plan to develop a father-friendly school award; a training programme for fathers as teacher aids; and a human resource base of available fathers with expertise in specific fields.

The Father Friendly Workplaces team propose a new-fathers information kit on workplace rights and responsibilities; a public speaking circuit of fathers who have created friendly workplaces; a mentoring programme; and certificates to organisations who lead the way.

The Fathers and Sport working party says that often children can feel that they are being pushed in their sport to reach the ambitions of their father and not their own. They say "We believe in supporting fathers who show tolerance, care and respect for children during sporting activities. We advocate humility, positivity and enthusiasm in ‘sideline’ activities." They intend to create educational programmes, promotions and support services to clubs and schools.

In a full-page advertising feature published in the Christchurch Star on May 28th, Rogers said that the trust wants to ensure the problems facing children, youth and fathers today do not continue in the future. She says that while they acknowledge different family structures exist, they "believe that in the context of all family structures the positive role of the father is vital to the holistic development of a child." She told the Star that it is necessary to develop a culture where fathers have an active, positive, child-centred parenting role.

The feature included an article by family lawyer Dominic Flatley, part of the trust management team. He says "the issue of fatherless (sic) or absentee fathers is an important one in terms of resolving any dispute in the family court, particularly custody, access or guardianship issues. When I say fatherless or absentee fathers, I don’t mean in the physical sense, I mean fathers who are in the home but don’t play any role in the parenting of children for whatever reason."

Flatley, who worked with Laurie O’Reilly prior to his becoming Commissioner for Children, concludes: "We have to ensure that there is appropriate education available for all participants in the family court – that is the customers, the lawyers and the judges about the [effects] of fatherlesness on children and we have to ensure that fathers who think they haven’t been heard properly in the family court are given a fair hearing because the relevance of what they are saying has to be understood."

Mana Men’s Rights Group

Bruce Cheriton, chairman of Mana Men’s Rights Group, says he "would rather wrestle a large and rather ugly grizzly bear than to have to go through the Family Court system to resolve custody, and more especially access to your children on a regular basis." Writing in the ‘Your Shout’ opinion column of the Wellington newspaper Contact, on 20th May, he explains that his group is one of many springing up around the country helping and supporting men as they face a male-hostile system. He continues:

"I am a sole parent in an era where it is politically incorrect to be either a man or a father. We are collectively regarded of abusers of every description, child beaters, mother beaters, rapists, manipulators, uncaring self-centred blights on the family landscape."

Cheriton worked on the committee which brought about the Fathers, Family and the Future event held in Wellington last April. He told Men’s Centre members that his men’s group first formed in the foyer of his local Family Court, when several fathers fighting to see their children compared notes. Mana Men’s Rights is calling for equality in parenting (together or apart),and equality in the fight against abuse (be the person male or female).

Two letters later appeared in support of Cheriton’s article. One man said that in his experience the entire judicial system is biased against men to the point of prejudice. When he made a complaint to the police about spousal domestic violence, he was treated as the offender. He also points out: "When no controls are invoked to prevent frivolous and vexatious continuation of Family Court proceedings by those assigned legal aid it is no wonder that the government’s legal aid bill continues to exceed the budget by exhorbitant sums."

Another letter from M Thomas said that under the Domestic Violence Act the system has become horribly skewed. He criticises the fact that that "hundreds of men are being ‘herded’ through Living Without Violence programmes, sometimes for ‘crimes’ as serious as slamming a door." He says that although the programme contains some good ideas, it is based on feminist dogma (all men are abusers and women don’t tell lies). He says: "It carries an unreal expectation that men can simply ignore what their partner/ex-partner is doing or saying and deal exclusively with ‘their problem’. This merely adds to the resentment already felt by many men. A more balanced programme is needed which can deal with both parties. Dysfunction in relationships is not just a male problem."

Book Review: Ceasefire! – Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality.

New Book by Cathy Young. Published by The Free Press 1999

Young says that in 1980, when she emigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union at the age of 17, she was already a feminist, without even knowing the word. However at college she began to be concerned by what she saw happening to feminism. She noticed that "some young women were acting as volunteer thought police, ready to pounce whenever a professor imprudently used the word mankind. Antipornography activists seemed to argue that sexuality itself demeaned women; the concept of rape was being expanded to include confused nonviolent drunken encounters. Many feminists were rejecting autonomy, logic and objectivity as ‘male values’."

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She continues: "In the 1990’s….much of what had troubled me moved from the feminist fringe to the mainstream." In 1992 she watched an ABC television discussion on rape where the men and women in the studio audience had been seated apart to illustrate the gender divide. She says: "That night, my belief that feminism was helping make things better between the sexes died."

In the first chapter, "Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth", Young reviews and criticises the literature on gender difference. As the title suggests, she argues that the picture is far more complex than often portrayed, and wonders if she somehow fails to notice supposedly obvious differences between the sexes. She points out that "Much as they diverge ideologically, difference feminists and biological determinists have something in common: a propensity for sweeping statements based on modest evidence."

Her next six chapters expose some of the worst excesses of radical feminist misinformation and discriminatory practice in the areas of employment, education, health, domestic violence, law, sex crimes and child custody. As one of the most prolific journalists writing in this area in recent years, Young knows her subject thoroughly, and has plenty of solid material to draw on.

Just one example of Young’s uncompromising stance towards feminist orthodoxy is her recommendation for dealing with domestic violence:

"Take gender politics out of the war on domestic violence. The media should take a serious look at intimate violence by women, and popular culture should stop treating it as amusing. Police and the courts should enforce the law fairly for both sexes, and counselling programmes should demand that women, like men, take responsibility for their actions (and not blame it on ‘psychological provocation’.) Hearings in Congress and state legislatures on gender bias in domestic violence policies would be a good idea. The government and major charities such as United Way and the Young Women’s Christian Association, should also reexamine their connections to the battered women’s movement with its radical ideology. At a minimum, taxpayer money allocated for domestic violence should not go exclusively or primarily to organisations that espouse a view of battering as patriarchal oppression, and these organisations should not be permitted to dictate policy."

The men’s movement does not escape her scrutiny however. She criticises Warren Farrell’s ‘masculist’ analysis as "seriously flawed." In chapter nine she asks "Are Men Victims Too?" and concludes that "Since men’s problems often stem from overzealous attempts to correct real of perceived injustices towards women, developing a more critical attitude toward victim feminism would do more to help men than developing its male equivalent."

She says: "…while ‘masculism’ is not the answer….an equal rights movement that takes the rights and concerns of men seriously is essential. Such a movement must give the men’s movement credit for several key points that feminists have largely ignored:

  • The evolution of gender roles must expand options for both sexes.
  • Male privilege never meant that most men were free to do as they pleased, or that everything they did was for selfish reasons, or that women had a corner on suffering. The historical fact of male dominance does not negate the fact of male sacrifice, in wars or in work.
  • In personal relationships, men and women have equally good reasons to complain about the other sex..
  • Today, most gender issues are women’s and men’s issues – and if we don’t take the male perspective into account, we miss half the picture."

Young devotes her final chapter to what she calls "The Conservative Mistake." She acknowledges that "The principle alternative to this [feminist] party line comes from conservatives, including a number of conservative female voices that have emerged in recent years." However she points out that conservatives and liberals "…seem to agree that it should be a matter of special concern to protect innocent females from bad males and other bad things." She explains that: "Conservative and Liberal politicians easily join forces to be chivalrous, often taking the lead from female colleagues who believe that their mandate is to represent the interests of women." She shows how "The strange convergence of radical feminism and patriarchal conservatism" has lead to an "alienation of both ideologies from real life."

While Young acknowledges that conservatives have valid issues, she recommends that they "shouldn’t stake their hopes on a comeback of traditional roles, and certainly not on the vogue for sex difference."

In her conclusion, Young suggests we need to search for a new paradigm, because:

"…feminism as we know it is bankrupt. In some areas, it has promoted the dogma of ‘fifty-fifty’ equality that ignores the fact that men and women tend to differ in a number of interests and preferences, not to mention physical ability. On other issues, it has made a mockery of its own principles of gender neutrality in the name of protecting women. It has not only failed to condemn but in many instances has actively promoted antimale sexism and gender antagonism. It has fostered the ‘abuse excuse’ and less than equal accountability for women. It has endorsed a massive intrusion of the state and its bureaucracies into the personal lives of men and women."

"A conservatism that came to terms with women’s (and men’s) new roles would have much to contribute to the discussion of the issues of the day. So would a feminism that repudiated victimhood, gender warfare, and a knee-jerk alliance with the left. But to be relevant to the lives of millions of men and women living in a time of change and trying to find their own imperfect balance between the modern and the traditional, both movements must give up the identity politics of gender and see men and women as human beings – a vision missing from our public discourse today."

An accomplished journalist, Young’s writing is easy to read. Her overview of the growth of American men’s and fathers’ groups in recent years is particularly interesting. The brief section at the end, where she asks "Where Do We Go from Here?" has a 12-step programme to initiate reforms. With its 76 pages of references, this book is an important resource for any student of gender politics, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by J.P.

New Political Party – A Future

CUSTODY – Time For Action

I am another participant in the Family Court’s peculiar interpretation of the "best interests of the child." As a father I feel that while I can cope with the Family Court’s decision the real victim is my son. And all our children. I’m appalled by the number of guys that are in the same position.

When I look at the process we have been through over the last 3 years I find that the theory is sound (ie. that the Court’s attention must always be focused on what is best for the child) but the application is flawed. The application rests almost entirely on the Judge (if you get that far, otherwise a psychologist, in effect, makes the decision – apparently in up to 95% of cases) Judges’ decisions seem to favour mothers getting custody. Psychologists’ decisions are even more questionable. The only legal principle I’ve seen applied is: possession is nine tenths of the law.

To re-orient the Family Court so that it considers the welfare of the child exclusively doesn’t require huge changes to the law – merely curtailing the Judge’s discretion to make seemingly arbitrary decisions. If we get rid of this outdated concept of custody/access for simple Equal Joint Custody then most of our troubles are resolved including Child Support as both parties will be contributing (and both may decide to opt out,) fewer domestic violence provocations and less point in making allegations as they won’t affect custody, and less problem with children being dragged round the country or out of it.

What I propose is: let’s stop talking about this and do it. Let’s change the law. The fastest and most sure way to do this is to be a political force. I would like to form a political party for this coming election solely with the aim of being a coalition partner and becoming a coalition partner only with a party that will implement the platforms listed below. With MMP we only need your party vote – you can still support whoever is best for your electorate. What we need initially and yesterday is 1000 people to form this political party. It’ll cost you $5 and you can obtain a form from the address at the end of this article.

First thing I’ll do is set up a Web site. What we need is people to get other people they know who are in the same position to know about this. I found that grandparents were also interested because of their own consequent loss of contact with their grandchildren. If you are aware of any contact addresses for men’s groups that may be interested can you please send them with your joining form. If you have any suggestions about other policy planks that are important or additions to what’s there please send them in (e.g. a Ministry of Men’s Affairs whatever) but basically the fewer policies we have the more likely we are to get every/anybody on-side. The other requirement for policies is that they have to be aimed at children. Items 1 & 2 we will want implemented as conditions of coalition. If there are any lawyers that can rearrange the political platform to read more like legislation and want to that would also be appreciated.

Also if you are relatively blameless (because we’ll be copping a lot of flack from the usual sectors of society) and want to be on the party list please say so in an accompanying letter and send a brief CV including your custodial problems (very briefly without leaving out any PROVEN allegations!) I haven’t figured out how to prevent party list MPs jumping ship but it will probably be by having a letter of resignation from Parliament on file.

A FUTURE Political Platform:

Child custody is to be dealt with in the following fashion:

In any custody dispute or separation between parents, custody of any children shall be awarded equally and jointly to both parents unless there is unequivocal demonstrable proven grave danger to the child from either parent. This equal and joint custody can only be varied by:

  • written agreement of both parents clearly specifying terms, conditions and duration, signed, dated and witnessed by an officer of the Court, registered in the Family Court and renewed biennially
  • Application to the Family Court showing unequivocal demonstrable proven grave danger to the child. In such cases a Mediation Conference shall be the appropriate format of hearing.
  • When the child reaches the age of 10 years by record of a majority decision of the child and the parents signed, dated and witnessed by an officer of the Court, registered in the Family Court and renewed biennially

When a dispute between parents is unresolved, immediate restoration of the status quo, as established by this Act, shall be enforced by a Senior Police Officer

No child shall leave the country without the permission of both parents signed, dated and witnessed by an officer of the Court and registered in the Family Court.

In all Family Court hearings regarding custody, Counsel for the Child shall be the only legal representative of the parties. Counsel for the Child will present both parents views and investigate fully any discrepancies or allegations in the parents statements.

In cases since 1990 where custody/access orders or arrangements have been made these are voided, to be replaced with equal joint custody arrangements as above, based on the residence/locality where the child last lived together with both parents.

Robert Murray.

A FUTURE, P.O. Box 14237, Kilbirnie, Wellington.

Buddies – Interview with Martin Lewis about mentoring

Martin Lewis Photo: Martin Lewis

What’s the idea of Buddies? What does it intend to achieve?

Buddies is a mentoring scheme. The idea is to provide a positive male role model to boys who would not otherwise have one. The idea is to break some of the generational cycles evident in fatherless or poorly fathered boys. As you are aware, no matter how good and well intentioned a mother is she can never be what a father is to a child (and visa versa. A father can never fully be a mother to a child) boy or girl. Buddies are not really substitute fathers though. Nor are they really just friends as the Big Buddy fills an adult role, has the adult responsibilities. A mentor is a role model, an example of how to live. Not there to tell or teach but to show by example. Big buddies have to be in integrity with themselves. No good ‘preaching’ one thing and doing or being another. The concept has been successful in the US since about 1907 were it is called Big Brother / Big Sister.

Who is it for?

The Little Buddies are selected by schools at present. The participating schools identify "at risk" boys who lack men in their lives and submit their names to the Buddies coordinator at Man Alive. These schools are also aware that there are also too few male teachers to provide day to day examples for these boys. The coordinator spends some time with the boys and their schools, some time with the boy’s guardians, and time with the potential Big Buddies in training programs before ‘matching up’ a Little Buddy with his Big Buddy. This supervision continues throughout the first year of the program.

Who is behind it?

Man Alive, a Henderson based resource centre for men and boys runs the program.

Along with a number of other mentoring schemes for both boys and girls around the country Buddies is part of a two year pilot scheme funded by the Crime Prevention Unit. These schemes are all part of a study by the Social Sciences Department of Waikato University who have been commissioned to report back to the CPU. Man Alive had been trying to get the scheme going for several years before this pilot scheme made it possible. The CPU provides reassurance to people afraid that it might harbour paedophiles or other abusers in that they help vet the prospective Big Buddies.

What is your experience of it as a Big Buddy?

I was matched up with a Little Buddy approx a year ago. He was 10, now 11. They are all aged between 9 and 15. He was very reticent at first. Obviously a lot of trust issues there. I found that turning up consistently, punctually, and neither applying any pressure nor being too easily dictated to, listening and empathising but consistently gently challenging the frequent lies I was told, had quite a transformative effect within only a few months. It could be really frustrating at times as he tested the boundaries and challenged my patience and credulity but what seemed to make a difference was that he saw that I wasn’t going to be driven away. He had an amazing ability to disappear. The first time he did that I was really disconcerted. Then I realised it was another way of him testing my resolve. I had a talk with him about our mutual responsibilities to one another, etc. He tested me a few more times. I stood by my word. I wasn’t just a soft do-gooder who was going to be taken for a ride. He actually valued that. So my experience has been testing but very fulfilling as I experienced his growth in confidence and self esteem. It also did the same for me as I withstood the tests of my integrity and intention.

I hope I haven’t made this sound too much of an ordeal. I happened to get a particularly challenging Little Buddy, but perhaps that just made the role more satisfying in some ways. Many of the other Buddies clicked immediately and just had lots of fun. We had a lot of fun too as the trust grew.

What effect did this have on the Little Buddy?

He relaxed more as time passed. He became more open and communicative. Not just with me. Feedback from his teachers and his guardian was that he was happier, more confident, more attentive, better school results, mixing better with his peers. One of the spin-offs was that there was now a small group in the school who had something in common and which he could and automatically did belong to. The Little Buddies. They obviously did a lot of note comparing and if one Big Buddy did something a bit special it didn’t take long for the other Little Buddies to ask for the same. For example, One of the rules is that the Big Buddy not become some sort of Santa Claus, spending lots of money on things the guardian perhaps could not afford. It’s not about buying affection or whatever but obviously we do buy the odd icecream or entrance into swimming pool, etc. Once one Big Buddy did this soon the pressure on the others to do the same came on. Its more about making and flying a kite together or going fishing or being interested in whatever interests and activities the little buddy might be into.

What sort of things did you do together?

Sometimes it was difficult because as a single man living alone it wasn’t appropriate to take him home although when he learned that I had a computer he repeatedly asked me if we could go to my place and do things on the computer. I tried to explain why this was not acceptable. Pretty hard without being explicit. I found alternative means of fulfilling his desire to play on computers. We went to the museum discovery room a couple of times, found a shop that would let us test the new games etc. I developed a real sympathy for weekend Dads who don’t have anywhere they can go to be with their kids. It is hard to find something different to do each wet weekend especially if you don’t want to spend lots of money. Movies are no good because there is no interaction with the kid. We went to indoor heated swimming pools, shopping malls, I took him to do my household shopping one day and ended up buying all sorts of treats I wouldn’t have normally bought. We then went and had a picnic. Broke a few rules that day but we both enjoyed ourselves. On fine days we visited every flying fox in Auckland. Walked a few beaches, kicked a ball around Cornwall Park, climbed a few volcanic cones and pointed out various places. Threw a frisby in the Domain. Visited the winter gardens. Ferried to Devonport and checked out the tunnels. Did the midwinter plunge at Long Bay, visited a street party in Queen St, music in the park, etc. Nothing too spectacular really. Some of the things we did I would have though would have been of no interest to him but just spending 2 or 3 hours together each week, consistently, seemed to be the thing that worked.

Want to find out more?www.bigbuddy.org.nz

Waitakere Boys in Schools Conference

On Friday 9th July I attended the first NZ Boys in Schools conference put on by Warwick Pudney, Fraser Bruce and the Man Alive team. The organisation was very professional – there were no obvious technological glitches, and they even kept pretty much to the schedule. There seemed to be mostly teachers attending, many of them women.

Having Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey on side resulted in the venue being the very attractive council chambers – one of the workshops was even in his personal office! He opened the conference by saying he had just returned from a meeting of metropolitan mayors with Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, and that New Zealand is about to be identified as the most violent country in the Western world. He then acknowledged Warwicks’ work with men in Waitakere over the last ten years, and presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation. The mayor had also brought a certificate for Rex McCann, who unfortunately could not attend due to illness. Mr Harvey concluded by mentioning his concern about the high suicide rate, and said "there are no easy answers to this very complex problem."

David Hood began the presentations by arguing for scrapping the current education system altogether, but the statement endorsed by the conference at the end of the day pointed to evolution rather than revolution.

Warwick Pudney, who was a teacher for 12 years before becoming a counsellor, began by informing us that 75% of the 4,000 New Zealand children suspended last year were boys, and that from 70% to 95% of children on alternative schooling programmes are boys. He said that the attitude towards boys should be that they are worthy of help, and there should be equality He suggested that the key is a positive father, and said that too many boys have limited contact with the most important man in their life. He pointed out that fatherlessness is connected to poor outcomes, and said that all our boys deserve dads – if that is not happening we are cheating them and they will take their problems to school. He also said that we must value and respect male teaching staff, and noted that many of his colleagues in the 1980’s have left teaching, often because they didn’t feel comfortable in a female culture. He suggested schools need to be more male-friendly, especially after separation. They should forward all information to the new address as well, because if information is only sent to the mother it might not get passed on. Pudney challenged all men, at the conference and outside, to become guardians of boys, and to give them male affirmation. He talked about "hollow men", who are dependant on women for affirmation and said he sees this especially in his domestic violence work.

In regard to raising boys, he noted that we need to build a sense of time, of future, noting that threatening punishment does not affect those boys who operate totally in the present. He said that after 30 years of feminism, men have a bad image, but actually, most men are not abusive. Pudney concluded by observing that while schools can do a lot, the wider community of men must play their part.

Anna Chalmers (NZCER) suggested that if 8-yr-old boys were compared to 6-yr-old girls, many of the ‘problems’ would disappear. She noted that girls set the standard because of their developmental advantage. She also observed that boys can develop a sense of hopelessness when the see constant negative media images. The evidence was on hand; 95 copies of the June 99 MENZ Issues showing the disgusting images of abusive males in the cartoons from the Keeping Yourself Safe programme were taken from the display table.

J.P.

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