MENZ Issues May 1999: Volume 4 Issue 4
University Re-approves Positive Partners Research After Complaints Received about the research project associated with the course. Complaints were received from Clinical Psychology lecturer Dr John Reid, Rape Crisis, Help Foundation and the Safe offender treatment programme about my involvement in the course.
Wellington Fathers, Family & the Future – 92% Support Equal Parenting by Fathers. Seven members of Men’s Centre North Shore flew down for the three-day event. The public celebration on Sat 17th drew smaller than hoped-for crowds, due to the sudden blast of wintery weather that hit the capital. Nethertheless, dozens of our newsletters were taken by interested men and women, and we were able to have good input into the many workshops. On Sunday morning, a group of us met to make the following summary of the notes made by those who attended the workshops, so that organiser John Brickell could present the results to the Monday forum.
Opponents Attempt to Divide and Rule On Sunday 18th April, at a meeting called by the writer, 25 representatives of men’s and fathers’ organisations around the country met in Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre to discuss what they have been doing, and the projects that they are working on. I was personally excited to meet with so many men’s/fathers’ groups, and to hear first-hand how many positive initiatives are happening out there at the grassroots. While we had intended to publish a list of the groups that attended, we have decided that this may not be prudent, after hearing the disturbing news that several men’s organisations have recently been warned/threatened that association with Men’s Centre North Shore may lead to future problems with funding and/or access to officials.
New Zealand Men’s Movement Meeting. Details of groups attending Wellington meeting.
Fathers & Families – Social Policy Forum I was particularly inspired by Rex McCann, who managed to raise all the hard issues in such a gentle, open-hearted and positive way that it would take a hardened sociopath to block his message out. Stuart Birks’ use of a cup of coffee as a metaphor for the family sticks in my mind – he suggested that to decide that the best family for a child is one where they are in the sole custody of the ‘primary caregiver’ is like observing the cup contains mostly water and concluding that it won’t make much difference to leave the coffee out! Associate Law Professor Mark Henaghan delivered an entertaining review of the legal situation affecting families, and insisted that parents should only be deprived of access in exceptional circumstances. Henaghan also said that Thomas J’s 1994 judgement went too far when he said a court must be ‘completely satisfied’ before an allegation of sexual abuse and hence the risk of it, can be dismissed.
NOW Declares War on Father’s Groups “What NOW is saying is that any father who wants a role in his child’s life apart from sperm donor and walking wallet – is equated with and termed a ‘batterer’. This is why some feminists call father’s and parental equality groups the ‘abuser’s lobby’. Father’s groups advocate for fathers to have an opportunity to become more fully involved in the lives of their children. How can NOW advocate against that, while at the same time bashing ‘absent fathers?’ Clearly, NOW believes that sole (mother) custody is better than the child having a full relationship with both parents. But do they really hold that falsely accusing someone of such horrible acts as domestic violence and child abuse is OK? And does NOW really believe that litigation is better than mediation and agreement?”
Women who do, & Women who don’t Modern radical feminism can hardly claim to be representative of all women. While Women’s Liberation was a genuine mass movement back in the 70’s when they fought for equal rights and the freedom to choose non-traditional roles, there has always been female opposition from both inside and outside feminist organisations to the more extreme stances taken by the radicals.
Barbara Faithful and the CREDO Society “Around 1980, as Jackson/Saphira stepped up her domestic violence activism, I telephoned and challenged her on her highly publicised but utterly baseless and nonsensical contention that “the raising of little boys had to change if domestic violence was to be reduced”. When she moved into rape and child sex abuse activism in the early 1980’s, with similarly unscientific surveys and similarly predictable outcomes and political rabble rousing with bogus, inflated ‘statistics’ of supposed incidence of these problems, I again telephoned her to challenge the legitimacy of her activities. To the media it appeared that Saphira could do no wrong. It was not to be until 1988 that some sanity prevailed, particularly in the area of child sex abuse, as the public awoke to the massive confidence trick which had been perpetrated with the use of bogus, inflated sex abuse figures for the 1988 Telethon promotional publicity.
Let Absent Fathers Spend Time With Their Children Over the past decade, I have known non-custodial fathers who have wanted to spend time with their children but became defeated by a Family Court system which allows obstructions to be placed in their way. Many custodial parents use every opportunity to discredit the other parent, Legal Aid is freely available for stalling tactics, accusations and philosophical argument about why the dis-possessed parent shouldn’t have access.
Dear Editor Peter Manning (March MENZ Issues) takes a wild swipe at a young woman who dared to seek her equality, as a human being, in the new and agonised society that was the New Zealand of her time here.
Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths To begin with, most divorced fathers don’t “walk out.” At least two-thirds of the time, the mother is not only the one who files for divorce but the one who wants out of the marriage. And it’s usually not, as many assume, because the father beats her, drinks or cheats; most commonly, mothers cite such reasons as “growing apart” or “not feeling loved or appreciated.” Nor is it true that, once divorced, fathers are likely to desert their children emotionally and financially. Most fathers who are steadily employed consistently pay child support (their record is especially impressive if one looks not only at mothers’ reports, on which most statistics are based, but at fathers’ own reports) and work to stay in their children’s lives. So-called “runaway dads” are often “driven-away dads”: they vanish because their ex-wives keep them away.
On 14th April, as we prepared to leave for the Wellington father’s forum, the NZ Herald published a story reporting that Auckland University Medical School Dean Peter Gluckman was sending the research project associated with our new Positive Partners, Strong Families course back to the ethics committee. Complaints were received from Clinical Psychology lecturer Dr John Reid, Rape Crisis, Help Foundation and the Safe offender treatment programme about my involvement in the course.
They said their concern was because I have a conviction for indecent assault on underage girls when I lived with my father at Centrepoint Community in the late 1970’s.
In the early 90’s I was charged, pleaded guilty, and served four months in prison.
My primary contribution to the Positive Partners course was to identify the need for it in the first place, and get the ball rolling. Since then, the bulk of the work producing the manuals and putting the course together has been done by my wife Felicity, with considerable input from Dr Tannis Laidlaw and recently, the first team of trainers.
My only future involvement was going to be the (unpaid) job of answering the phone, explaining the course, and registering the participants. When enquiries started flooding in, I became concerned about my ability to handle the workload so I raised the possibility of employing someone to answer the phone at our committee meeting on Wednesday night. When the media drama began next day, I was only too happy to offer to pull out in favour of Felicity if my involvement was the only thing standing in the way of the course proceeding.
Readers of MENZ Issues over the past year will be well aware of why Rape Crisis have good cause to attack me, but the attitude of the Safe programme surprised me. I don’t know much about the ‘treatment’ they provide. However, I can’t help wondering what message Safe is sending to the men who are sent on their courses. Are they suggesting that no matter what you do to rehabilitate yourself, they may decide to publicly expose and discredit you decades into the future if they don’t approve of your politics?
The North Harbour News reported that North Harbour Family Violence Protection Project spokesman Reese Helmondollar is among course opponents warning people not to enrol. He says the Men’s Centre philosophy is at odds with the 32 anti-violence groups belonging to his organisation.
“It [the Men’s Centre philosophy] gives the message that men are able to control their family. This is potentially damaging to women and children.”
If we were allowed to attend their meetings, we would be only too happy to correct Helmondollar’s completely false characterisation of our philosophy. However, they seem to find the truth inconvenient. Although his Project receives public funding from the Safer Community Council to educate and inform the community about domestic violence, amazingly there seems to be no requirement that the information provided be correct.
We are well aware that the idea of a non-feminist, pro-family organisation like Men’s Centre developing an education course with good research data to demonstrate conclusively that it works, must be the worst nightmare for feminists making a living from unresearched interventions.
We fully expected there would be opposition. Everyone who believes that the nuclear family is a dangerous institution will agree with Helmondollar that the Positive Partners, Strong Families course should be stopped – after all it is designed to keep fathers involved with their families!
The survey results from the Commission for Children show that this is what the majority of NZ men and women want, which confirms to Men’s Centre workers that we are on the right track.
On 29th of April we were advised that the Ethics Committee had agreed that the research could go ahead. The first course is almost fully booked, and reservations are now being taken for the second course which begins on Tuesday 1st June.
Invest in your Partnership Today!
Men’s Centre stall at the Wellington Town Hall father’s celebration.
92% Support Equal Parenting by Fathers
Results of a survey released at the April Father’s conference by the Commission for Children indicate that overwhelmingly, New Zealanders see the need for fathers to be equally involved in raising children. The Commissioner Roger McClay opened the Social Policy Forum in Wellington by reminding us that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Art 18) states:
“both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child.”
Seven members of Men’s Centre North Shore flew down for the three-day event. The public celebration on Sat 17th drew smaller than hoped-for crowds, due to the sudden blast of wintery weather that hit the capital. Nethertheless, dozens of our newsletters were taken by interested men and women, and we were able to have good input into the many workshops.
On Sunday morning, a group of us met to make the following summary of the notes made by those who attended the workshops, so that organiser John Brickell could present the results to the Monday forum.
Education: key to effecting positive social changes with respect to boys and men and hence fathers. Education in schools – early prevention – communication and conflict resolution. Tailoring early education to developmental needs of boys. Need for male role-models. Need to increase fathers’ roles and input into schools especially secondary schools. Huge untapped resource in community of grandfathers who have the wisdom, knowledge and time.
Mentoring: Honour values and input fathers have traditionally imparted in our society. Honour past to move to future.
Parenting issues after separation: Equal shared parenting – children’s right to both to be involved in active parenting. Presumption should be equal contact. Family Court needs ability to evolve, respond and re- evaluate, reflect changing nature of community. Goal is to minimise cases going to Family Court. Ongoing support and education (negotiation, communication skills etc) needs to be provided after court decisions. Current adversarial nature of Family Court disadvantages children and is perceived in many cases to disadvantage fathers with respect to contact with their children after separation. Such a change would solve many of the problems such as the difficulties of counsel for child becoming further advocate for mother. Primary object should be to develop a viable parenting plan.
Need for father-friendly institutions: Barriers for so many men who want to parent their children, both within Family Court and social service system but also organisations such as Plunket, schools, Barnados etc. Need for organisations to keep relevant statistics with respect to fathers to address current dearth of information. Need for employers to acknowledge fathers need time to spend with children especially illness etc. Proposed Parental Leave Act is effectively maternal leave.
Conclusions: Fathers need to have ongoing say into policies relating to fathering. Needs to be social policy developed specifically with respect to positive fathering, not just dealing with ‘toxic’ or bad fathering. We (men’s and father’s groups) are the expert voices- we have largest body of experience and men’s stories
Notes by Felicity Goodyear-Smith.
On Sunday 18th April, at a meeting called by the writer, 25 representatives of men’s and fathers’ organisations around the country met in Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre to discuss what they have been doing, and the projects that they are working on. I was personally excited to meet with so many men’s/fathers’ groups, and to hear first-hand how many positive initiatives are happening out there at the grassroots. I look forward to connecting again in Nelson next year and hopefully spending a longer time networking and learning from those who have blazed the first trails into the wilderness.
While we had intended to publish a list of the groups that attended, we have decided that this may not be prudent, after hearing the disturbing news that several men’s organisations have recently been warned/threatened that association with Men’s Centre North Shore may lead to future problems with funding and/or access to officials. This is yet another example of’ the ‘indirect aggression’ discussed on page 9 of the March MENZ Issues. We reported that it is more common among girls than boys, and that some females are known to systematically use it as a form of bullying.
We wrote: “Indirect aggression is defined by Bjorkqvist and his colleagues as including the following behaviours: gossips, tells bad or false stories, becomes friend with another as revenge, plans secretly to bother the other, says bad things behind another’s back, says to others: let’s not be with him/her, tells the other one’s secrets to a third person, writes nasty notes about the other, tries to get others to dislike the person. This greater use of indirect aggression increases as girls get older.”
This type of manipulation is extremely intimidating for men dependent on the few funded hours they have been able to obtain. It’s even harder for managers with the responsibility for several workers’ livelihoods.
Men’s Centre knows that this is not an idle threat. Over the last year several of our attempts at gaining community funding met with organised opposition and complaints. Several of our current funders have requested that we do not advertise their identity publicly.
It is interesting to see that the same people who are at the forefront of efforts to stop male employers using threats of harm to careers to coerce sexual favours have no hesitation in using exactly the same kind of threats themselves to coerce ideological conformity. We can only conclude that they believe the ‘end justifies the means’.
Despite the fact that we represented a wide spectrum of beliefs at the meeting on Sunday, 25 fairly high-powered men and women spent 2 hours together without a raised voice, ego trip or dominance display. At the end it was clear to all of us there is a remarkable degree of consensus.
So as not to threaten the important work that all of these people are doing, we will try in future to refrain from identifying groups we might be ‘associated with’. With identifying details removed, here are some New Zealand men’s initiatives that we heard about in Wellington.
Agency A: Services for men: anger management but also programmes for men throughout lives (boys to elderly); counselling; seven day-staff; material resources; potential as focal point for different causes; mentoring programme.
Men’s Centre North Shore phone info service 25 to 30 calls per month; men in crisis (especially re custody issues; monthly support group- about three or four new men per meeting; men’s health day. monthly radio show; MENZ Issues newsletter; webpage; politically active – submissions to select committees.
Separated Fathers Support Trust Forty-five men through short-term accommodation for separated fathers in last year. Free legal clinics; petition re changes on family law. Seven on trust.
Male Order Bookshop Will use profits to go back into men’s groups; help educate public.
Fathers’ Group B: Support group meet twice weekly. Usually fathers in distress re losing children. Six years now a committee of six. Put on three or four courses per year.
Mr C: Using Internet to make information available especially to fathers. Avoid duplication.
COSA (Casualties of Sexual Allegations Inc) plus ‘Positive Partners, Strong Families’ Auckland Support and information dissemination for people affected by false sexual allegations for past 5 years. GP and researcher Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science, University of Auckland for ‘Positive Partners, Strong Families’ project -communication and conflict resolution course for couples. Offering to train facilitators and provide resources so that groups introduce these courses in their own areas. Course suitable for pre-marriage; ante-natally; separated with children. Early domestic violence intervention but also to further enrich and enhance functional relationships.
Group D: Crisis Phoneline; knowledge of child support issues. Supports men and women through Family Court issues.
Group E: Publication of materials relating to men and social policies.
Mr F: Researching changing work and family patterns – has resources.
Group G: formed organisation years ago to assist men and women affected by troubles with breakdown of relationships.
Group H: Family law works against families especially Child support Act. Want to look at law and publish book.
Group I: men’s support network organised major event, three trustees but increasing network of contacts. 450 men
Group J: Helped with youth forum and Fathers, Families and Future. Also helped organise quarterly gatherings for past 12 months.
Group K: men’s group plus fathers’ support group. Interested in mentoring – possibly nation-wide organisation.
Group L: Men’s ‘heart’ work. Involved men’s work nine years. Monthly support group. three other groups works for government; good contact with both grassroots plus government and corporate arenas.
Mr M: An involved father.
Mr N: Co-ordinator of important events Interested in birth and early childhood – change how we bring up males.
Men’s group O: Involved men’s groups 16 years in Australia. 16 members (maybe eight to ten per meeting). Support plus education and training.
Dads Group P: Promotion around father’s day; 30 men on mailing list; meet every three weeks (average 10 per meeting). Inc society; paid 12 hours per weeks to deal with fathering issues. Health night attracted 200 men. Working in association mentoring group. House for weekly sessions for dad’s and kids. Working with famous comedian.
Agency Q: Counselling; family court counselling. Support group. Fathers’ support – monthly meeting, advocacy- 120 members. Also Fathers’ network (offers training, code of ethics, and supervision).
Fathering Trust R: workshops on fathering issues. Fathers in sport; Father-friendly work places (educate employers and employees); Fathers in Schools (barriers that stop fathers getting involved in schools); Family Law; compilation of men’s stories. Initiatives: father-friendly awards in workplace and schools.
Fathers’ organisation S: Resource centre, information, works with separated fathers with custody issues. Magazine for new fathers (to go with new mothers packs from hospitals); building up Trust locally and nationally. Also applied funding for teenage fathers (support group after evaluating what they want). Two employees. National resource centre on fathering issues
Fathers’ organisation T: Eight months; membership 20 with eight active workers (including two solo dads on DPB). premises open 10 am to 2 pm daily. Facilitate access to facilities in community not seen by men as available. Activities mostly social & supportive.
Vital with volunteers to look at quality and professionalism, safety and ethics, training and supervision. Happy to supply guidelines. Especially concerned re Buddy programmes and mentoring.
Mr R: as (fathers’ organisations) become more effective, they will become a threat to other groups and may come under increasing attack.
Mr U: risks associated with mentors – needs to be monitored carefully. Contacting US-based Big Brother/Sister organisation.
Mr B: interested in mentoring of father to father (father to child refers to Agency A). Info on Project K: -started by Graham Dingle. Designed to give 14 year old boys wilderness type experience mixed with life skills, self -esteem etc. Several other mentor programmes eg Doug Stevens Manukau Technical Institute mentoring course, Presbyterian Support Services run Otago Buddy programme – Jill McDonald.
Mr F: how to deal effectively with media.
Mr B: concerned re bias in press.
Mr E: build up links with local media. Get positive coverage. Also look for articles which are wrong; don’t get angry but give factually correct information. Short pieces with solid data.
Mr Q: makes corporate and individual award for who has done the most for fathering on Father’s Day -gives copy to media.
Child support Issues:
Many people in government agencies do not understand the issues.
Mr E: suggested inviting MP to groups, help educate.
Mr G. Legislation very inadequate; never been effort to address policy issues. Administrators inaccessible.
Where do we go from here?
Father & Child representatives already meeting in Nelson April 2000. They are creating NZ Father & Child Society to represent all Father & Child Trusts. Philip Chapman is President. This event is focusing on fathering not men’s issues in general.
Need for something bigger for everyone. Include national network meeting, plus reporting session on what initiatives are happening. Policy orientated conference with fees? Possibly have this just before Family Law conference (but may be too limiting to just address legal issues). Better in main centres eg Wellington, Auckland or Christchurch? Add stream to established conferences? Combined approach grass-roots support day on Fathers Day in September – could co-ordinate on the Internet.
Common theme enthusiastically endorsed:
GENDER EQUALITY IN ALL REALMS. (Fathering, families, policies and men’s issues
The publication ‘Perspectives on Fathering’ edited by Stuart Birks and Paul Callister contains papers from nine of the presenters at the Wellington forum. Copies can be purchased from the Centre for Public Policy Evaluation at Massey University, (Private Bag, Palmerston North), or downloaded from their website:
In the space available here I can only briefly mention a few of the most important points that were made on Monday 19th April. I was particularly inspired by Rex McCann, who managed to raise all the hard issues in such a gentle, open-hearted and positive way that it would take a hardened sociopath to block his message out.
Stuart Birks’ use of a cup of coffee as a metaphor for the family sticks in my mind – he suggested that to decide that the best family for a child is one where they are in the sole custody of the ‘primary caregiver’ is like observing the cup contains mostly water and concluding that it won’t make much difference to leave the coffee out!
Associate Law Professor Mark Henaghan delivered an entertaining review of the legal situation affecting families, and insisted that parents should only be deprived of access in exceptional circumstances. Henaghan also said that Thomas J’s 1994 judgement went too far when he said a court must be ‘completely satisfied’ before an allegation of sexual abuse and hence the risk of it, can be dismissed. There was widespread vocal acceptance among the audience of the impossibility of proving that you are risk-free. Henaghan went on to state firmly that there should be a presumption of joint responsibility after break-up, and that the concepts of ‘custody’ and ‘access’ should be removed. He suggested stricter rules and guidelines for Judges, and a code of rights for children and parents.
Family Court Judge June Johnstone, standing in for Judge Mahoney, disagreed with him, and made a case for leaving the discretion up to the court. She went on to claim that if all of us in the audience had access to the same information as a Family Court Judge we would make pretty much the same decisions. With all due respect to Judge Johnston, I think not. Her claim that because Judges have to justify their decisions in their written judgements, they are accountable, would be more plausible if those judgements (minus any identifying details of course), were able to be published and scrutinised instead of being kept secret.
The Judge did not get to grips with the key problem the Family Court faces. If, as the OCC research suggests, almost 75% of NZ, men and women think the Family Court is unfair to men, then it is not doing its job effectively. Justice is supposed ‘to be seen to be done,’ and where it is not, the authority of the court is diminished.
In one of the breaks between sessions, someone raised with me the danger of children growing up in solo mother families where they see court orders regularly flouted with total impunity. Two other men who run phone counselling & information services told me that they fear an increasing number of men taking the law into their own hands as the perception of Family Court bias becomes more widespread.
To her credit, the Judge had prepared for the conference by reading Blankenhorn’s book ‘Fatherless America’, and she acknowledged the danger our society faces from the growing subculture of ‘rogue males’, who fill our prisons to overflowing. A more recent and relevant book which should be required reading for all Family Court professionals is ‘Divorced Dads’ by Sanford Braver, which expose some of the out-of-date myths inadvertently endorsed by Blankenhorn.
Although rather dazed and confused after trying to comprehend Keith Rankin’s charts of Effective Marginal Tax Rates, I got the key point loud and clear. Under the present tax/benefit system, a low income or beneficiary father is a major financial liability to a NZ family. Adding this extra stress to families that are sometimes dysfunctional in other areas as well is not in society’s best interests. Rankin suggests that a Basic Income (@ $123) pw / Flat tax (@ 39%) regime would “ensure that contributions of one parent do not undermine the contribution of the other.”
The aspect of the day that most disturbed me was Paul Callister’s discussion of changing employment patterns, and the high levels of chronic unemployment, particularly among Maori and Polynesian men.
The opposite situation, which Callister also discussed, was illustrated when I received a call on my return from a local woman seeking help for a friend’s husband. Trying to support his family on $32,000 a year as a department manager in retail store, he has been expected to work 80 hours a week for his salary. Not at all surprisingly, he has just had a nervous breakdown. According to Rankin’s figures, although this guy is earning close to the median fulltime wage, the family will probably have a slightly higher disposable income if his wife throws him out!
Harald Breiding-Buss’s warning about the media simply replacing ‘abuser dad’ with an unattainable image of ‘superdad’ rang in my ears when I saw Paul Holmes interviewing the guy running a multi-million dollar business out of his home so he could be with his kids. All of us watching found the image of Donna Awatere-Huata, striding around the country “kicking Maori fathers up the bum” rather offensive after hearing the extent of the problems they face. ACT have picked the right issue, but they are getting the analysis wrong. Someone should buy Richard Prebble a copy of ‘Divorced Dads’.
It is election year folks, and here is an area where for once there is a clear public mandate for change. Where do the candidates in your electorate stand?
While the Fathers Family and the Future conference may give us cause to celebrate the fact that at last things seem to be heading in a positive direction, we should not underestimate the opposition fathers’ groups will continue to receive from radical feminists working to overthrow the patriarchy. The key organisation at the centre of this effort is the American National Organisation of Women.
The resolution below, adopted at NOW’s 1996 conference, can be found on their website under the heading “NOW ACTION ALERT ON FATHERS’ RIGHTS.”
- WHEREAS organisations advocating “fathers’ rights,” whose members consist of non-custodial parents, their attorneys and their allies, are a growing force in our country; and WHEREAS the objectives of these groups are to increase restrictions and limits on custodial parents’ rights and to decrease child support obligations of non-custodial parents by using the abuse of power in order to control in the same fashion as do batterers.
- WHEREAS these groups are fulfilling their objectives by forming political alliances with conservative Republican [ie: Right-wing] legislators and others and by working for the adoption of legislation such as presumption of joint custody, penalties for “false reporting” of domestic and child abuse and mediation instead of court hearings.
- WHEREAS the success of these groups will be harmful to all women but especially harmful to battered and abused women and children; and WHEREAS the efforts of well-financed “fathers’ rights” groups are expanding from a few states into many more, sharing research and tactics state by state.
- WHEREAS many judges and attorneys are still biased against women and fathers are awarded custody 70 percent of the time when they seek it per the Association of Child Enforcement Support.
- THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Organisation for Women (NOW) begin a national alert to inform members about these “fathers’ rights” groups and their objectives through articles in the National Now Times (NNT); and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as a part of this alert, NOW establish a clearinghouse for related information by sharing with NOW state and local Chapters the available means to challenge such groups, including the current research on custody and support, sample legislation, expert witnesses, and work done by NOW and other groups in states where “fathers’ rights” groups have been active; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW encourage state and local Chapters to conduct and co-ordinate divorce/custody court watch projects to facilitate removal of biased judges.
- BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that NOW report to the 1997 National Conference on the status and result of this national alert whereupon its continuation or expansion will be considered.
In the Spring 1997 edition of The Women’s Freedom Network Newsletter, American lawyer Anne Mitchell raises a number of interesting points in relation to this resolution. What NOW is saying is that any father who wants a role in his child’s life apart from sperm donor and walking wallet – is equated with and termed a ‘batterer’. This is why some feminists call father’s and parental equality groups the ‘abuser’s lobby’. Father’s groups advocate for fathers to have an opportunity to become more fully involved in the lives of their children. How can NOW advocate against that, while at the same time bashing ‘absent fathers?’ Clearly, NOW believes that sole (mother) custody is better than the child having a full relationship with both parents. But do they really hold that falsely accusing someone of such horrible acts as domestic violence and child abuse is OK? And does NOW really believe that litigation is better than mediation and agreement?
A study by Stanford University psychologist Eleanor Maccoby and Stanford law professor Robert Mnookin, based on a survey of nearly 1,000 divorcing couples found that when both parents asked for full custody, the mother got custody 46 percent of the time and the father less than 10 percent of the time – as usual, the feminist statistics are simply fake.
Mitchell says this declaration is a clear example of ‘using the abuse of power’ — NOW’s political power – ‘in order to control.’
While it may not be apparent to those people who rely on the mainstream media for their information, modern radical feminism can hardly claim to be representative of all women. While Women’s Liberation was a genuine mass movement back in the 70’s when they fought for equal rights and the freedom to choose non-traditional roles, there has always been female opposition from both inside and outside feminist organisations to the more extreme stances taken by the radicals.
Robyn Rowland, a lecturer in Social Psychology and Women’s Studies at Deakin University, Australia, helped establish the Women’s Studies programme at Waikato University. She is editor of the 1984 book ‘Women Who Do & Women Who Don’t Join the Women’s Movement’, part two of which is subtitled ‘Feminists and Antifeminists.’
The section includes an essay by American Teddi Holt which discusses the author’s concern when she read a book by Betty Friedan called ‘It Changed My Life.’ In her book, Friedan quotes French feminist Simone De Beauvoir:
“No woman should be authorised to stay at home to raise her children…Women should not have that choice, precisely because there is such a choice, too many women will make that one…In my opinion, as long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed.”
Holt says “I became very concerned that such anti-family, anti-motherhood statements should be in the book of a woman who claimed she wanted to help women. As a Christian, I believe that Jehovah God, my Creator, created man ‘in his own image…male and female created He them’ (Genesis 1:27). When God joined man and women they became the first ‘home’. Man plus woman (plus children) equals the ‘home’ and family.”
She asks “Just what were we women to be liberated from? These women were calling for liberation from the things that women like me love most – our husbands, our children, our homes. My cry became: God, liberate us from the Liberators!”
As she began to research, debate and lecture against feminists, Holt noticed the rapid development of the children’s rights movement. She learned that these initiatives began back in 1969 when the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF), who introduced a resolution to the United Nations declaring 1975 as International Women’s Year, , and 1979 as International Year of The Child.
“The two movements formed branches of the same tree, with the same philosophy, same world leaders, same goals and so on,” she wrote. The Aug 7th 1978 US News and World Report published a diagram which showed the WIDF to be one of many communist front organisations, headquartered in Moscow.
Teddi Holt, as president of ‘Mothers On the March’, has continued to campaign against the National Organisation of Women’s efforts to overthrow the patriarchal, capitalist society by destroying the family.
Criticism of contemporary feminism does not only come from the Christian Right. Also in ‘Women Who Do & Women Who Don’t’ is a essay by Australian Ann Curthoys, a lecturer at NSW Institute of Technology. Born into a staunchly Communist family, Curthoys has been active in many Left-wing political organisations all her life.
She writes: “I must continue to call myself a feminist. But I am increasingly critical of some of the directions recent feminism seems to be taking. I have begun to think that many feminists are anti-male in a crude sense, are simply seeking their own advancement vis-ÃƒÂ -vis middle class men, have abandoned socialist ideals and organisations, and are out of touch with or unsympathetic to the very real problems of working-class people, both female and male.”
She says that she finds feminist discussion about men being ‘the enemy’ utterly absurd. “Not having rejected men at a personal, emotional, and sexual level, I find those developments within feminist theory which depend on such a rejection uncongenial. I find many recent characterisations of men to be bordering on the racist, to be in fact, a reversion to the biological determinism we once so fiercely rejected. This leads to a rejection of the ideal of men and women sharing child-caring, on the grounds that men are the evil incarnate, and children should therefore be reared by women only.
Yet another point of view is that of Babette Francis, a Catholic Indian microbiologist, chemist, journalist, counsellor and mother of eight, who has lived in Australia since 1953. She has published many articles on women’s health, and is a founder member of ‘Women who Want to be Women’. She says: ” The real meaning of ‘feminist’ is ‘a believer in equal rights for women’, but since the 1960s it has been distorted….I was a passive feminist until the consciousness-raising that preceded the International Woman’s Year.
At the 1975 ‘Women’s Health in a Changing Society’ conference, for the first time I was confronted by a group of women who did not believe that the maternal role was beautiful, valuable, or equal to the male ‘provider’ role…The amount of literature they produced denigrating motherhood appalled me…Assuming that the conference was genuinely concerned with health, I sent the organisers an abstract of my paper on successful lactation. I was invited to present the paper in Brisbane.
The only discrimination I have experienced is not because of my Indian origin, but because of being a mother rather than a ‘career woman’. At the health conference the emphasis was totally on abortion, contraception and lesbianism; those of us who tried to speak of motherhood and the female role were rubbished and made to feel traitors to the women’s cause.
Francis says that she likes men, and claims that if more men were like her husband, “there would be no women’s liberationists. In reading the life stories of so many prominent liberationists, one becomes aware of the impact alcoholic and violent fathers and/or unfaithful husbands have had on these embittered women. It is not surprising that they refuse to accept the idea of marriage as a partnership of equals and of ‘family’ being based on marriage, but define ‘family’ as any variation – such as two lesbians and a budgerigar!”
The way in which feminists infiltrated the social policy-making areas of government is even criticised by lesbian Sylvia Kinder, born in the UK and now an Australian secondary school teacher. She became involved in what she calls the ‘feminist bureaucracy’. She writes;
“The appointment of wimin’s (sic) advisers in areas such as the Premier’s department, Education, Department of Community Welfare and the establishment of Equal Opportunity Commissions and the various officers to support such persons, soon created a paid feminist administrative group who sought each other out both for political and personal support. The informal network very quickly became an important social grouping. I am convinced of the value of such networks, but also recognise that being informal they can establish confusing baseline acceptable behaviour which determines inclusion. The struggles which inevitably take place between wimin can become overly personalised and distorted.”
Interview with John Potter on the Men’s Hour, Access Community Radio October 1998
JP: “Recently, M.P. Owen Jennings commended the Men’s Centre North Shore for its encouragement of the responsibilities of fathers and two parent families. He echoed the Centre’s contention that the breakdown of traditional marriage makes a significant contribution to social decay.
So just what are the forces behind the breakdown of traditional marriage and family structure? How is it that N.Z. society has arrived at a situation where we read the following response to the question posed in a 1994 Listener article, ‘Do children need a Mum and a Dad?’
Gabriel Maxwell, until recently employed by the office of the Commissioner for Children, answered: “Many more women are solo parents now than in 1985 and they know the reality that they can provide for their children without a man”.
‘Here tonight to talk about some of these forces behind the radical and sometimes overwhelming social change we are experiencing is Barbara Faithfull from the Credo Society. Way back in 1986, when the explosion of fatherless families was just beginning, this remarkable woman caught on to what was happening and began writing about it in the newsletter Credonews. Good evening Barbara.”
B.F: “Hello John. Well, I first became involved with such concerns (about threats to the family) when I was at Auckland University in the 1970’s doing a B.A. in Psychology and Anthropology. I found a book called ‘Teenage Marketplace’, by Anne-Louise de Verteuil and Nicola Brooks. (Methuen, 1975) which I found disturbing. The authors were two English teenage girls who were protesting about the exploitation of young people by various forces. Two particular quotes in the book I found especially thought-provoking:
- ‘We read a directive to communists in Florida ‘Corrupt youth, alienate it from religion, direct its attention to sex; let it become superficial, destroy its idealism, use every means to bring about the collapse of moral virtues – honesty, purity, temperance and trust in the given word.’
- ‘Lenin once said if we want to destiny a nation we must first destroy its morals. Then that nation will fall into our lap like ripe fruit’.
That got me thinking. I hadn’t seen much behind the social upheaval until then. I saw various evidence in N.Z. around that time which all seemed to bear the hallmarks of such radical ideological thinking:-
In the 1970’s N.Z. was rife with Women’s Liberation conferences and conventions. In 1974 the Trotskyist (Cuba-aligned) Socialist Action League (SAL, now Communist League) presented a landmark submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee On Women’s Rights. That submission, along with ‘The New Rules of Feminism’, text of a resolution adopted by the second SAL national conference at Wellington in January 1973, was published in 1974 as ‘A Strategy For Women’s Liberation, – the view of revolutionary socialists’ (more on this later).
In 1979. two people – Dr. Ian Scott and Father Felix Donnelly – had emerged as key players in the new broadcasting initiative of ex-member of the NZ Communist Party, Gordon Dryden. Donnelly was a talkback host, with often highly confrontational and even deviously manipulative programmes four days per week, while Scott was an influential member of the Radio Pacific Board. It was therefore not surprising that homosexual politics, related gender and racial politics, other Left-Wing politics and much generally anti-social material were soon flooding the air waves on deliberately one-sided programmes. Complaints fell on deaf ears, and particularly outspoken complainants were dealt to on air via ridicule, personal and even defamatory attacks and censorship. I was just one of those so treated, and the censorship of me on Donnelly’s Sunday programmes is still permitted – ‘If it makes (Donnelly) more comfortable’ according to Managing Director Derek Lowe, when I complained back in 1983!
On the gender politics scene in 1979 rape and domestic violence were emerging as major social issues, thanks to radical gender feminism. At Auckland University I was witnessing fanatical Rape Crisis activism, where, at women-only meetings, all men were being branded as rapists.
The July issue of the extreme Left-Wing Republican (Edited by Auckland Bruce Jesson) featured an article by noted feminist Christine Dann, ‘Radical Feminism and the NZ Political Scene’. In a particularly revealing paragraph she wrote:
…”Thus anarchists (and latterly their more Marxist ‘libertarian socialist’ arid ‘anarcho-communist’ fellow leftists) have preferred forms of organisation which will lead more directly to the situation which is ultimately desired. Thus…they posit small, autonomous, non-hierarchical collectives which provide personal as well as political support and are part of local and national networks which can be co-ordinated to work on important matters. The groups may choose to work autonomously on specific issues e.g. oppression of women, racism, or the environment, to become involved with community struggles, or to be part of the larger national campaigns. They may offer direct political action (e.g. groups such as HART,…..Matakite..) personal assistance (Rape Crisis, TPA – Tenants’ Protection Assn,) information and education (New Perspectives on Race, Women’s Centres) skills and expertise (The Wellington Media Collective) or a combination of all these activities e.g. cultural activities such as guerrilla theatre”.
Also in 1979 three Auckland radical feminists; Joy Florence (later to become a key person with the HELP Foundation for sexual assault victims), Bronwyn Banks and Jenny Ruth wrote a book on the founding of Women’s Refuge in Auckland, ‘He Said He Loved Me Really’. There they made this astonishing admission:
“Halfway House was conceived by some Auckland feminists as being a tactic towards our liberation. Basically we wished to attack the institution of marriage and to salvage what womanity we could in the process.”
By this time much else was also happening on the domestic violence scene, not least being moves by feminists to get the media more ‘woman-friendly’ in its terminology on this issue. At a 1981 Auckland Mediawomen Seminar, Sandra Coney, then Editor of Broadsheet differentiated between ‘Men’s media’ mostly controlled and presented by men, and ‘women’s media’ – presumably mostly influenced by women! She pointed out that in the matter of domestic violence the men’s media described it as “a domestic dispute”, while the women’s media described it more emotively as “bashing”….Also, and now more commonly, “battering”.
In June 1978 the NZ Woman’s Weekly published their ‘Battered Wife Questionnaire’, with the lurid heading ‘Bashed Wives Reveal Their Lives of Hidden Suffering’. Auckland psychologist (and lesbian political activist) Miriam Jackson (later Saphira) was able to eventually elicit responses from 220 women readers about their domestic violence experiences. Predictably, the grim and graphic picture painted in the follow-up feature in October 1978 seems to have afforded Jackson ample ammunition to further the anti-male crusade she appears to have had planned all along. Indeed, in hindsight, her recommendations for action and attitude changes following that clearly contrived and unscientific questionnaire bear remarkable similarities to many of the marked changes which have come about on the domestic violence front in recent years.
“An urgent need for alternative, temporary, protective accommodation. A battered wife is the innocent party…. A change in attitude towards sex roles and images is called for…. The survey indicates that barbaric male attitudes are still very much alive…. (The survey) indicates just what a trap the ‘traditional female role’ can spring for some women…. they have also been led to believe it is the woman’s responsibility to keep the marriage together”.
Around 1980, as Jackson/Saphira stepped up her domestic violence activism, I telephoned and challenged her on her highly publicised but utterly baseless and nonsensical contention that “the raising of little boys had to change if domestic violence was to be reduced”.
When she moved into rape and child sex abuse activism in the early 1980’s, with similarly unscientific surveys and similarly predictable outcomes and political rabble rousing with bogus, inflated ‘statistics’ of supposed incidence of these problems, I again telephoned her to challenge the legitimacy of her activities, and made constant challenges in the media also, but with the latter mainly to no avail. To the media it appeared that Saphira could do no wrong. It was not to be until 1988 that some sanity prevailed, particularly in the area of child sex abuse, as the public awoke to the massive confidence trick which had been perpetrated with the use of bogus, inflated sex abuse figures for the 1988 Telethon promotional publicity.
By that time NZ’s homosexual law had changed and Saphira was less covert regarding her lesbianism, although its political significance for the crusades she was conducting would still not have been evident to the avenge citizen. Thus it was that in 1986 she made no secret of the fact that she had even been appointed a Secretary General of the International Lesbian Gay Association (ILGA), which is, after all, part of the wider international gender politics movement.
Back in 1980, with Radio Pacific becoming such a hot bed of anti-social activism (so much so that it was commonly nicknamed ‘Radio Moscow’), I began to see for the first time hard evidence of what I perceived to be a determined bid to win hearts and minds as part of an ideologically-based movement to subvert traditional Western cultural values and institutions such as marriage and the family unit.
I saw this as fitting in well with the disturbing trends in England discussed so eloquently by the two angry and troubled teenagers in Teenage Marketplace. Moreover, I saw the news media, by and large, playing a major role in making this possible, and began to look at ways to try and counteract such a disturbing trend. Following much talkback activity on Radio Pacific I began to gather wide support for my concerns resulting in the forming in 1981 of Credo Society Inc.
Meantime, in 1980 came two rare and most valuable media items which served to confirm my conclusions about the existence of a systematic and ideologically-driven undermining of culture. In the Auckland Star of 9.2.80 was Warwick Rogers’ highly informative, major article ‘The Splintered Revolution’ including a chart of all the Far Left factions operating in NZ at that time. The Socialist Action League (mentioned earlier) was shown to promote trade union activism, race and gender issues, abortion etc.
Then on 25.8.80 Radio NZ’s Checkpoint discussion on the SAL included the following frank comments from Canterbury University political scientist Dr. Keith Ovenden:
“They have bizarre issues: racism, sexism, homosexuality, abortion.”
This had been well demonstrated in the SAL Submission to the 1974 Parliamentary Select Committee on Women’s Rights, as mentioned earlier. Following are two quotes from The Strategy for Women’s Liberation, which included that submission:-
“The full demands of the women’s liberation movement cannot be met by the capitalist system, which depends upon the oppressive patriarchal family…. The strategy of the feminist movement must be based on the understanding of how capitalism perpetuates itself, and which forces must be mobilised in the struggle to eliminate it.
The feminist movement is part of the broader anti-capitalist struggle. As long as social relations are organised on the basis of private property and production for profit, the material foundations which give rise to the family and the subjugation of women will continue, along with war, racism, economic exploitation and alienation.”
Under ‘Oppressive Role of the Family’:
“The family institution is a repressive, conservative structure that reproduces within itself the hierarchical, authoritarian relationships necessary for the maintenance of class society as a whole. It fosters the possessive, competitive and aggressive attitudes necessary to the perpetuation of class divisions. It moulds the behaviour and character structure of children…. disciplining them and teaching submission to established authority. The family represses sexuality, discouraging all sexual activity which is not within marriage. It distorts all human relationships by imposing on them the framework of economic compulsion, social dependence and sexual repression.”
Under ‘What Must be Done’ are many demands (note: not recommendations, but demands) which, by the late 1990’s, would appear to have been a virtual blueprint for what has now been achieved in N.Z. in the area of radical social reform. They included:
“An end to coercive family laws…. De facto marriage ……to have the same status, legally and socially, as marriage by legal contract …. Divorce should be automatically available at the request of either partner. The concept of ‘illegitimacy’ should be abolished…. All forms of discrimination against unmarried mothers or their children must be outlawed…. The rearing. social welfare and education of children should become the responsibility of society, rather than the individual parents … All laws enforcing individual ownership of children should be abolished…..”
So these are the forces that I see – some of the forces. I wouldn’t be black and white and say there is nothing else, that there are no other factors; there will be economic factors too.
J.P: “One thing we (of the Men’s Centre) have become very aware of is that groups who claim to be standing up for victims of various kinds find it easy to get hold of fairly large amounts of funding, and jobs and careers.”
B.F: “That’s the interesting thing. Back in the 1970’s and early 80’s it was all about “oppression…..society oppressing us”, and they’ve now turned it around and they’re more subtle, because they knew we could pick them out (i.e. identify them) by their ideology when they were talking about oppression, because that was the language of communism…. ‘capitalism is oppressing us’ etc. So they’ve changed it all around and turned them all into victims. Everybody is a victim, who is then deserving of sympathy. Quite brilliant… they’ve exploited the whole concept of violence. ‘Victimhood’, ‘violence’, and ‘safety’ are the current ways of directing their activism. So we just need to read behind a lot of the stuff. There was an example in the news today: how the Education Review Authority had produced a damning report about Otago Boys’ High School (a very traditional institution) accusing it of “Pursuing an outdated male culture” etc. There has been a long history of radical feminist activism on the part of the Head of the E.R.O., Dr. Judith Aitkin, so such an attack was only to be expected!”
J.P: “That’s certainly one of the things that concerns us, when we hear educationalists talking about ‘feminising boys…..getting rid of this male culture’.”
B.F: “That’s right. The revolutionising of culture to their specifications.”
J.P: “When we see the high suicide rate among young men in NZ, we wonder about the effect of these kinds of programmes that try to change boys into something they basically aren’t.”
B.F: “And the media is not really bringing out these things; it is protecting certain forces from their views being challenged, so I think for an organisation such as yours, it’s important that your folk understand (about the forces behind such things). For example, I have had men express surprise that I am involved speaking out on such matters (as those concerning the Men’s Centre North Shore) and I tell them “This is not a woman or a man thing, this is a people thing. It’s people who should be concerned about this. It’s not a thing for men only to fight. It’s a people thing”.”
J.P: “Yes it is. I must admit that in the beginning of my involvement with the Men’s Centre I thought “why is there a need for separate men’s organisations? Why shouldn’t women and men work at it together?”.”
B.F: “Only because it’s been so one-sided for so long, and the men’s groups that have been set up have been feminist aligned, and therefore you (i.e. Men’s Centre North Shore) are a counter to them.”
JP: “Well, thank you very much for your observations this evening, Barbara. If our listeners are interested to learn more about Credo, how can they contact you?”
BF: They can write to us at: CREDO Society, PO Box 105-105, Auckland. [email protected]
In August 1998 Judge Becroft of the Youth Court made observations on the number of young offenders who have scant contact with their fathers.
More recently on Holmes and Breakfast TV Channel 1, this issue has again been highlighted with revelations regarding better fathering practices and the need for fathers to spend more time with their children. Indeed it was commented that the children of New Zealand want to spend more time and better quality time with their fathers, Breakfast TV included a teenage girl and her comments to this end.
Over the past decade, I have known non-custodial fathers who have wanted to spend time with their children but became defeated by a Family Court system which allows obstructions to be placed in their way.
Many custodial parents use every opportunity to discredit the other parent, Legal Aid is freely available for stalling tactics, accusations and philosophical argument about why the dis-possessed parent shouldn’t have access.
All to the economic benefit of the solicitors involved. Easily solved access cases don’t cost much, so it is in the interests of the Lawyers that the access cases are long and drawn out, which in effect works against the better interests of the children concerned.
Many non-custodial parents become demoralised, emotionally and financially depleted trying to see their children. They feel they’re viewed as the bad parent who has ulterior motives, they also have limited funds or emotional resources to last through a court battle.
If less time and money was spent securing access, fathers would have more resources available to spend quality time with their children and invest in their children’s future.
It is time people realised how important it is for the child’s self esteem to have meaningful contact with both parents. These children may eventually know who their dis-possessed parents really are, in the meantime they’ve missed the very best formative years together.
Peace, Carman Allen.
Peter Manning (March 99 MENZ Issues here) takes a wild swipe at a young woman who dared to seek her equality, as a human being, in the new and agonised society that was the New Zealand of her time here.
That eighteen year old student has moved on. She is now twenty three and is making her way in the center of an older civilisation in a highly competitive and challenging field of endeavor. This young woman was born to an even older civilisation and culture and is, in part, of that civilisation.
I am disturbed that Mr. Manning read, into her short essay (Nov 98 MENZ Issues here), demands and ideas that were never there. He talks of New Zealand social history since the fifties and suggests this student had no life experience (understanding of her subject). This student understands the history of human struggle very well, having been born into a civilisation that has a recorded history of several thousand years, resulting in gender relationships that are better than our own.
She is currently working as a fashion designer in a world wide establishment. She is a BA Fine Arts, and struggling to make her mark and to improve herself academically.
She is doing so in a nation that enjoys a less troubled relationship between men and women than she found in New Zealand.
I speak as one who knows her quite well and who spent most of his life in those older civilisations. I am her father.
Penguin Putnam 1998
Written by Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver with Diane O’Connell, this is a powerful and well-documented brief in defence of this despised creature. Braver, who has conducted an eight-year study of parents after divorce, knocks down the stereotypes one by one.
To begin with, most divorced fathers don’t “walk out.” At least two-thirds of the time, the mother is not only the one who files for divorce but the one who wants out of the marriage. And it’s usually not, as many assume, because the father beats her, drinks or cheats; most commonly, mothers cite such reasons as “growing apart” or “not feeling loved or appreciated.”
Nor is it true that, once divorced, fathers are likely to desert their children emotionally and financially. Most fathers who are steadily employed consistently pay child support (their record is especially impressive if one looks not only at mothers’ reports, on which most statistics are based, but at fathers’ own reports) and work to stay in their children’s lives. So-called “runaway dads” are often “driven-away dads”: they vanish because their ex-wives keep them away.
Finally, there’s the mother of all divorce myths: that men benefit economically from divorce, while women and children are impoverished.
All the researchers, Braver shows, made one big mistake: they didn’t factor in the tax code, which favours the single custodial parent. They also omitted such things as the father’s spending on children during visitation. After these adjustments, the economic effects of divorce are similar for both sexes; mothers may even have a slight advantage.
Our public policy has focused on hunting “deadbeat dads” while disregarding the bigger problem of disenfranchised dads. What are the solutions? Encouraging mediation instead of litigation. Programs to help divorced fathers remain active parents. A presumption of joint legal custody and substantial contact with both parents, refutable by evidence that this is not in the child’s best interest.
Both liberals and conservatives have promoted the image of men as the bad guys in divorce – the former because it squares with their view of women as victims of male oppression, the latter because it squares with their view that men are biologically predisposed to sow their wild oats. From now on, any politician or commentator who traffics in these stereotypes should be required to read Divorced Dads.
Excerpts of review by Cathy Young.
This book is highly recommended. For a copy:
Contact Chuck Bird
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