Cathy Young Criticizes Slate/Salon Hit Job on Family Court Reform Movement in Forbes

Two major online publications— and–recently did articles criticizing the men’s and fathers movement. I wrote several pieces about their criticisms—to read them, please click here. Columnist Cathy Young has a new piece in Forbes about the Slate & Salon articles, and she did a good job of critiquing the problems with their arguments. In Men’s Rights (11/19/09), Young writes:

Earlier this month DoubleX, Slate’s short-lived female-oriented publication (launched six months ago and
about to be folded back into the parent site as a women’s section), ran an article ringing the alarm about the dire threat posed by the power of the men’s rights movement. But the article, written by New York-based freelance writer Kathryn Joyce and titled “Men’s Rights’ Groups Have Become Frighteningly Effective,” says more about the state of feminism–and journalistic bias–than it does about men’s groups. Joyce’s indictment is directed at a loose network of activists seeking to raise awareness and change policy on such issues as false accusations of domestic violence, the plight of divorced fathers denied access to children and domestic abuse of men. In her view, groups such as RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting) and individuals like columnist and radio talk show host Glenn Sacks are merely “respectable” and “savvy” faces for what is actually an anti-female backlash from “angry white men.”

Joyce asserts that our viewpoints come from “a small group of social scientists” led by “sociologist Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire, who has written extensively on female violence.” Young explains:

In fact, Straus, founder of the renowned Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, is a pre-eminent scholar on family violence in general and was the first to conduct national surveys on the prevalence of wife-beating. Joyce repeats common critiques of Straus’ research: For instance, he equates “a woman pushing a man in self-defense to a man pushing a woman down the stairs” or “a single act of female violence with years of male abuse.” Yet these charges have been long refuted: Straus’ studies measure the frequency of violence and specifically inquire about which partner initiated the physical violence. Furthermore, Joyce fails to mention that virtually all social scientists studying domestic violence, including self-identified feminists such as University of Pittsburgh psychologist Irene Frieze, find high rates of mutual aggression. Reviews of hundreds of existing studies, such as one conducted by University of Central Lancashire psychologist John Archer in a 2000 article in Psychological Bulletin, have found that at least in Western countries, women are as likely to initiate partner violence as men. While the consequences to women are more severe–they are twice as likely to report injuries and about three times more likely to fear an abusive spouse–these findings also show that men hardly escape unscathed. Joyce claims that “Straus’ research is starting to move public opinion,” but in fact, some of the strongest recent challenges to the conventional feminist view of domestic violence–as almost invariably involving female victims and male batterers–come from female scholars like New York University psychologist Linda Mills.

Joyce wrote that “cases such as Genia Shockome”s are the fodder of mainstream fathers” rights advocates like Glenn Sacks–who ridiculed her claims and loss of custody as an incredible ’cause célèbre’ for feminist family-law reformers…” What I actually did was something neither Joyce nor Berman did-–I read through the documents of the case and found out what happened. Given the fraud Shockome tried to perpetrate, my analysis of it was, if anything, excessively polite. My commentary on it is here. Young sees the Shockome case pretty much he way I do. She writes:

One case Joyce uses to illustrate her thesis is that of Genia Shockome, who claimed to have been severely battered by her ex-husband Tim and lost custody of her two children after being accused of intentionally alienating them from their father. Yet Joyce never mentions that Shockome’s claims of violent abuse were unsupported by any evidence, that she herself did not mention any abuse in her initial divorce complaint, or that three custody evaluators–including a feminist psychologist who had worked with the Battered Women’s Justice Center at Pace University–sided with the father.

Young ends the piece by explaining:

More than a quarter-century ago, British feminist philosopher Janet Radcliffe Richards wrote, “No feminist whose concern for women stems from a concern for justice in general can ever legitimately allow her only interest to be the advantage of women.” Joyce’s article is a stark example of feminism as exclusive concern with women and their perceived advantage, rather than justice or truth.

Read her full piece here.

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