Fathers: To Walk or Not To Walk, That is the Question

August 22, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

This article (San Francisco Appeal, 8/19/13) and this article (The Independent, 8/18/13) tell us a lot about what fathers face every day. Both articles are about walking. You’d think that’s about the most common and unremarkable activity imaginable, but it turns out not to be, at least when fathers do it with their children.

The new school year is due to start soon, and in one area of San Francisco, a non-profit organization is encouraging fathers to walk their kids to school on opening day. The area seems to be a dangerous one, so the fathers’ presence is as much about keeping the kids out of harm’s way as anything.

“Children should not be afraid to go to school or when they get there,” [organization CEO Jim] Martin said. “They should feel like they belong to a community.”…

After walking students to classrooms, dads and others will have an opportunity to vow their commitment to school leaders about getting involved at the school for any desired amount of time throughout the school year.

“We’re encouraging fathers to make that commitment,” Martin said, whether it be 20 hours a year or more or less.

A bus will then pick up parents at the various schools to join others at the Martin Luther King Pool at Third Street and Carroll Avenue where a march and rally will be held at 9:30 a.m.

The rally is part of an action urging the community to stand together against violence in the southeastern neighborhood and throughout the Bay Area, Martin said.

Members of clergy and other community organizations from throughout the Bay Area including San Jose, Daly City and Oakland will be part of the event.

San Francisco organizations including the Bayview-Hunters Point Family Resource Center and Young Community Developers that (sic) will join in the demonstration.

“We can stand together as one community, so many (cities) have the same issues,” he said.

Martin said mothers and other family members are also welcome to participate in the first day of school activities.

“We’re aware that a family has to stand as one,” he said. “We have to engage the entire family.”

So the kids’ fathers are being encouraged to walk their children to school and commit to take part in school activities throughout the year. It’s partly to show everyone that the children will be kept safe from violence and also to get fathers involved in their children’s lives. As such, the organization is one of many that assumes fathers to be uninvolved and that, to become involved, all that’s required is for them to “step up.”

I think it’s a good idea for the dads to walk the kids to school. And I think it’s fine for them to commit time to their children’s school activities. But, like all such concepts and all such organizations, there’s a lot that’s wrong with their underlying assumptions. Most importantly, the organization assumes the fathers and mothers are either married or in some sort of ongoing relationship that allows the dads to walk their sons and daughters to school. That, of course, is a great leap of faith. The fact is that something like half of those fathers are divorced or separated from the mothers. That means there’s a court order telling them when they can and can’t see their children. And I know of no standard order that gives a father visitation on Monday morning, i.e. the first day of classes. Fathers are rarely the custodial parent and that means they see their children only on weekends and maybe one night during the week. Not much of a chance to walk your kid to school, right?

Among those without a court order, a father’s access to his child is likely controlled by little Andy or Jenny’s mother. That’s a well-known process called maternal gatekeeping. Social scientists call maternal gatekeeping the behavior by which mothers control fathers’ interaction with their children. It can be anything as simple as demanding that he bathe the child such and such a way or dress the child to her specifications. It can be as complex as using a series of boyfriends to marginalize the father in the child’s life or a pistol to end his involvement altogether.

And of course claims of child abuse are highly effective at cutting a father out of the life of a child. Those are honored with little scrutiny as to their veracity by both criminal and family courts alike, regardless of who lodges the complaint. For about four decades now, feminism’s pretense that men, and particularly fathers, are uniquely harmful to children has taken root and grown into a pan-societal assumption. Which brings us to our next story.

British writer Will Self was engaging in that charming British practice of rambling, i.e. walking from town to town for no good reason but the exercise, the fresh air and seeing the beautiful countryside. It’s also done by bicycle and, to my mind, should be encouraged. But whatever the case, Self was off on an 11-day ramble with his 11-year-old son when he made the mistake of asking a college security guard if the two could cut through the college’s grounds. He was not only refused admission, but the guard decided he was a pedophile into the bargain.

Striding through the fields and rich-green everglades of the Yorkshire countryside, his 11-year-old son revelling in the rural bliss and clasping his trusty walking staff, the writer Will Self was within his rights to feel free and at ease.

What was to his mind a “blameless pursuit” appeared far more sinister to a college security guard, however, who contacted the police fearing the child was being led astray.

Mr Self’s ramble was brought to an abrupt end when he was hauled over to the roadside for questioning after being stopped by convoy of police cars. A protective custody officer was waiting in the wings in case his son had to be taken in to care by the social services. Mr Self, 51, revealed the incident over the weekend, saying he had been “treated like a criminal for no reason whatsoever”. He lashed out at a national attitude in which “paedophile hysteria… seems to warp people’s reason”.

“Can there be a more disturbing parable of the Britain we have become?” asked Mr Self in an article for The Mail on Sunday.

Probably not. The idea that a father can’t go on a walk with his son without facing a convoy of police cars and being forced to prove his innocence of child abuse proves something about the deep misandry of British society. Would a rambling mother face the same thing? Not a chance. As Self so accurately points out, there’s an assumption that a man in the presence of a child must be an abuser of some sort. It’s precisely the narrative that feminists, bent on separating fathers from children, started back in the 1970s and is surely one of the most toxic of social trends.

Of course Self was able to wrangle his way out of the situation, but you can bet he’s learned a lesson – that state power can be brought against him for the crime of being a good father to his son. More importantly, his son learned a lesson too. At age 11, the lad is old enough to understand that men are a suspect class. He’ll be one himself one day and will doubtless remember the time his father was treated like a criminal for walking with his son. If he’s got any sense, he won’t expose himself to such danger and humiliation.

And let’s not forget that this culture-wide hysteria about men and fathers has its consequences. Just a few years ago, a man saw a two-year-old girl wandering unattended in a small British village. He resisted his natural tendency to take the girl in hand and find to whom she belonged. He did so for the perfectly sound reason that he’d likely be dubbed a child abductor/pedophile, jailed, charged, subjected to public calumny and possibly imprisoned for a long stretch. After all, any parent who’d allowed her/his child to toddle about unsupervised would face a possible child endangerment charge and having the little girl taken “into care.” So the parent would have had an incentive to point the finger of blame at the man. This he knew, so he let the girl wander on.

She drowned in pond a short time later. He, like Will Self and his son, had learned the lesson taught so assiduously by British law and culture over the last four decades.

Walking seems such an innocuous activity. But on one hand fathers are being told to walk their kids to school to protect them. On the other they’re being told that if they do, they’re a danger to the children. One day they’re told to “Man up!” “Step up!” “Be responsible.” The next they’re assumed to be abusing their own children. They’re told to be present for protection, but if they are, the child is in danger. The psychologist R.D. Laing once claimed that crazy societies made their members crazy.

Maybe someday we’ll come to our senses and cast aside the “disturbing parable” of male corruption Self referred to. Until we do, we’ll continue to wonder at men’s and fathers’ behavior toward their children and never ask ourselves how we came to embrace such patently false notions. Self-examination is seldom easy, but, if we’re ever to come to sanity, we’ll need to look closely at, and abandon, our poisonous suspicion of fathers.

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