Two major online publications–Salon.com and Slate.com–recently did articles criticizing the men’s and fathers movement. Whenever the fatherhood movement and its opponents clash directly, there is an opportunity for all on both sides to listen and learn, so I’m writing several posts on these two articles.
My first two posts dealt largely with a misleading quote attributed to me in both pieces, and the two publications’ commendable agreement to clarify it. In Part III, this post and others, we’ll deal more with the arguments made by Kathryn Joyce of Double X/Slate.com and Judy Berman of Salon.com.
Both Joyce and Berman are feminist writers who consider themselves opponents of the fatherhood movement. Berman writes:
…MRAs’ [Men’s Rights Activists’] accusations, inspired by deeply flawed studies, [are] that men and women are equally likely to commit domestic abuse
It depends how you define abuse. The studies are clear–women are at least as likely as men to strike the first blow, often more likely. But women do suffer injuries at twice the rate of men. Both of these–the incidence of initiation and the incidence of inflicting injury–merit consideration.
While some men certainly are victims of female domestic violence, advocates say the number is closer to 3 percent to 4 percent.
This is odd, because while most of the mainstream DV establishment still minimizes women’s violence, they usually acknowledge an 85-15 rate. Nobody could defend a 3 or 4% figure, and I’m surprised to see them float it.
Critics like Australian sociologist Michael Flood say that men”s rights movements reflect the tactics of domestic abusers themselves, minimizing existing violence, calling it mutual, and discrediting victims.
Flood is a feminist true believer who has served as a point man for feminist efforts to minimize fathers’ role in their children’s lives after divorce or separation. We believe that the domestic violence system needs to be reformed. The fact that Flood feels it’s necessary to describe our political arguments as somehow parallel to the despicable actions of wife-beaters makes one think that Flood must feel he doesn’t have very strong arguments to use.
As for mutual violence, studies show that mutual violence is more common than either men attacking women or women attacking men. Ignoring female-initiated or mutual domestic violence not only harms men, it harms women. DV researcher Deborah Capaldi, Ph.D., a social scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center, examined the different relationship violence scenarios — violence by him only, violence by her only, violence by both with him initiating, and violence by both with her initiating. Of these, the most likely to result in future injury to women is when she initiates violence against him and he responds. Dr. Capaldi notes that in a study of women who were in a battered women’s shelter, “67% of the women reported severe violence toward their partner in the past year.”
According to Dr. Capaldi, “Overall, young couples with unidirectional violence report fewer acts and forms of violence than bidirectional couples.” To learn more, see my column Researcher Says Women’s Initiation of Domestic Violence Predicts Risk to Women (Huffington Post, 7/6/09).
These men”s rights activists, or MRAs, have long been written off by domestic-violence advocates as a bombastic and fringe group of angry white men, and for good reason.
A common feminist tactic to discredit divorced fathers is to somehow wrap their grievances around being white–aka the privileged white male. Yet all of these problems affect black and Latino fathers too, often worse, since they on average have fewer resources to defend themselves against the forces that stand between them and their children.
Bernard Chapin, a popular men”s rights blogger, told me over e-mail that he will refer to me as “Feminist E,’ since he never uses real names for feminists
If that’s true, that’s wrong of Chapin. If it’s true.
In the United Kingdom, a father”s rights group scaled Buckingham Palace in superhero costumes.
Joyce quotes feminist Ben Atherton-Zeman, author of Voices of Men, as saying of the fathers’ movement “A lot of the leaders are still convicted batterers.”
One of the respectable new faces of the movement is Glenn Sacks, a fathers’ rights columnist and radio host with 50,000 e-mail followers, and a pragmatist in a world of angry dreamers.
I’ve been doing this since April 2001, 8 1/2 years–I’m not sure if that means I’m “new.” Regardless, Joyce plays on the anti-dad stereotype of the divorced dad as “angry.” I’ve never been divorced nor had any family law problems of any sort, but I think many divorced dads have damn good reason to be angry. I certainly would be if I were unwillingly separated from my children. Ms. Joyce, wouldn’t you be, too?
Sacks disavows what he calls “the not-insubstantial lunatic fringe of the fathers” rights movement.’
Yes–the fathers’ movement does have a lunatic fringe, and it’s not insubstantial. The feminist movement also has a lunatic fringe, and it’s not insubstantial. The next time I hear a feminist leader condemn this fringe might be the first.
He recently merged his successful media group with the shared-parenting organization Fathers and Families in a bid to build a mainstream fathers’ rights organ on par with the National Organization of Women. Many of Sacks” arguments–for a court assumption of shared parenting in the case of divorce, or against child-support rigidity in the midst of recession–can sound reasonable.
Fair enough. Joyce writes:
“divorce attorneys hawking men”s rights expertise on MRA sites, promising to “teach her a lesson,’ serve as what Dawson sees as a powerful draw for men in the midst of painful divorces.
Please tell me one divorce attorney on a major men’s or fathers’ issues site who promises to “teach her a lesson.”
RADAR board member Ron Grignal, the former president of Fathers for Virginia and a former state delegate candidate, organizes the group”s Washington lobbying activities.
Actually, it’s spelled “Grignol,” not “Grignal.” BTW, Ron is a nice guy with two adorable, happy daughters whose life he plays a major role in.
I’m writing several posts about the issues raised in the Slate.com and Salon.com articles–to read the others, click here. The two articles are Kathryn Joyce’s “Men’s Rights” Groups Have Become Frighteningly Effective (Slate.com, 11/5/09) and Judy Berman’s “Men’s rights” groups go mainstream–Once seen as a lunatic fringe, reactionary anti-women groups are courting respectability (Salon.com, 11/5/09).