Monday, February 28, 2011

Defining the Rights of Fathers

This blog-post was inspired by a simple statement made from an unknown blogger to a group of people discussing a woman's Right To Choose.

All of the commenters were sternly in support of abortion, not forcing women to become mothers, that everyone should stop making people have kids they don't want, and generally talking about how nobody should EVER be forced to have a baby.

It was then that our unknown blogger dropped a veritable bomb-shell: "So I said that was such a fantastic idea that we should extend the same rights to men! Men should not be forced to be a father just like women shouldn’t be forced to be a mother. Yes, brilliant!"

Pins dropped for all of five seconds before everyone went completely batshit crazy!

Interestingly, the same reasons the commenters used protesting this blogger's statement were awfully similar to the same reasons people give to deny women the right to an abortion -- they made the choice to have sex, should've kept their pants on, questioning the person's manhood, and generally utilizing shaming tactics.

The poor guy, I almost felt sorry for him: but he did make the fatal mistake...

Of being politically incorrect.

Now, most of the time when MRA's or Feminists talk about "father's rights", somebody's feelings always get hurt. And not just hurt, but BUTT-hurt. Like they got abducted by aliens and probed in the sphincter with some sort of techno-anal device.

The topic (of father's rights -- not anal-probing) always seems to be framed as: Defending The Rights of Fathers, or Defending The Rights of Mothers! So grandiose and gratuitous.

Instead of getting all defensive, why don't we instead define the rights of fathers? This would be far more constructive I think.

So let's get started right now!

Mothers have the right to terminate pregnancy or carry the child to term. Fathers do not.

Fathers are financially (and de facto, culturally/socially) responsible for providing for the child. Mothers too.

Mothers are legally defined as the primary parent, and as such are awarded custody in the vast majority of cases. Fathers are not.

Fathers who wish to terminate a child they have conceived are generally regarded negatively, and shamed in our culture. Mothers are considered empowered -- albeit controversially -- and certainly called "pro-choice".

Do you see the pattern I'm trying to make? Fathers seem to get the shaft, which ends up giving moms the shaft by association. (Pun NOT intended!)

Here's what I propose:

Fathers should have THE RIGHT to renounce paternity for any child they conceive, much like mothers have the right to abort any child they conceive. Thus, fathers would not be financially responsible should the mother decide to carry the child to term.

Mothers MUST consult, notify, and otherwise talk to the father when the mother decides to abort a child. (By doing so, however, I feel that fathers who are pro-life would still feel as if the mother had committed infanticide, and so this is still a solution-in-progress.)

Fathers AND mothers should be granted custody of the child depending on who is the PRIMARY caregiver to the child, which will utilize several criteria to determine this. (Time spent with the child, who drives it to school, cleans up after it, etc.)

These are the beginnings of what I feel would be a beneficial solution to these, often tricky problems.


11 footnotes:

Mira said...

Indeed. This IS an interesting subject to think about, and to be honest, I am not sure what to think.

One thing the should be noted is that pro-choice people usually don't make distinction between a woman and her body (unborn baby not being seen as a person up to a specific moment in pregnancy). Ins short, it's going on in their bodies, and they have a right to decide what to do with their own body.

Anonymous said...

There was an interesting look at this issue on Soul Food, the tv series. The youngest sister got pregnant and didn't want another child (she and her husband already had one), while he did, specifically because his father hadn't been there for him. She got an abortion, and he was angry at her, but they didn't really show them working it out with counseling or anything. He gave her the cold shoulder, then one day he just stopped.

Re: Child custody

It's already granted in favor of the primary caregiver. (Men and women fare equally in that respect.) The problem is, most custody cases are settled informally, so people verbally agree to give up their rights, which doesn't look good when they try to take it to court later.

I personally don't think a man should be responsible for a kid he doesn't want, but I wouldn't have sex with the guy without considering the risks of conceiving a child and evaluating his fitness for fatherhood anyway.

Mira said...

I wouldn't have sex with the guy without considering the risks of conceiving a child and evaluating his fitness for fatherhood anyway.

True, but it emphasizes female role again and make men quite passive (they are either chosen to be fathers of our babies or not).

To be honest, I have no idea how men feel about it. The issue of abortion is not as discussed in my culture, but I know quite a few men who are against abortion, but their reasons usually go along the lines of "she had sex, now she (emphasis on SHE) has to suffer consequences".

And while I do know men who want to take custody of their children, I don't know many who demand their fathering rights over an unborn child; quite the opposite- there are many who don't want anything to do with their pregnant girlfriends.

But my culture is quite sexist, now when I think about it. It is strongly assumed a woman becomes a mother at the moment she finds out she's pregnant, while a man becomes father when he first sees the baby. It's still somewhat rare for a father to attend childbirth (though this does change), and not many men demand child custody, unless mother of his children is REALLY f.cked up or if he wants to take revenge on her.

So in short, I don't know many men who'd demand their rights as a parent before the baby is born.

And I do know some who do not want to take responsibility for their pregnant girlfriends, and guess what?- they don't. Forcing a woman to have an abortion or running away from the pregnant girl are quite common.

So while I do understand your concerns, Zek, I must admit my understanding is more rational and logical than empirical.

Zek J Evets said...


I think the distinction between a woman's body and the potential a fetus holds for life is important. And I think it rests on that word: POTENTIAL.

That fetus could become a baby, but until it's actually born/able to survive on it's own outside the womb, then it is just another -- for lack of a better phrase -- collection of flesh.

My concern in this issue revolves around the inequality of the situation, which I believe fuels the disregard for fathers/fatherhood that exists in mainstream American culture. And also, I think it helps men become more easily apathetic to their situation, feeling helpless or inept, and thus less likely to invest themselves in their child's life, or support the mother. (Even if the relationship is strictly about the kid.)


In California custody is not granted to the primary caregiver -- it always automatically goes to the mother. The father has to provide PROOF that he's the primary caregiver, and the burden of proving that he would be a better choice than the mother for custody. In the judicial system this means he has the burden of proof, which is often very difficult when you consider the often informal systems of relationships between parents, kids, and spouses, etc.

However, this also invokes your point about verbal/informal agreements that are often made between people, which sounds amicable, but in reality can often makes things worse.

On the topic of fathers rights versus their privileges, I'll admit that the stereotypes don't really make them look good. Deadbeat Dad is a common thing, and one we can all attest to in our personal lives. (I'm assuming.)

But in this case, I feel changing the principle would help change the reality, if only slowly. Plus, I guess I think of when I become a father and what I'd want for myself in that role.

Mira said...

That fetus could become a baby, but until it's actually born/able to survive on it's own outside the womb, then it is just another -- for lack of a better phrase -- collection of flesh.

Well, you answered your own question. That is why male and female rights are not equal when it comes to the unborn baby, since- according to pro-choice- it is her body, not his, so his rights are not the same as hers. (I won't mention pro-life stance here, because, I assume, they are against abortion).

So that's one issue. Child custody and father's rights are another one. I think that assuming mother is a better parent or automatically giving the child to her is something that should not be done... You just can't "assume" things like this and then say "ooops" if she turns out to be less than capable of taking care of the children. I am not a psychologist, so I don't know whether having a mother and living with her is more important than having a father, but I do believe fathers make great parents and that their rights- and feelings- should be protected, too. It's irresponsible to forget about them just because it is assumed mothers make better parents (sexism much?)

Zek J Evets said...

@Mira: Yes, I think I did personally, but not everyone believes life begins at the time I specified. Many people believe life begins at conception, and also a lot of people believe that the potential child is as precious, even if it never comes to turn. (Which is why miscarriages can be so emotionally damaging to expectant parents.)

So while I see a way around the problem I posed, it would only work if everyone agreed on where/when Life begins. Since we don't, the issue stays... complicated.

If a man gets a woman pregnant, and she decides to terminate that child, it is possible that for the guy she is killing his/their potential child, and as such it can be emotionally damaging. Possibly even worse.

Yet, should the situation be the other way around (a man pressuring a woman to terminate a child that she wants to have) then we notice the legislative measures put into place to protect that woman's right to freedom over her own body. (Albeit, many states vary as to how "free" that is.)

It always comes back to the man being saddled with responsibility not consummate with his rights. If a man is responsible for any child he conceives with a woman, then he should have equal rights to waive responsibility to any child he conceives, as a woman is able to via abortion.

Vice versa (which is the core of my argument) a man should have the rights to any child he conceives with a woman, as long as those rights do not infringe upon her bodily integrity. Which is why the quandry for me. Because if a woman decides to have an abortion, then that is her right, yet to a man that may be tantamount to killing his child. How do we reconcile this?

Now, I understand that this isn't a common situation, but it is one which has becoming more problematic lately, as far as the news I've been reading.

And frankly, I just don't see any good solutions that doesn't leave someone out in the cold =/

Anonymous said...


That's not true (See link below--too tired to type html code.) Interestingly, that's an oft-used incorrect argument used by MRAs. When there's a dispute after the fact, it's usually a verbal agreement with no court involvement, verbal agreement that is cosigned by the judge and then someone wants to go back and change it, or people don't agree and the judge makes a decision for them. When it's option #3, custody goes to the primary caregiver, and it works out for mothers vs. fathers 50% of the time (when caregiving is equally split). (My guess is that's because most fathers who would argue for primary caregiver status were actually the primary caregivers pre-divorce, otherwise it'd be really difficult to deal with work and such.)

You already know I role my eyes at MRAs, but lying about custody situations to make a point doesn't really help their case. (I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about men who did one of the aforementioned options and then tried to say they got screwed, especially the informal agreements. If you didn't get it in writing, you kind of set yourself up for a fall.)

Mira said...

Many people believe life begins at conception, and also a lot of people believe that the potential child is as precious, even if it never comes to turn.

Yes, I understand the problem. A pro-life guy meets a pro-choice girl; now what? The law is on her side.

But I guess the only advice I can give is... Be careful who you're having (unprotected) sex with (I mean... isn't that a common dating rule?)

I could also say that pro-life people claim they are more responsible (and often choose not to have premarital sex), but I wouldn't go as far as that. (I respect people's individual choices, but reality shows that someone's religious beliefs often do not prevent them from having premarital sex (and other things), so I just think people should be careful and, well, use birth control?)

Zek J Evets said...

@Mira: Yeah, I believe personal responsibility and common sense would likely avoid a lot of these situations. Which kinda reveals that my argument surrounds principle more than pragmatic/practical. I feel the law should be more equal, and yet obviously it's never been that way, and never likely will.

In the unfortunate circumstance that a pro-life guy meets a pro-choice girl, and she gets an abortion, the only thing left to do is... have a drink.

Anonymous said...

Someone once said,"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Would YOU like it if YOUR mother had had an abortion on YOU?!

Zek J Evets said...

@serpentus: haha, well, i guess it'd be alright, maybe. i mean, at least i wouldn't have to be stuck here while the planet goes to heck.