Crossposted with permission from Sean at Hiding in the Backwaters
One of my classes this semester is on public policy. The only real assignment I have in that class is an 8-10 page policy analysis. Being a divorced dad and having seen many of my other divorced friends screwed over by their ex-wives (and because it was likely to be a topic few others in the class chose) I decided to do a policy analysis on child custody laws.
I have learned two things in the reading I’ve done so far. One, child custody has little to do with children and is mostly about gender politics. Two, based on the garbage produced by fathers’ rights advocates, it’s no wonder no one takes them seriously. Hoping for a more complete picture, I sought books authored by both sexes. The two books I have written by men—namely,Betrayal of the Child: A Father’s Guide to Family Courts by Stewart Rein and Where Have All The Good Fathers Gone? by Douglas O’Brien—have left me frustrated and angry, but probably not for the reasons you might suppose.
Neither book is well documented. Both give statistics and make claims about child development with only vague citation of sources, if any. Entire quotations are often given with no obvious reference to the source. Scanning back a page or two you might find reference to one professional or another. The best you can do is assume that is the original author of the quotation, but it’s even odds as to whether or not the specific source is identified or not. How the hell do they get away with this? Who edited these things? Oh, and is there some new age school of grammar I’m not aware of where punctuation always goes outside of a quotation mark?
This would be frustrating enough, but it doesn’t stop there. Mr. Rein’s egregious misuse of bold face, italics, full caps and scare quotes is baffling. Am I the only one who sees irony in a man having discovered a way to make writing look hysterical and emotional? Mr. O’Brien lost my respect as soon as he used the term feminazi. Oh, he dressed it up with dictionary definitions to try and give it a rational context, but I wonder if he’s heard the phrase “polishing a turd.” He also has a penchant for going to great lengths to come up with derisive acronyms such as FUNIFARM (Feminazi UNIfied Feelings Are Really Manipulation theory) or JUST BS (JUnk Science Theory Bashing Syndrome) (pp.15-16).
Both men raise valid points, but how can they possibly expect to be taken seriously? This kind of writing might work to incite the masses, but do these guys really think they’re going to influence policy makers with this crap? Oh, and Mr. O’Brien, labeling social scientists as SS isn’t going to win you any friends in that arena either. Both men characterize the writings of women on child custody as radical, hate filled attempts to disenfranchise men and set up a matriarchy. In contrast fathers’ rights groups are logical and rational (O’Brien 1997, p.20).
The one book by a female author I have read so far—The Custody Wars by Mary Ann Mason, Ph.D., J.D.—by contrast, is well reasoned, and well documented. In fact she agrees that the system is broken and has nothing to do with the best interests of the children, such language existing in most statutes notwithstanding. She does, however, make the assertion that fathers’ rights advocates aren’t as interested in their children as they are in maintaining their own rights and power. Gee, I can’t imagine why.
Mason, M. Ph.D., J.D. (1999). The Custody Wars: Why Children are Losing the Legal Battle and What We Can Do About It. New York: Basic Books.O’Brian, D. (1997). Where Have All the Good Fathers Gone? Child Support and Custody. Fairbanks, AK: Skid 18 Press.
Rein, S (2001). Betrayal of the Child: A Father’s Guide to Family Courts. Tobyhanna, PA: Lotus Press.