Why Fathers4Justice deserved to lose their case against Mumsnet


5:26 pm - July 4th 2012

by Sian Norris    


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The Advertising Standards Agency have ruled against the controversial Fathers 4 Justice ad that ran in national newspapers this Mother’s Day.

The ad was targeted at brands who advertise with the Mumsnet social network, which Fathers4Justice believe paints men as rapists, paedophiles and wife beaters. 

However ASA instead found that there are 1000s of comments on the web forum, some which may be more extreme than others, and that Mumsnet did not endorse sexist comments.

I kind of had to laugh a little bit at this. I mean, if women asked for brands to withdraw ads every time we experienced incredible levels of unpleasantness below the line, we would be on the march against CIF, the Daily Mail, every gaming blog, every political blog… every single day!

But that’s beside the point. 

I don’t believe it can be a co-incidence that Fathers 4 Justice produced this ad around a similar time that Mumsnet launched their ‘We believe you’ campaign. This was a vital web space for women to share their experiences of domestic abuse, rape, sexual abuse and violence.

It was a space for women to be supported and believed, as they detailed the terrible crimes committed against them – yes, by men. For some women, the silence had been maintained for years. For some women, when the silence was broken, they hadn’t been believed.

The We Believe You campaign gave women the space, the time and the support to speak out about the violence, the horror, the torture. It said to women that they were safe, that they could speak and, most importantly, that they would be believed. Whoever hadn’t believed them before, Mumsnet and the women online would believe them now. 

There are of course terrible situations where divorcing parents use their children as weapons to harm one another, and where women withhold access to punish their ex. This needs to be tackled, and dealt with, so that the children are cared for and are safe.

But, as a recent consultation commissioned by the government has shown, these incidents are far, far rarer than the public believe. Of all the divorces that happen, only 10% seek custody through the courts. A tiny percentage of these then lead to contact orders.

Contrary to the beliefs of F4J and much of the general public, the government-commissioned consultation found that there was no bias against fathers in the family courts. There was, rightly and of course, a bias towards the primary caregiver, and in our current society that is the mother. However, in a situation where the father was the primary caregiver, the bias would be towards him. 

I’m glad ASA have found against F4J. I hope this means they start to understand that bullying tactics that defame women will not help the cause for equal parenting. I hope they understand that using the words of survivors against them is not acceptable.

If F4J want to blame anyone for building a world where men can be called rapists, blame those men who choose to rape.  

—-
A longer version is at Sian’s blog

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About the author
Sian Norris is an occasional contributor. She is a Bristol based writer who likes to write short stories and muse on feminist debates.
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Reader comments


So, let me get this straight, F4J’s case against Mumsnet was that…sometimes people start making extreme or unpleasant comments in discussion forum threads?

They really don’t get how this here “internet” thing works, do they?

@ 1 – quite!

I just wanted to add a little bit that got cut for length purposes from my original piece, about the work feminists are doing to promote equal parenting and the importance of supporting the children. If that’s ok Sunny?

“The idea that feminists are at fault for ‘promoting’ the mother in the courts system is a long-standing myth. In fact, equal parenting is something that feminists have been campaigning about for a long, long time. The assumption that women are the primary caregiver has been a feminist issue since before F4J were in short trousers. For decades now we’ve been arguing for equal parental leave, so that mothers and fathers are involved in child rearing from the start. We argue for more flexible working, for a reduced pay gap, for an end to the ‘mother gap’, so that all parents in a family are equal, involved and caregiving.

Fathers 4 Justice have congratulated the government for ignoring the findings of their own consultation. This is despite advice from lawyers, who have expressed concern that changes to the law will not be beneficial to children. And surely that’s what has to matter in the end? That the safety and welfare of the children is paramount? Surely that’s more important than rhetoric about Walton family values, and political point scoring? Surely what matters is that children are safe, and happy, and protected. That they are not failed by the system, by their families. “

4. Chaise Guevara

The F4J campaign was indeed unreasonable, a case of trying to smear a forum based on the comments of a small number of unpleasant people therin. I’m not sure how you’re connecting it to We Believe You, however; just saying you “can’t believe” it’s a coincidence is pretty weak. *Why* can’t you believe it? Why shouldn’t we believe it?

I’m not sure it’s right and proper to automatically favour the primary caregiver, either. Viewed from the right angle, that sounds like punishing the breadwinner for going out and winning bread.

“…if (insert names) want to blame anyone for building a world where black people can be called lazy, blame those black people who choose to be lazy.”

For the record, I fully endorse anything that helps to stop violence (of any sort) to women, and also anything that may help men to stop being violent to them, but I hope you can see from the above edit that some of the rhetoric employed here isn’t particularly helpful.

Oh, think today this society should be called Parents net because of producing a mini of themselves….how wonerful is that! Mum or Dad has choice to take full care responsibility in the uk today: Just get it, one parent carrys the can for a child whilst the other contributes ( should do) into their welfare. LOVE?

@5

“…if (insert names) want to blame anyone for building a world where black people can be called lazy, blame those black people who choose to be lazy.”

If you’d used ‘unemployed’ instead of ‘black’ in that statement you’d have summed up Tory ideology of the past 40 odd years.

8. Warwick D

This on a webpage where the comment guidelines read:

“Misogynist, racist, homophobic and xenophobic comments will be deleted.”

Be fair to women, other races than your own, lgbt, foreign folks, but misandry is not mentioned as bad.
Topical?

9. Shatterface

If you’d used ‘unemployed’ instead of ‘black’ in that statement you’d have summed up Tory ideology of the past 40 odd years.

Which indicates the sentence is bigotted at the level of syntax, irrespective of the specific content, whoever uses it, or why.

@Chaise #4

Surely, when assessing primary custody, a court must take into account who is *able* to take care of the child – if the breadwinner has a demanding job with long hours, etc, then are they really in the best place to also be a caregiver? Who is to say that their employer would offer them the flexible hours needed to take care of their kid(s)? And if hours can’t be reduced or flexibility isn’t possible, then what’s the point of offering this person custody seeing as the child(ren) would end up left in childcare anyway? Surely it’s far better for the child to be with a parent wherever possible.

If a parent is the primary caregiver they are likely to have given up work, or work part-time or flexible hours, or work from home. Hence being more available for the child. If employers offered parents of both sexes more flexibility in working hours would this have a knock-on effect on custody battles perhaps?

Nobody knows the circumstances of individual custody battles, and I’m assuming about the importance of working hours etc obviously, but then F4J are making a far more unlikely assumption which is that the family courts simply hate men.

11. sianushka

Chaise – mainly because of timings, and because so much of mumsnet isn’t about male vawg, and that section of the site was the only real area where there was a lot of discussion about rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence.

@9

Which indicates the sentence is bigotted at the level of syntax, irrespective of the specific content, whoever uses it, or why.

Poor Tories, always being the benchmark for bigotry…

9/Shatterface: Which indicates the sentence is bigotted at the level of syntax, irrespective of the specific content, whoever uses it, or why.

So would you view “if (insert names) want to blame anyone for building a world where politicians can be called corrupt, blame those politicians who choose to be corrupt.” as bigoted at the level of syntax?

I wouldn’t necessarily describe that sentence as one I’d agree with unreservedly: supporters of a political system which enabled corruption to occur freely would also take some blame for the general level of corruption even if they were not responsible per se for any individual instance – but then we’re on to a level of nuance that won’t fit into Sunny’s word limits for articles. At any rate, not, I think, bigoted by syntax.

@ 11. sianushka

(The reason you think that the F4J campaign was launched in response to WBY)

“mainly because of timings”

In the article you came up with a better explanation yourself. It was Mother’s Day. You can either believe that the campaign was on mother’s day because they were targeting a web site for mothers and it was to get maximum publicity or you can believe that it did it because WBY was launched 9 days before.

There is no evidence either way but personally I don’t think that they could manage to organise the response in such a short period of time. They’d need to find out about it, get angry, decide to respond, create the ad, confirm it with the organisers before finding someone someone to run it. All in all I’d think it would take longer than 9 days to get the ad out and they would have to be incredibly motivated to make that time scale. The logical theory is that they were already working on it and the WBY campaign was not part of the thinking behind the campaign.

That being said, I agree that F4J were wrong to judge a website by a handful of comments. The internet is full of offensive comments.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 Violet

“Surely, when assessing primary custody, a court must take into account who is *able* to take care of the child – if the breadwinner has a demanding job with long hours, etc, then are they really in the best place to also be a caregiver?”

Likewise, the current primary caregiver has to be able to pay for the child’s upkeep. And the current breadwinner could change jobs etc. To be honest, the only difference I see between the two here is that the breadwinner may find it easier to get appropriate employment as they may have more experience – if anything that should skew things in their favour, not against them.

Now, if you’ve got one parent refusing to cancel their child-unfriendly working hours, I can certainly see why that would mean they would lose custody. Presumably this happens and is partially responsible for the stats. The question is whether the stats are also unfairly skewed by courts deciding the primary caregiver is inherently more “deserving” of custody. I don’t know.

“Nobody knows the circumstances of individual custody battles, and I’m assuming about the importance of working hours etc obviously, but then F4J are making a far more unlikely assumption which is that the family courts simply hate men.”

Well, there is a pretty heavy difference in terms of custody wins by gender. It’s an understandable mistake, especially given F4J members are likely to be angry about losing custody and thus seeking to place blame.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 11 sian

“mainly because of timings”

By that logic, my alarm clock causes the sun to rise each morning. Millions of vaguely connected things happen at roughly the same time as each other, doesn’t mean one causes the other. I think you’re making a rather nasty assumption based on basically zero evidence.

“and because so much of mumsnet isn’t about male vawg, and that section of the site was the only real area where there was a lot of discussion about rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence.”

But surely if F4J got angry about rape comments on Mumsnet they by definition would have been looking at a section of Mumsnet where rape was discussed? Bear in mind that all it would have taken would have been one F4J member to become aware of the page and forward the offending comments to the organisers. I don’t see how the above leads into your conclusion at all.

17. Michael Curry

I know people on both sides of the custody divide. A friend who has been trying to get fair access to his daughter for 8 years has quite rightly steered well clear of Fathers for Justice which at best is ham-fisted and at worst spiteful & misogynistic. There are plenty of other organisations to support fathers in his situation that have a more level-headed, non-antagonistic approach.

Likewise, another friend who has spent nearly a decade fighting a very well off man for custody of her son and the support she has received was important in the hard times but she never even considered looking for support from Mumsnet.

You also mentioned “terrible situations where divorcing parents use their children as weapons to harm one another” and in the F4J ad, we see that incarnate. Sad, really.

(Great article, Sian)

Thanks Michael. I think we need to raise profile of the positive work of a lot of groups who support and empower fathers so that F4J don’t dominate that debate and that activism.

In terms of some of the other points, no I don’t know for sure whether the ad was a response to We Believe You campaign. It is my assumption based on the publicity around the WBY, the timings of that campaign and the nature of those discussions around male violence against women. If anyone has the facts about whether the two were connected then please let me know. I do however think that the issue here is that in response to women talking in a safe and supportive space online about the violence they experienced, be that WBY or on other sections of Mumsnet, it seems F4J decided to use those comments to attack that safe space. To accuse Mumsnet of calling men rapists and wife beaters was pathetic. The men who committed those crimes are responsible for being labelled this way.

As Justine Roberts said yesterday in Campaign:

“We believe that the issue of a father’s access to his children is important and needs to be discussed.
“We understand that many Fathers 4 Justice campaigners are driven by intense personal anger over what they feel to be injustice in their own cases.
“But the recent actions the group have taken against Mumsnet constitutes plain and simple intimidation and a naked attempt to court publicity by a group of people who, for whatever reason, appear to have tired of climbing cranes in superhero outfits.
“And it does their cause no good at all.”

Gah, i just posted and now the comment seems to have disappeared! so apologies if this appears twice.

Thanks Michael. I feel that we need to raise the profile of the positive charities and orgs that work with and empower fathers so that F4J don’t dominate the discourse and the conversation.

In other terms…I don’t know for sure if the We Believe You campaign and the F4J ad were linked. I am making an assumption based on the timings, the publicity around WBY and the fact that so many of the comments were on issues of male violence against women. If anyone has the facts on this then please let me know. But the issue remains. I believe that F4J took this safe space where women could share the truth about the violence committed against them, using the women’s words to attack and harm them. This wasn’t acceptable. Mumsnet never labelled men as rapists etc. The men who committed the crimes did that to themselves.

This quote was from Justine Roberts in Campaign yesterday:

“We believe that the issue of a father’s access to his children is important and needs to be discussed.
“We understand that many Fathers 4 Justice campaigners are driven by intense personal anger over what they feel to be injustice in their own cases.
“But the recent actions the group have taken against Mumsnet constitutes plain and simple intimidation and a naked attempt to court publicity by a group of people who, for whatever reason, appear to have tired of climbing cranes in superhero outfits.
“And it does their cause no good at all.”

@14 – you could turn a print ad to run in the press around in nine days. I work in advertising and I’ve done that!

21. Randomivity

*warning – may contain attempts at humour*

Are the courts unfair to men? Absolutely! What else do you expect from a male dominated area where the top guys dress up in long gowns and wigs?

But seriously, judgements are made for the best caregiver and current societal norm means it’s likely to be the female.

Ok, I know I jump around a lot on comments so bear with me

F4J, apart from being an anachronistic bit of drivel, certainly were out of line with the ad so I’m happy it got banned. However, unless they got some serious breaks with regards to space etc then I find it unlikely that F4J timed the ad to coincide with the Mumsnet WBY campaign, just need more proof before I go all the way

We considered that whilst some users of the website had made negative comments about men in its forums, it was misleading of Fathers4Justice to imply through this ad that Mumsnet themselves had made or endorsed those comments.

This is interesting, not because of the issue of freedom of speech being curtailed or because of the truth of the alleged misandry on Mumsnet, but because of the above reason given for the ASA decision.

They have ruled that a website cannot be held to account for the comments that are made on it, which rather blows apart the alleged reason for moderation on many blogs. I hope I’m wrong but I think the ASA have got this wrong in terms of legal accountability.

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 22 pagar

“They have ruled that a website cannot be held to account for the comments that are made on it, which rather blows apart the alleged reason for moderation on many blogs. I hope I’m wrong but I think the ASA have got this wrong in terms of legal accountability.”

Not necessarily. Even if Mumsnet are responsible for the comments, that doesn’t mean it’s not libellous to claim that Mumsnet “made” the comments. So if I run a website on which someone posts a comment saying “pagar is a philatelist!”, you might be able to sue me for libel as the false claim was on my site, but if you go around saying “Chaise accused me of stamp collecting!”, I might be able to sue YOU for libel.

24. Chaise Guevara

@ 22 pagar

Also note that the ASA is an NGO enforcing its own standards, not a government ministry enforcing the law. So if the ASA decides that F4J did not have reasonable grounds for the claim in its advert, that doesn’t change or contradict the law (although you could use it to argue that our overall system of laws and rules is inconsistent).

The ASA just deals with ads. It’s probably not illegal for you to opine on a website that “Guiness is good for you”. But if Guiness ran ads making that statement (even if they were directly quoting you), they’d get shut down. Similarly a third-party comment on a website might meet the criteria for suing that site for libel in the eyes of the law, but not for attributing the comment to the website in the eyes of the ASA.

I know that a while ago there was trouble with film reviews quoting popular review websites when actually they’d just picked a positive comment from a random BTL commenter (unless I’m confused and this was in the US). So it’s possible that the ASA, to combat this, has brought in guidelines specifially saying that you can’t put third-party comments into the mouth of the host website.

I think you’re confusing libel law with ASA guidelines, basically.

@ Chaise

I take your above points, however it still seems strange and inconsistent that the ASA does not hold the owners accountable for what appears on their blog, while the law does. Their remit is to stop misleading advertising so you would have thought,on that basis, they would have taken an interest in Sunny’s headlines!!!

And don’t call me a stamp collector again…………

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 pagar

“I take your above points, however it still seems strange and inconsistent that the ASA does not hold the owners accountable for what appears on their blog, while the law does.”

Fair enough. They just go their own way, really. Unlike the law, they don’t need to take reams of precedent into account, and aren’t influenced by lawyers trying to find a legal way to sue a website they dislike.

“Their remit is to stop misleading advertising so you would have thought,on that basis, they would have taken an interest in Sunny’s headlines!!!”

Wouldn’t qualify. If we had a General Commission on Preventing Lies to the Public, however, Sunny would be in trouble.

“And don’t call me a stamp collector again…………”

You are a philatelist, sir! A philatelist!

27. Robin Levett

@Chaise #4:

I’m not sure it’s right and proper to automatically favour the primary caregiver, either. Viewed from the right angle, that sounds like punishing the breadwinner for going out and winning bread.

I just want to pick this up. Custody decisions are not about who “wins”, or punishment and reward; they are about putting the interests of the child first and making the right combination of custody and contact orders to do that.

F4J may see such decisions in terms of punishment and reward, but that’s no reason for the rest of us to do so.

28. Warwick D

@ Robin Levett 27

As it should be, to some extent.

Today many families decide for the mother to ‘have it all’ and develop their career regardless of whether the father is able to step in and provide care. It might not be best for the child, but it’s fairer to the mother. That is the biggest demographic shift of the last 25 years. It’s a trend driven by it becoming an economic necessity for some, but for others, it’s simply an expression of the individual liberation and fairness that radical feminism teaches them to demand.

Of course it’s easy to argue that fathers may often be as good or better as the caregiver if the mother is the breadwinner. But then the employer then faces the prospect of intermittent maternity leave, so en masse it will always be the case that married female career prospects are, at least until age 35, less good. (Until maternity too is abolished and formula/expressed milk is fed by fathers, and I’m sure there are many crying to bring on that happy day.)

When someone applies the same dispassionate “interests of the child” point of view to that matter, they are usually called MCP and their backward-looking idiocy reviled.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 27 Robin

Unfairly biasing against the breadwinner, then. Incidentally, I think parents’ interests should be taken into account, although considered secondary to children’s.

“Why Fathers4Justice deserved to lose their case against Mumsnet”

Because they’re tossers!

31. john P Ried

30 thats a prejudice comment isn’t it, don’t you support that the father should have a right to see thier kid,s if they pay their lively hood, which the mothers can spend not only on kids but themelves,

8, warwick well said

32. Not Verified

People, with all due respect, you are missing the point.

The comments were directed against Fathers4Justice, not against “men & boys”. F4J are, thankfully, not representative of anyone, except the lunatic fringe.

I can describe rapper Chris Brown as a bully and a wife beater because he has been convicted of related offences – it doesn’t mean I think all men, or all black men are like him – quite the opposite.

F4J know this, but ignore it to get the attention that they crave.

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 Verified

Are you saying all F4J members are rapists etc? If anything that’s worse than generic misandry.

Actually, it would be useful if we could get a link to the offending comment/s on Mumsnet. I looked earlier but couldn’t find them, and it’s kinda hard to tell whether F4J were justified in being outraged by them.

34. the a&e charge nurse

[32] ‘I can describe rapper Chris Brown as a bully and a wife beater because he has been convicted of related offences – it doesn’t mean I think all men, or all black men are like him – quite the opposite’ – no, but skin colour is an important factor in the way people are treated by the justice system.

This sort of prejudice is at the heart of F4J’s grievance – you can be the best Dad in the world but in custody cases some men cannot obtain justice because of gender stereotyping – and this sort of stereotyping is propped up by implicit messages about men being rapists or violent, etc.

Put simply court should not use the characteristics of the group to determine individual cases, each case must be judged on merit and that’s not happening right now because of gender bias.

The CSA found that in 95% of assessed case the non-resident parent is male.
http://www.childmaintenance.org/en/pdf/qss/QSS_june_2011.pdf

Now not all fathers want sole custody (obviously) but the % seems a bit skewed surely?

35. the a&e charge nurse

[32] yes, here we are, ‘16% of all those in jail, the number of black prisoners is hugely disproportionate to the general population, where African and Caribbean people make up just 2% of the total’.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/mar/30/prisonsandprobation.race

More criminal, compared to other groups …….. ?
Or a % mostly explained by social artifact …….. ?

Put it this way – if you were fighting a custody case, do you think the court would generally favour the mother or father?

36. Chaise Guevara

@ Sian

“Contrary to the beliefs of F4J and much of the general public, the government-commissioned consultation found that there was no bias against fathers in the family courts.”

I just checked the source you provided, and while it claims that there is no bias against fathers it doesn’t provide anything to support this claim. Instead it waffles on about fathers *not being denied contact*, and even then doesn’t talk about bias exactly. Here’s the relevant paragraph, note the complete lack of any support for the claim in the first sentence:

“There’s only one snag: there’s no evidence to suggest that courts are biased against fathers. For one thing, only 10% of child custody cases end up in court, and of those that do a tiny percentage result in limited contact orders. In 2010, only 300 of 95,000 litigated custody cases resulted in the father being prevented from seeing his child, and a 2008 study by Joan Hunt and Alison Macleod showed that when fathers do make contact requests, they nearly always get what they’re asking for.”

So given that you “no bias” claim is pretty central to your condemnation of F4J, do you have a source for it? If not, I suspect that this is going to turn into yet another zombie stat.

@ 34 and @36

The bias is towards the primary care giver. Under our system, where the parental leave split seems to do it’s best to exclude fathers, this almost always ends up being the mother. In a system where parenting was more equal, then we might see more men being given custody. Feminists have been campaigning for equal parental leave for a long time – the current system is unfair to everyone.

F4J create a myth where men are deliberately denied access because they are men. They perpetuate a nonsense that the courts are skewed towards women. The fact that so few fathers are denied access would suggest this wasn’t true, and that very real reasons exist when the courts do make that decision.

Now the government want to put in place a custody system similar to what they have in Australia, in spite of the results of their consultation, and despite many experts voicing concerns that this system does not have the best interests of the children at heart.

38. Warwick D

sianushka 37:

Realistically, how often can the man be the ‘primary’ caregiver while a child is breastfeeding, and WHO recommendation is for that to last 2 years. At most his share of parenting is going to be equal in that time, and realistically, one partner may need to have a job.
Is it therefore unreasonable to expect a father’s involvement normally to grow as a child ages? So how much bias in favour of the existing ‘primary caregiver’ can be justified then?

And I think you should just admit that 36 Chaise Guevara is right – your source doesn’t prove anything about court judgements being unbiased. Banned from contact is an extreme outcome. I bet very few mothers are banned from contact either; it proves nothing.

I daresay F4J got rather more publicity than they paid for, this way, in any case.

39. the a&e charge nurse

[37] ‘F4J create a myth where men are deliberately denied access because they are men’ – the issue goes far beyond that, and is driven by a genuine sense of injustice, not to mention the human cost on children and adults alike.

In fact F4J are not the only group trying to address such concerns – here is the wikipage which lists other, including families-needs-fathers who started campaigning almost 40years ago
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fathers'_rights_movement_in_the_UK

I’m sure you know that there is evidence to suggest that children who maintain contact with both parents do better than those who don’t (Bauserman, 2002)

40. Chaise Guevara

@ 37 sian

“F4J create a myth where men are deliberately denied access because they are men. They perpetuate a nonsense that the courts are skewed towards women. ”

I asked for a source: just repeating the claim gets us nowhere.

“The fact that so few fathers are denied access would suggest this wasn’t true, and that very real reasons exist when the courts do make that decision. ”

The difference is too big to be down to misandry, as it would require basically every judge to be strongly biased against men. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not an issue.

@15 Chaise:

“Likewise, the current primary caregiver has to be able to pay for the child’s upkeep.”

I agree, they do have to pay for part of it, but it should only be part, if the other partner is paying the correct amount of child maintenance. But yes, after a divorce/separation the primary caregiver would probably find themselves worse off financially, and perhaps having to make a decision between work/childcare and being on benefits.

“And the current breadwinner could change jobs etc. To be honest, the only difference I see between the two here is that the breadwinner may find it easier to get appropriate employment as they may have more experience – if anything that should skew things in their favour, not against them.”

I’m not sure about that – how easy is it to just change jobs? Or be able to dictate your hours in your current position? Even if you wanted to you might not be able to.

Really, the time for men to ask about flexible hours at work or change job is when their partners get up the duff in the first instance, so they can plan to actually shoulder their share of the looking after. That can only reward them further down the line should the relationship go sour.

“The question is whether the stats are also unfairly skewed by courts deciding the primary caregiver is inherently more “deserving” of custody. I don’t know.”

I’m not sure whether that’s how the courts see it. I think it’s more a case of who is able to look after the child the best, e.g. who is able to spend more time with the child, who is the child more emotionally attached to, and so on. The person who has done most of the looking after thus far would seem the obvious choice.

“Well, there is a pretty heavy difference in terms of custody wins by gender. It’s an understandable mistake, especially given F4J members are likely to be angry about losing custody and thus seeking to place blame.”

I don’t think it is understandable tbh. It’s quite obvious why there is such a gender imbalance in custody wins: we live in a society which by and large still expects and encourages women to take care of the kids. Our current parental leave laws are just one example of this.

I would like to bet that many F4J members were only too happy, once their partner got pregnant, to follow the traditional route and have her stay at home with the baby. Then they split up, lose custody and take it out on feminism rather than looking at themselves and the possible reasons why they might have caused their own situation.

Warwick D/38: Realistically, how often can the man be the ‘primary’ caregiver while a child is breastfeeding, and WHO recommendation is for that to last 2 years

Well, for several obvious reasons:
1) In a nation with reliable clean water, the WHO recommendation is far less important. Many families don’t follow it and/or don’t follow it exclusively. There are still statistically-visible health benefits, of course, but other considerations may be more important than that.
2) Babies don’t spend all their time eating. Certainly in a family where the baby was breastfed it would be difficult for the non-breastfeeding partner to be the exclusive carer – but an equal or primary carer, certainly.
3) Once weaning starts – generally around 6 months, depending on the child – the time needed for breastfeeding drops even more. (And at that point, the partner may in many cases be eligible to have the remaining maternity leave transferred to them while the mother returns to work)
4) None of this has much relevance beyond 2 years anyway, and children need looking after for several times longer than that, so if that was the major reason for women being the primary caregiver you’d expect to see far more men as the primary caregiver for toddlers and older children than there actually are, even if not for babies – especially for children attending a school.

43. Warwick D

cim 42:

children need looking after for several times longer than that, so if that was the major reason for women being the primary caregiver you’d expect to see far more men as the primary caregiver for toddlers and older children than there actually are, even if not for babies

I don’t know for a fact, but I think what you will see is that by a certain age of the child, responsibility will typically be shared more evenly than at first. That is my point. What is a primary caregiver once they’re at school anyway? It’s a pretty vague notion unless what you mean is that someone is at home with the child.

No, I don’t think you’d expect it to be an instant swingback at age 2. For one thing, some have more than one child. For another thing, there are likely to be financial consequences from constantly swapping who is in work. It is not something people do lightly, for good reason. Couples can only adapt their behaviour as fast as their economic circumstances can adapt, ie over years if at all.

44. Chaise Guevara

@ 41 Violet

“I’m not sure about that – how easy is it to just change jobs? Or be able to dictate your hours in your current position? Even if you wanted to you might not be able to. ”

It’s a zero-sum game, in effect: regardless of how easy or hard it is to do these things, it is presumably easier for the person with the most job experience – most likely the breadwinner.

“Really, the time for men to ask about flexible hours at work or change job is when their partners get up the duff in the first instance, so they can plan to actually shoulder their share of the looking after. That can only reward them further down the line should the relationship go sour.”

I think working a job full-time to support the household counts as “shouldering your share”. I’m picking up a vibe of you thinking that men who work while their partner looks after the baby are abandoning their partner. If so, do you really think that’s reasonable, given that it’s generally going to be a joint decision and probably a pragmatically sensible one? If not, why the judgemental tone?

“I’m not sure whether that’s how the courts see it. I think it’s more a case of who is able to look after the child the best, e.g. who is able to spend more time with the child, who is the child more emotionally attached to, and so on. The person who has done most of the looking after thus far would seem the obvious choice.”

Well, I see no reason to assume that either partner would be able to spend more time with the kid. And we allow totally inexperienced people to look after children, so assuming the primary caretaker is going to be a better parent to the extent that they should be granted custody on that basis seems a bit OTT. And assuming that the child loves and is loved by both parents, I think playing “who do you love more” is a bit pointless.

“I don’t think it is understandable tbh. It’s quite obvious why there is such a gender imbalance in custody wins: we live in a society which by and large still expects and encourages women to take care of the kids. Our current parental leave laws are just one example of this. ”

Which is a bad thing, surely… so why are you against F4J if they’re facing that problem?

“I would like to bet that many F4J members were only too happy, once their partner got pregnant, to follow the traditional route and have her stay at home with the baby. Then they split up, lose custody and take it out on feminism rather than looking at themselves and the possible reasons why they might have caused their own situation.”

Again, this seems to be based on the idea that it’s wrong for a man to agree with his wife that he’ll work while she looks after the child.

I totally understand why you and others don’t like F4J. They don’t do themselves many favours in the way they present themselves (the ad above being a case in point), and a lot of their more vocal members frankly come off as wankers. But none of that should impinge on the wider issue of custody.

Also, I think people skew this by gender on both sides, possibly unconsciously. If society said that men looked after the children, and women rarely got custody on that basis, I suspect Sian and other feminists would be claiming that was sexism and demanding change.

45. Chaise Guevara

The moral highground is a distant, mysterious land to Kimzip.

46. Jessica B

Good post, and I’m glad the ASA made this sensible ruling.

The Relationships forum on Mumsnet is a haven of support for women trying to leave abusive and violent relationships. There are many wise, experienced women there offering brilliant advice and help to others. I’ve seen lots of comments there from women crediting the forum as being central to them finding the strength to leave abusive partners.

An abuser will usually attempt to break down their victims’ relationships and support networks, leaving them isolated, and women today are lucky enough to have online support networks such as Mumsnet to turn to if their abuser has separated them from their real life ones. Fathers4Justice’s targeting of Mumsnet seems typical of controlling, abusive men – they want to try and break down these larger, online support networks too that help women leave horrible relationships.

“Mumsnet launched their ‘We believe you’ campaign. This was a vital web space for women to share their experiences of domestic abuse, rape, sexual abuse and violence.”

So you believe without question every single association of abuse and rape?

One of the main weapons used against Fathers 4 Justice members is that of false accusations and the way the family courts believe them without question in a manner which is the antithesis to any other type of court. By all means listen to people and their allegations but please don’t further worsen the problem of false allegations by pretending that all alleged vicitms should be believed and all those on the receiving end judged to be guilty regardless of the evidence.

Any why do you insist on perpetuating the myth that rape and domestic violence and issues whereby men attack women. 40% of domestic violence vicitms in the UK are men so your dishonest and outdated approach is exactly the sort of thing that should be challenged robustly.

Fathers4Jsutice may have lost their case, but their wider sentiments about your hateful site are quite clearly spot on as illustrated by this very article.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Giltrap

    That's right, men. Complain about misandry and you're secretly encouraging rapists. #FFS http://t.co/nAiQZpdP

  2. czol

    Why Fathers4Justice deserved to lose their case against Mumsnet http://t.co/EctKgal7

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    By @sianushka – Why Fathers4Justice deserved to lose their case against Mumsnet http://t.co/1zgDuXo5

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