Sunday is Father’s Day. The day we as a nation do our best to support the bad tie industry, and retailers make a mad dash for last minute sales with pleas of “Don’t Forget Your Father!” It’s pathetic how poorly we honor the men who have the job of teaching their children how society works.
We cut fathers out of their children’s lives and then blame them for not being there. We expect fathers to want to be active and engaged parents, and then make it impossible for them to live up to the completely reasonable expectations, and then condemn them for failing.
Fathers are the butt of endless television jokes from Tim the Toolman to God only knows how many bad commercials that are using the clich√© of a bumbling man to sell everything from toilet paper to window cleaner.
Men are expected to be gentlemen, to never raise their voice, to never hit a woman, in short to be totally subservient to the woman, no matter how bad her behavior or treatment of him. A woman can hit a man all day long and the courts will ignore it, minimize it, and maybe give her a warning. She can use the tyranny of tears to control whoever sits in the black robe and win sympathy, compassion and custody of “her” children.
A man can raise his voice, and have his children taken away from him based on the mother’s tearful allegations that “she was frightened he might hurt them.” For a man to allege that he was afraid, dominated or controlled by the words and actions of the mother is a sure path to snickering by the masses, scorn by the judges, and abuse by the police who will arrest him because he is the man.
The man is considered inferior in the parenting department from the get go. A woman is presumed to be a good parent. No woman in court is ever made to go to parenting classes without some egregiously bad behavior on her part. By virtue of her biology the courts assume she knows how to parent a child. A man, on the other hand, is automatically expected to take parenting classes if he wants custody of his children. He is presumed to be a bumbling idiot that would have no idea how to take care of a child, no matter the child’s age.
Feminism brought great strides forward in equality. Men can now be stay-at-home dads who get to teach their children, make them do their homework, drive them to endless soccer, baseball and field hockey games. This is all a result of feminism. It is the natural outgrowth of women in the workforce making strong salaries.
Fathers are taking a more active role in their children’s lives. They are creating a better world, a world where roles are not defined by gender. It’s been reported that 40 percent of stay-at-home parents these days are fathers. Partly that’s due to the horrible economic conditions we’ve endured. As men lost their jobs because companies cut back and kept women on at lower pay rates, by necessity daycare fell to the one who wasn’t working. Partly it is due to the realization by more and more men that they are allowed to enjoy being fathers to their children.
Society has moved toward greater equality for fathers and with that, hopefully, a greater awareness that men are just as capable of being good parents as women. It’s time the courts caught up as well.
The silent bigotry of the judiciary needs to be addressed. Women need to be prosecuted for the domestic abuse they perpetrate on men — different in kind often, but no less damaging. Women need to be made to attend parenting classes as often and with the same vigor as the men, for they too need to learn that being a parent goes beyond keeping the kids out of the street.
Fathers play a crucial role in the development of both boys and girls and we as a society need to recognize it, celebrate it, and champion it. When we marginalize men in the courts, we downplay their necessity in child development. Let’s stop doing that.
Do it for society.
Do it for the children.
David Pisarra is a divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.