Kevin Noble Maillard, a law professor at Syracuse University, writes in The New York Times about father’s rights.
“Fathers’ rights” as a civil liberties issue seems like a laughable bemoaning of one’s patriarchal privilege. It appears anti-feminist: It’s mostly men who run the world, no matter what Beyoncé sings.
But despite male dominance of government and business, disparities in pay and household responsibility and even continued risk of sexual assault, real examples of male inequality should not be dismissed.
Unmarried men have little security in child rearing decisions and custody outcomes. Legally, the extent of unmarried men’s decisions about reproduction and children stops at the sexual act. Beyond that, the mother has the most leverage to make decisions about visitation and possible adoption. Why? Because law and social practice assume that unmarried men in intimate relationships have no interest in commitment, stability or responsibility.
Of course, individuals and institutions have stories and numbers to “prove” that fathers should be treated differently than mothers because they’re irresponsible. Or absent. Or abusive. Old laws are illustrative of these assumptions: Unmarried fathers would lose custody of their children upon the death of their mother because the law deemed them inherently unfit, incapable and unstable.
And our new laws have similar outlooks. In a majority of states, adoptions can proceed even without the knowledge of the birth father, unless they can miraculously register as a putative father in advance of the birth.
But is it fair to characterize all unmarried men as deadbeats, just because they are not married, and to stack laws against them that mistrust their motives and capabilities? If men want fair treatment, this doesn’t inherently mean they oppose women’s equality or advancement.
There are always going to be bad examples of fed up, angry, bitter men that spout invectives at feminists, their ex-wives and all women in general. But all papas are not rolling stones. These are just regular, earnest, nice guys that want simple due process rights as men and partners.