Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

Non-biological father jailed for child support

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Feminism has been pretty successful when it comes to implementing new laws that look out for women’s rights. Examples in the US include rape shield laws and the Violence Against Women Act, both of which can be questioned regarding their gender neutrality and gender fairness – even though the intention behind these laws were noble.

However, when it comes to men and men’s rights, the legal system still lags far behind. I’ve previously written about my proposal to DNA test all newborns, and to do away with the old fashioned laws that presume the husband of a woman to be the father, or that expect a man to accept fatherhood simply by trusting the woman.

Unfortunately, the legal system in the US (or elsewhere for that matter) still has to catch up on men’s rights and what’s best for the child, so we are still stuck with laws that determine paternity not through proper biological testing, but through probability. This means that some men raise children, or pay child support, even though it’s not their child to begin with.

Fortunately, there are commercial DNA tests available, which means that any man can test his child to see whether it truly is his child or not. You’d think that a DNA test that conclusively proves that you are not the father would be enough to release you from any paternal obligations, including child support, but apparently this is not the case in some US states.

Have a look at this article, that I just came across:

A South Georgia man who had been jailed for more than a year for not paying child support — even though he was not the biological father — was released from custody on Wednesday.

Come again? A man was jailed for not paying child support for a child that isn’t his?? There’s something rotten in the state of Georgia…

The judge, however, postponed deciding whether Hatley must still repay the more than $10,000 in child support the state says he owes.

In a sane world that decision would be a no-brainer. Either you find the real father and make him pay, or else you let the untrustworthy mother pay for her decision to make an innocent man pay her large sums of money.

Two DNA tests — one conducted nine years ago and another earlier this month — proved that Hatley was not the father of Travon Morrison, who is now 21. Even after learning he was not the father, Hatley paid thousands of dollars the state said he owed for support. After losing his job and becoming homeless, he still made payments out of his unemployment benefits.

This man is nothing short of a hero. In a society that couldn’t care less about his rights, he pays child support even when he’s unemployed, for a child that isn’t his to begin with!

Urgent legislative reforms are needed to prevent that this kind of scenario arise in the future. The most swift and fair solution is already out there: DNA test all newborns, to secure two adults who are responsible for the emotional and financial well-being of the child.

Obama Swayed by Feminists

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the excellent book The War Against Boys as well as the book Who Stole Feminism (that I have yet to read), has written a very revealing article. She starts off by summarizing how the current recession has affected men and women in the US:

A “man-cession.” That’s what some economists are starting to call it. Of the 5.7 million jobs Americans lost between December 2007 and May 2009, nearly 80 percent had been held by men. Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan, characterizes the recession as a “downturn” for women but a “catastrophe” for men.

The fact the men have been hit harder by the recession is understandable, since the private sector is more vulnerable to an economic downturn than the public sector. However, there was still some hope for all these men:

Last November, President-elect Obama addressed the devastation in the construction and manufacturing industries by proposing an ambitious New Deal-like program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. He called for a two-year “shovel ready” stimulus program to modernize roads, bridges, schools, electrical grids, public transportation, and dams and made reinvigorating the hardest-hit sectors of the economy the goal of the legislation that would become the recovery act.

Whether you agree with Obama’s proposal or not, I think we can all agree that if he was to spend that amount of money, it would be well spent on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. But apparently not all groups prioritized what was best for the country as a whole:

Women’s groups were appalled. Grids? Dams? Opinion pieces immediately appeared in major newspapers with titles like “Where are the New Jobs for Women?” and “The Macho Stimulus Plan.” A group of “notable feminist economists” circulated a petition that quickly garnered more than 600 signatures, calling on the president-elect to add projects in health, child care, education, and social services and to “institute apprenticeships” to train women for “at least one third” of the infrastructure jobs.

All I can say is “wow”. Even though the US desperately needs to rebuild its infrastructure, and millions of men have recently lost their jobs, feminists manage to turn it into a women’s issue. The primary issue is obviously the US economy, and the secondary issue is that men have been hit so hard by the economy – but apparently those facts don’t become feminists. This is how Sommers puts it:

The president-elect’s original plan was designed to stop the hemorrhaging in construction and manufacturing while investing in physical infrastructure that is indispensable for long-term economic growth. It was not a grab bag of gender-correct programs, nor was it a macho plan–the whole idea of economic stimulus is to use government spending to put idle factors of production back to work.

Common sense would thus dictate that Obama forge ahead with his original plan, but since he knows the power of feminist ideas in the media, he needed to take some kind of action:

The president-elect responded to the protests by sending Jason Furman, his soon-to-be deputy director at the National Economic Council, along with his senior aides to a meeting organized by Kim Gandy and Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal.

The meeting wasn’t only held in order to superficially appease the feminists; apparently Obama believed that they were coming from a perspective of social justices. Thus, the National Organization of Women and other feminists managed to change the proposal in quite some detail:

In her March “Below the Belt” column on the NOW website, Kim Gandy could not contain her elation over “this happily-ever-after ‘stimulus story.’ ” When she and her allies saw the final recovery package, they were amazed to find “over and over” versions of “very specific proposals that we had made.” More than that, the programs NOW had proposed had vast sums of money next to them–”numbers that started with a ‘B’ (as in billion),” Gandy said gleefully. “It’s impossible to convey just how many hours we put into this issue during December and early January and how fruitful it really turned out to be.”

This is a sad story indeed. President Obama has distanced himself from lobbyists, but apparently he doesn’t realize that feminism is one of the strongest lobby groups around.

The administration (and Congress) must have been thinking that groups such as NOW and the Feminist Majority were crusading for social justice, when in fact they were lobbying for their share of the action, to the detriment of urgent necessities.

It’s one thing to discuss the current gender discourse, and how the gender roles impact men and women. But when feminist groups are actually managing to influence public policy in the US to the extent that it can hurt the country in very tangible ways, then criticism of contemporary feminism needs to become a mainstream issue.

Obama’s Council on Women and Girls

Monday, June 8th, 2009

US President Barack Obama recently said these words:

But at the same time, when women still earn just 78 cents for every dollar men make, when one in four women still experiences domestic violence in their lifetimes, when women are more than half of our population but just 17% of our Congress, when women are 49% of the workforce but only 3% of our fortune 500 CEOs, when these inequalities stubbornly persist in this country in this century then I think we need to ask ourselves some hard questions and we need to take a hard look at where were falling short and who were leaving out and what that means for the prosperity and the vitality of our nation.

These are the standard statistics that feminists like to cite. Does that make Obama a feminist? I don’t know, but it is troubling that he uses the wage gap statistic that is profoundly misleading, and that he puts forward domestic violence as a woman’s issue instead of a human issue.

Obama’s words above were spoken as he was announcing the creation of the first ever White House Council on Women and Girls, to be headed by Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett made the following comment:

The council is going to examine all the programs at the federal level that touch on women and girls and we’re going to work to coordinate and make sure that each of those programs is doing everything that it could do to help support women and girls,

The US has a bunch of programs and organizations that support women and/or feminism, and now there’s a high profile council in place to coordinate all of them. As you probably know I’m not a big fan of feminism, but I have nothing against programs for women, who help women deal with female health issues or problems that are specific to the female gender role.

However,  what doesn’t get addressed in the media is the acute lack of programs for men, and funding for the few programs that exist. Men have several health issues and gender roles issues that could use some federal level funding (eg. prostate cancer, male disposability, male shelters for victims of domestic violence, homelessness, boys performing worse than girls in school).

So while it’s great that Obama wants to help girls and women, where is the Council on Men and Boys? Do men have to lose for women to win? I don’t believe that is the case, and I do hope that Obama discovers that men’s issues need attention too, and that supporting men is good for women – just like men benefit from the support women get.

Defining Gender Equality

Friday, April 24th, 2009

For an expression that is much talked about, you rarely come across a clear definition of what gender equality actually means. I’m pretty sure different people mean very different things when talking about gender equality, and many people probably aren’t even aware of exactly what they mean.

Not defining words properly is a sure recipe for discussions and debates that lead nowhere, and heated arguments that are as passionate as they are meaningless.

I believe that by defining what we mean by gender equality, we can avoid intellectual sloppiness, and clarify our own beliefs in this area. Furthermore, you cannot hit a target unless you know what the target is, and for most people gender equality is a desired outcome.

My definition of gender equality rests on five different pillars:

1. Men and women have the same intrinsic value

I’m hoping that you find it self-evident that men and women have the same intrinsic value. This is simply the basic moral insight that all people have the same intrinsic value, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

2. Men and women are equally valuable to society

Are men and women equally valuable to society? I guess you could try to make the case that either gender is more valuable, but the burden of proof would rest squarely on you. Research has shown that the male and female brains are sometimes good at different things, but there is no overall difference in brain capacity. This indicates that the two genders have equal potential to be valuable.

Men and women still have very or somewhat different roles in most societies, with men more often fulfilling roles in the public sphere, and women more often fulfilling roles in the private sphere. Regardless of whether you think this will change in the future or not, and regardless of whether you find this division of labor desirable or not, I’d say it’s safe to presume that men and women are equally valuable to society.

Society would not function without the roles that men perform or without the roles that women perform.

3. Men and women should have equal rights and responsibilities

The important thing to note here is that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. If you want to claim a right for yourself, you should be prepared for an accompanying responsibility. As the economists are fond of saying: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.

A good starting point for making sure that men and women have equal rights is to check that legislation and public policy are gender neutral. If either sex has responsibilities that the other one doesn’t have (such as the draft or military service), or if either sex has rights that the other one doesn’t have (such as access to women’s shelters), then we need to take a closer look at those imbalances.

4. An absence of discrimination (a k a equal opportunities)

Discrimination is a word that is used frequently in gender discussions, especially when talking about the labor market. But what is and isn’t discrimination? How do we define it?

Discrimination simply means judging someone by their race, gender, religion, sexuality or age – instead of judging them for their competence. The definition is very simple, but implementing it can be a lot harder!

Sometimes the word discrimination is used incorrectly. For example, you can hear people say that women are discriminated against if they don’t have 50 percent of the important positions in society. However, that is not discrimination unless you can show that men who are less qualified than competing women are given the top jobs.

As long as competence determines who gets a job, we may have 80 percent women in a certain workplace or 70 percent men, without any discrimination occurring. Read more about discrimination in this dedicated post.

5. Realizing that equality need not mean sameness

Equality between the sexes means that the sexes are valued equally, and given equal opportunities, as outlined above. But this need not mean that men and women become the same! Men and women may continue to make different choices when it comes to work, family and hobbies – while still being perfectly equal.

In fact, it is irrelevant to gender equality whether men and women make the same choices, as long as each man and each woman is truly free to choose whatever path seems right to him or her.

We know that biological differences between the sexes exist, but we do not yet know to what extent these differences would influence the choices of women and men in a culture that allows you to go beyond stereotypes.

However, it would be naive to assume that men and women would start making exactly the same choices, even in a society that is completely open-minded. By dropping the criterion of sameness, gender equality becomes much more achievable, and does not limit individual freedom.

My Vision for the Future

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

It’s easy to point out what is wrong with the current gender roles, or to point out how feminism is incomplete and sometimes plain wrong. What’s harder though, is to be able to state a positive vision for the future, without pointing out all the negatives that can be identified in the gender debate.

So what I would like to do in this post is to simply list my vision for the future, i.e. how I would like men, women and gender roles to evolve. In the not too distant future, I would like the following bullet points to become a lived reality around the world:

  • Gender stereotypes have been completely transcended, and each individual is free to pursue the life path that he or she wants. No boy, girl, woman or man is shamed for having a certain interest, or for wanting to pursue a certain career or be a homemaker. Transcending stereotypes does not necessarily mean that men and women will make the same choices on a group level, since biological differences will still remain in the brain and in bodily makeup.
  • Biological differences between the brains of men and women will no longer be ignored, since scientific research clearly shows that such differences exist. However, biological differences aren’t overemphasized either, since everyone recognizes that each individual is biologically unique, and may not have a brain that corresponds to biological sex.
  • Feminism has been replaced by a gender liberation movement that cares equally about the well-being of both sexes.
  • It has become common knowledge that traditional gender roles arose as a reaction to historical circumstances, and that it made perfect sense at one point to have those gender roles, since they were a functional fit to the current conditions. This understanding enables women and men alike to relax, and to refrain from blaming the other sex for the negative baggage that each gender role has.
  • All legislation is gender neutral, including laws concerning military service and the draft. Gays and lesbians are allowed to get married and adopt children, just like anyone else, since there is no logical reason to uphold such discrimination.
  • Men and women recognize that a marriage is not only about love, it is also something that has a huge impact on your life as a whole. Because of this, men and women form agreements when getting married about what will happen to any children if they are divorced, and how each person will survive financially in case of divorce. Financial and social capital are both valued highly when forming such agreements.
  • Biological paternity and maternity are established on all newborns using DNA testing, and legal paternity and maternity correspond to the results of such testing, unless the child is put up for adoption.
  • Discrimination is frowned upon, as are people who try to blame their own shortcomings on discrimination.
  • Schools teach children relationship skills and emotional awareness, so that the children can grow up to use these skills in the workplace and in personal relationships. This decreases the violence that both sexes instigate in the home, and the violence that men perpetrate outside the home. It also lessens the emotional manipulation of girls and women.

What is your vision for the future?