Gymno

succumbing to peer pressure

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sigh. It's International Women's Day (google didn't bother to cleverly manipulate their logo for this one) and Blog Against Sexism Day, and Sid dropped this in my lap. (you're just baiting me, aren't you?) It's an article about a new men's rights group. But not just any men's rights. They aren't all uppity about custody of their children or visitation rights. Oh no. They're pissed about having to pay child support for children they didn't want. Well cry me a fucking river.

At this point I should probably pause for a disclaimer. The thing is, whenever I get into this particular issue, I end up equivocating nearly everything I say because I imagine the things I'm saying applied to the men I know. And like I've said before, I'm lucky to know some incredibly great guys. I know men who have had children, men who have lost children, and men who are trying their best to raise children with estranged mothers. I wish all men were as loving and devoted as the ones I know. But obviously that's just not true. And you can't talk about laws and policies in terms of your friends. You have to be cynical and try to account for potential worst case scenarios.

So yes, I agree with Sid and Shelby and others who have pointed out the many inequalities when it comes to parental rights that disfavor men. But what it keeps coming down to for me is that it is physically impossible for a woman to claim not to be pregnant. Yet a man can impregnate a woman and walk away. And as long as nearly a third of the amount of owed child support goes unpaid ($5.8 billion out of a total $17.7 billion, according to recent census data; linked from the Air Force Academy, not sure why) I'm going to continue to worry more about that problem. Maybe once we've figured out a way to really hold both parents accountable, that will go hand in hand with more fairly awarding some of the nicer aspects of parental responsibility. Because equality really does work both ways, and if you want more control over whether or not a woman pregnant with your child terminates that pregnancy with or without your input, you also have to talk about ways for women to exert more control, real control, over their bodies. How to empower them to demand (and actually receive from pharmacists) birth control, have the ability to leave dangerous and violent relationships, and help them to have real choices regarding that pregnancy. Because you're right, it would be considered unconscionable for a man to force a woman into an unwanted abortion, and it should likewise be morally indefensible for a woman to end a pregnancy against the father's wishes. Sadly, the current power dynamic between men and women make that an untenable position. So working to change that imbalance means we could all win a little more often.

6 Comments:

Blogger Phutatorius' Chestnut said...

"Yet a man can impregnate a woman and walk away."

After a paternity test, can't he be forced to pay child support? He can only "walk away" if he walks very fast to another country, or she never got his name, or something. No?

Why can't pregnancy be treated more like an STD -- for the man, lets act like its HIV (its not a death sentence and a cocktail of expensive monthy treatments will be necessary, probably for the rest of your life); for women, its more like syphilis (can be treated easily if you catch it early enough, otherwise you will slowly lose your quality of life, may go insane, and will eventually die).

Courts should rule appropriately: a woman that lies ("I can't get pregnant, Flash -- stickitin") resulting in pregnancy: put them on trial for manslaughter. A man who does the same: well, I guess there isn't any criminal penalty to knowingly spreading syphilis, is there? Maybe this isn't a good analogy.

1:12 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

First, one of the key phrases there is 'after a paternity test.' It may be difficult or impossible for a woman to successfully 'force' a man to submit to a paternity test. And yes, afterwards there are laws in place to 'force' him to pay child support, but they are very poorly enforced, hence why a third of child support goes unpaid every year. Plus, there are tons of extenuating circumstances around child support, such as a woman fleeing a violent relationship being willing to forgo child support because her abuser uses it as leverage to keep contacting her (i.e. I won't ask for visitation rights if you don't ask for child support).

As for punishing women for lying about their ability to get pregnant - men lie about such things too (I'll pull out, no, the condom didn't break/have a hole in it, etc. etc.). Why is it more heinous if women do it?

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so I agree that the current situation sucks for everyone - with assymetries and power imbalances of many forms. And right now it might make sense to mostly worry about stop-gap measures: preventing harmful deviations from the status quo.

But at some point if we're going to actually fix this issue, we have to have a broader strategy - a goal that we can get almost everyone to buy into (if not on the means to get there). So, what would it look like to be in a place such that the emotional, financial, and biological issues of parenthood (or not) were handled reasonably, and both men and women could have meaningful rights and responsibilities?

-Steve

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so I agree that the current situation sucks for everyone - with assymetries and power imbalances of many forms. And right now it might make sense to mostly worry about stop-gap measures: preventing harmful deviations from the status quo.

But at some point if we're going to actually fix this issue, we have to have a broader strategy - a goal that we can get almost everyone to buy into (if not on the means to get there). So, what would it look like to be in a place such that the emotional, financial, and biological issues of parenthood (or not) were handled reasonably, and both men and women could have meaningful rights and responsibilities?

-Steve

7:48 AM  
Blogger Phutatorius' Chestnut said...

I'm not a breeder, so I didn't realize you couldn't force a paternity test out of a man. Also, your extenuating circumstances and invocation of deadbeat dads not paying child support are good points. I took "walk away" at face value, but those issues make me much more understand-y.

I didn't suggest men can't lie -- it was implicit in my suggestion. The fact that women would be punished more harshly for an equal lie is the perverse conclusion which suggests my argument is flawed =) I thought it was funny. I'm probably not as cute as I think.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me? Bait you? Never. It's completely unlike me.

I might jump into this discussion later, depending on how it starts to shape up.

~Sid

2:10 PM  

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