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Equality or Patriarchy?

Trish Wilson
 
Abject hatred of women has taken an especially ugly turn with the resurgence of "Fathers' Manifesto," a particularly egregious fathers' rights umbrella organization available on the World Wide Web. Its home base is Orange County, California, which is one of the largest bastions of the John Birch Society in the entire country. John Knight, founder of "Fathers' Manifesto," (also known as the American Institute for Men) was released from prison in late 1996, after being incarcerated for nonpayment of child support. He had published his manifesto on internet newsgroups in 1995, requesting those who supported it to sign on and join his mailing list. He claimed that several thousand men and women did just that. What the signatories apparently didn't expect was for Knight to take the entire contents of his Manifesto and publish it on the World Wide Web. Once it became known that the Manifesto was available for public viewing, signatories began to request to have their names removed from the signatory page, obviously because they did not want to have their true sentiments exposed. 

Robert Lindsay Cheney, Jr., Executive Director of the Sovereign Patriot Group in Chico, California, and one of seven signatories of the "Reaffirmation and Declaration" of Fathers Manifesto, was released from prison on May 1, 1997 for refusing to pay child support. Manifesto signatories John Knight (founder of Fathers' Manifesto), Christopher Robin, and Monica Hoeft-Ross had written extensively regarding Cheney's plight on the fathers' rights mailing list Parents and Children for Equality (PACE), including plaintive wailings of their fears that the poor man would die following his self-imposed hunger strike. (He didn't. One month after his release from prison he had spammed the mailing list FamilyLaw-L with his Sovereign Patriot Constitutional/common law mishmash nonsense.) Mr. Robin, a wealthy man from Hollywood, California, owns the Purple Heart House. He had covered his house with "purple hearts" for each father who, he claims, had been unfairly kept from his children. Ms. Hoeft-Ross is a member of both Fathers' Rights and Equality Exchange (F.R.E.E.) and the Coalition of Parental Support (COPS -- alternative web site here). Discussion of Mr. Cheney's case and fathers' rights support of his Patriot and Sovereign citizen sensitivities ran rampant on the PACE listserv under subject headers such as "ROBERT CHENEY P.O.W. HUNGER STRIKE," "OROVILLE NAZI-LAND! FREE ROBERT CHENEY!," "ROBERT CHENEY, POLITICAL PRISONER," "FREE ROBERT CHENEY.......GESTAPO HEADQUARTERS," "FREE ROBERT CHENEY.....BOYCOTT BUTTE COUNTY....NAZI-LAND!," "Fwd: JUSTICE IN BUTTE COUNTY....HOME OF NAZI SHERIFF GREY....," "P.O.W. ROBERT CHENEY LATEST LETTER," and "BOYCOTT BUTTE COUNTY....FIRE SHERIFF RED-NECK MICK GREY....AVOID OROVILLE AT ALL COSTS!" 

Signatories include leaders and members of major fathers' rights groups such as the American Fathers Coalition (aka American Fathers Alliance), Fathers for Equal Rights, Fathers United for Equal Rights, The Men's Internetwork, The Children's Rights Council, The Family Guardian Network, Fathers Rights and Equality Exchange, and The American Coalition for Fathers and Children. These groups position themselves as representatives of the mainstream mens' and fathers' rights movement. 

Lest anyone believes that signatories of Fathers' Manifesto represent the lunatic fringe of the movement, it should be noted that representatives of the groups listed (including specific signatories) testified at 1995 public hearings for the U. S. Commission on Child and Family Welfare. The World Wide Web site for KidsCampaigns, driven by the Benton Foundation and supported by the White House, cites the following fathers' rights groups as participants: Children's Rights Council, Coalition of Parental Support, Dads Against Discrimination, Family Guardian Network, Fathers' Rights and Equality Exchange, My Child Says Daddy, National Congress for Fathers and Children, The American Fathers Alliance, and United Fathers of America. All of these groups have either leadership, membership, or both who are signatories of Fathers Manifesto. 

Fathers rights groups have always pulled out their favored banners "best interests of the child," "child support is more than a paycheck," and "kids need fathers, too" in order to dupe the uninformed public into believing it is concerned primarily with assisting fathers who wish to raise their children properly. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

Fathers' Manifesto "Reaffirmation and Declaration" reads as follows: 

We Signatories to the Fathers' Manifesto, responding to natural and Biblical laws, in defense of our nation and our families, hereby declare and assert our patriarchal role in society. America *is an experiment in freedom, and the feminist experiment in freedom, under the guise of "equality", unleashed a panoply of social ills which have become a cancer on our land, led to the moral and economic destruction of our nation, made America a house divided unto itself, created a vast underclass with a bleak and bankrupt future, and is the greatest national disaster we have ever faced. 

Recognizing patriarchy to be the greatest creator of wealth, prosperity, and stability civilization has ever known, we hereby demand that our children, homes, lives, liberty, and property be unconditionally restored to us. We hereby demand replacement of the doctrine of Parens Patria with the Biblical doctrines upon which this nation was founded. We hereby recognize and reaffirm that patriarchy is the order established under God and under His Natural Law. 

We, the posterity of this nation, hereby reclaim our ancestral liberties and God-given rights. Signed this day, Sunday, May 25, in the One Thousand Nine Hundred Ninety Seventh Year of our Lord.

The fathers' rights movement does not support any one particular form of child custody. However, it is important to understand that, regardless of the version of child custody supported by a group or individual, the versions supported ultimately benefit the father to the detriment of the mother and the children. Even though Fathers' Manifesto itself lobbies for total and full child custody to the father with no exceptions whatsoever, that particular form of custody is not universally supported by all signatories. 

The stance of full father custody comes from a purposeful misrepresentation of common law in which the father is to be awarded full custody of children upon divorce. Upon separation, these people believe that the father retains "chattel rights" -- the children, all property, all earnings. However, of course, illegitimate children go to the mother unless the father accepts those children into his home. If he does, upon separation, those children shall go with him. Two hundred years ago, fathers indeed DID have full chattel rights, but that practice has since been replaced first with the "tender years doctrine," and today with "the best interests of the child." Children and women are not property, but Manifesto signatories continue to view them in that manner. 

Fathers' Manifesto supports abolishment of welfare, social security, AFDC, food stamps, HUD, alimony, child support, and "all other transfers of assets which encourage or support fatherlessness." Fathers' Manifesto goes as far as urging for the repeal of women's right to vote. It also calls for the conversion of "... 'battered women's shelters' to 'battered spouse's shelters', or eliminate them. These organizations have become guerrilla training centers in the war against fatherhood and must be converted into facilities which assist in the elimination of fatherlessness and the preservation of families." The elimination of battered women's shelters plays into men's rights propaganda that men and women are equally abusive of each other.

 The rise of the second wave of feminism is blamed in large part for the downfall of the American family as well as teen suicide, low S.A.T. scores, teen pregnancy, child abuse, high unemployment, high divorce rates and low marriage rates. Mr. Cheney describes the point of view passionately in this portion of the sixteen page letter he had written from his prison cell to Christopher Robin, which was made available on the PACE mailing list. He believes that "...this Feminist/Socialist SUPERSTRUCTURE 'should' have been eradicated back in the 60's when welfare and "the single female-headed household" exploded through LBJ's THE GREAT SOCIETY. Because, they did not quash this unjust aberration, now we have a full blown cancer on our hands. If we do[n] not [s]quash this abomination, our children and their children's children shall curse us. I'm convinced this system has been developed by Feminists, Socialists and the attendant special interest groups to destroy the American Father. [T]hey attack the real independent Power Source of this nation, directly at Ground Zero of his own home...THE DAD." 

Referring to the United States as a "matriarchy," Manifesto supporters, including American Fathers Coalition, American Coalition of Fathers and Children, the Coalition of Parental Support, the Family Guardian Network insist that this "matriarchy" is responsible for a wide variety of social ills. 

Father's Manifesto cites faulty statistics, in this case provided by the Coalition of Parental Support (COPS), which supposedly establish that all social ills are a direct result of children living in single-mother households. Several members of COPS are Manifesto signatories. The only cure proposed by the Fathers' Manifesto crowd is father involvement in the form of sole father custody. These free-floating numbers are meaningless because correlation does not prove causation, and because sources are not provided. When sources ARE provided, they show that the figures themselves are correct, but the words "fatherless homes" are not present in the text. Commonly cited sources such as the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the U. S. Bureau of the Census, indicate that many factors such as poverty, malnutrition, nonpayment of child support, and a history of domestic violence may contribute to severe difficulties in single-parent homes, but the single mother herself is not the cause. Nor do the sources conclude that the presence of the father alone will solve the problems. 

bullet85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. 
bullet90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. 
bullet71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 
bullet75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. 
bullet63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. 
bullet80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes. 
bullet70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes. 
bullet85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. 
The fathers' rights movement has used misconstrued and free-floating figures such as these as a means to promote misogyny and racism to state and federal legislatures. The American Fathers Coalition (aka The American Fathers Alliance) has cited figures such as these to support its own punitive welfare reform proposal - entitled "Welfare Reform - No Room for Daddy?" - which had been presented to the White House. Welfare is seen as an incentive for women to have children out of wedlock, not as the end result of a multitude of factors, primarily poverty, and abandonment and/or contemptible treatment of the children and the mother by the father. AFC chides Congress and the White House for their failure "... to give children a father. Welfare reform cannot be accomplished unless reformers are willing to put fathers back in the home." The presence of the father alone -- regardless of the man's behavior around the children and their mother, if he was present at all -- is seen as being enough to stave off those horrible consequences of "fatherlessness," notwithstanding that his physical, emotional, and financial abandonment of his family greatly contributed to their downfall, often as far as the welfare rolls. 

American Fathers' Alliance's (AFA/AFC) "7 Steps to Welfare Reform and Healthy Children" include immediate switch in custody from mother to father should the mother find it necessary to apply for AFDC. This applies ONLY if the father wishes to take custody of his children. If he does not, mother and children immediately proceed to the welfare rolls. This rationale is similar to the Patriot view that fathers have full chattel rights upon divorce. 

Another step of the Welfare Reform proposal requires that "...recipients of AFDC benefits should somehow be accountable for how those benefits are spent. AFDC benefits and child support should accrue to the benefit of the children." There have been similar attempts at imposing sanctions upon non-AFDC mothers regarding itemization of how mothers are spending child support monies. Most often, during divorce, these men demand that their soon-to-be-ex's itemize down to the penny exactly how the child support is being spent. Such demands are made due to the completely unfounded belief held by many of these men and their new wives that mothers use child support to buy new cars, new clothes, and to take expensive vacations. 

This Welfare Reform proposal also recommended that "... states should adopt a presumption of joint custody and visitation as a method of encouraging voluntary child support payment." A presumption of joint PHYSICAL custody is to what AFC refers. Joint physical custody dramatically lowers or completely eliminates the fathers' child support obligation, yet leaves the responsibility for all child-rearing decisions, including medical and schooling, to the mother. "Voluntary child support payments" refers to the 1989-90 Census Bureau "Child Support and Alimony" paper which stated that in cases of joint custody, 90% of mothers received child support payments in full. What AFC neglects to mention is that joint custody accounted for only appx. 7% of all custody cases in 1989-90. Also, since child support awards in joint custody are much lower than awards in sole custody arrangements (assuming there is an award at all), they are much easier to pay. The people in these cases acted responsibly regarding child support, and probably acted responsibly in other areas of their lives as well. Joint custody in and of itself did not cause the high rate of child support payments. F.R.E.E. has twisted this particular statistic in a manner similar to AFA. 

During the last two Fathers' Days, fathers rights activists held rallies across America. Press releases urged participants to engage in activities such as wearing leg irons and carrying a "coffin of fatherhood" which was to be dropped on the steps of the U. S. Supreme Court. The coffin was never dropped because the man who was supposed to deliver it was in prison at that time for nonpayment of child support. These men awarded themselves "Purple Hearts for Fatherhood," to symbolize the "war wounds" they've received in the "war on fatherhood." When Oz Grimes, a Korean conflict combat veteran from California, learned of the 1996 demonstrations, his first reaction was disbelief which was quickly followed by anger. "Who do these so-called wounded fathers think they are to appropriate such a symbol?" stated Mr. Grimes. "They dishonor the men who earned the medal - men who sustained real, physical wounds, who suffered actual pain, who shed real blood." Indeed, the fathers' rights movement has trivialized the symbol of suffering in war by such a cheap stunt. Mr. Grimes hopes those who see these awards are as disgusted by them as he is. He stated with anger that "these fools deserve nothing but our contempt!" 

How right he is. 

"Fathers' rights" rarely refers to children, unless the mention or presence of children is deemed necessary to promote misogyny. These men and the new women in their lives may wax eloquently about the children they claim have been unfairly and illegally stolen, but one has only to glance past the surface glitz of their websites and press releases to see the rot that lurks underneath. Christopher Robin, who owns that "Purple Heart House," described one way in which he had taught responsibility to his son, whom he claims he hasn't seen in 340 days: 

I told him that if he misbehaved, I would have to spank myself for being a bad parent...and we'd laugh together. I made a deal with him when he was very little that if I ever took God's name in vain or said any bad words, I'd have to give him a Benjamin Franklin. One day, I slipped and said, "Oh God!" My little 7 year old son looked up at me and said..."DAD!" I reached into my billfold and handed him a $100 bill and thanked him for reminding me. We both laughed again. 
Linked from Mr. Robin's site is a horrendous spoof of a Michigan N.O.W. article about fathers rights, is entitled "National COW Times The Official Newsletter of Copraphagic Ol' Witches, Inc., "Fupp Ducks: Beware The Real Agenda! by Gloria Woodhedd, President, Witchigan COW, March 1997." The author has not included his name; only a statement identifying his purpose as "telling it like it is." He says "I'm male. I'm offensive by nature and proud of it." 

Consider his kind thoughts on equality: 

Naturally, we disapprove of equality with mere men. Like blacks, you never know when they'll rape you. I mean, look at Mandingo, my pool boy. At night, when he sees my shimmering alabaster globes in the moonlight, he gets such a big, throbbing, blue-veined.-- well, er, ahem.... Anyway, everyone knows fathers molest kids just like Irish swill whiskey. Men are no more loving than Jews. In fact, they're as scarce at PTA meetings as Scots in pay toilets. I don't care if dad IS 2,000 miles away driving an 18-wheeler 12 hours a day: if Soccer Mom can get to a mid-afternoon meeting, so can Driver Dad. 
Appearing at the end of his spoof of a Michigan N.O.W. article about fathers rights, Mr. Robin's poem aptly illustrates the incredible rage and hatred the entire mens' and fathers' rights movement feels towards all women. This rage and hatred is so palpable that it leaves one speechless. 
Old Mackinnon had a farm. Ee-aye-ee-aye-oh.
And on this farm she saw animals rape. Ee-aye-ee-aye-oh.
With a dog rape here, and a cow rape there. Here a rape, there a rape, everywhere a rape-rape.
Old Mackinnon had a farm. Ee-aye-ee-aye-no-men.
-- from a children's rhyme, sung on feminist-animal farms
Fear for the children these men claim to represent. 

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See For Yourself: 

Fathers Manifesto
Fathers Manifesto - Signatories page
Fathers Manifesto - Reaffirmation & Declaration
Fatherhood Statistics, by John Knight. Posted in "Fathering Magazine."
Christopher Robin and Son
American Fathers Coalition - Welfare Reform Proposals

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