The feminist crusade against fatherhood


reprinted from Breaking the Glasses

Feminists will tell you that “Patriarchy” is the reason fathers are discriminated against in criminal court, via the presumption that women are better caregivers. That assertion is on a list that is being circulated and repeated by grassroots feminists in “debate,” without ever questioning its validity. A little research into the history of changes in custody standards debunks the claim.

The legal presumption that women are naturally better caregivers, used as a determining factor in the decision of child custody, is rooted in 19th century feminist activism. At that time, divorce was much more rare, and subject to strict rules. There was no no-fault divorce, and the reasons accepted for requesting one were limited to circumstances like adultery and neglect. If there were children from a marriage, they were considered to be in their father’s custody, not the custody of the couple. Whether the couple separated or divorced, they remained in their father’s custody.

This was the situation faced by Caroline Norton after separating from her husband, George Norton. The end of her marriage to her husband was not brought on by circumstances that were approved reasons for divorce. Because of this, when Norton separated from her husband, he had complete control of her ability to see their children. Norton looked for legal means to counter her husband’s alienation of her from her children, and found none. With no legal recourse, she began fighting to change the law.

When Caroline Norton wrote the bill which would become The Custody of Infants Act of 1839, followed by her “plain” letter to the Lord Chancellor regarding the bill, she probably had no idea that her writing would end up as the inspiration for a court doctrine which would cause for fathers in multiple nations to suffer exactly the indignities she was trying to eliminate in her own life and the lives of other women, but that is what occurred. The Custody of Infants Act was the start of what is now referred to as the Tender Years Doctrine, the basis upon which it became traditional to place custody of children in divorcing families with the mother. The argument that mothers are better caregivers is put forth in Mrs. Norton’s “plain” letter, in which she stated that fathers have to hire nursemaids to replace their wives’ involvement in the lives of children during their “tender years,” and therefore it is natural that the child should be placed in the custody of the mother. Over the years, this doctrine, originally intended to prevent divorce from keeping women from their children, has been pushed and twisted into an every-case imperative, making maternal custody the default in divorce cases.

Objections to the bill included the prediction that with the ability to gain custody of their children, women would be more likely to divorce their husbands, and dire warnings of maternal kidnapping to keep children from their fathers.

The result of her effort was the passage of the Custody of Enfants act of 1839, the basis for the Tender Years doctrine, which was used for much of the 20th century as the standard on which custody decisions were based. The tender years doctrine has since been abandoned for the nicer-sounding “best interests of the child” standard, but the determination of the child’s best interests includes presuming true the beliefs laid out in the tender years doctrine, namely, that young children are best off with their mothers.

In 1910, the Uniform Desertion and Non-Support Act was proposed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, and passed with modifications by 24 states. It was intended to address abandonment of the family by the husband and father, who at that time was generally their sole means of support. The unmodified version stated:

This was due to the far lower earning capacity of women at that time, as women considered less productive employees and were paid lower wages. The child support system, in other words, is a factor of traditional gender stereotypes.

Child support law has evolved over time since then, with broader and often senseless application, greater strictness, and greater government involvement in enforcement. One of the issues which men’s rights activists have with existing child support law is that changes in it have not kept up with changes in women’s circumstances. The conditions which child support law was written to address are no longer a factor; women can work, and earn a living the same as a man. Not having a man in the house doesn’t automatically need to translate into poverty.

Feminists argue the implication of custody and child support statistics are debatable, claiming that fathers who file for custody get it most of the time. That claim is their basis for the assumption that fathers don’t get custody of their children because they don’t want it.

However, for a father to file for and be granted custody, he must first amass the funds for a lawyer and court costs. If his income is moderate (or low) and is already being reduced by a child support payment, he has little or no ability to fund any legal action.

Further, when feminists claim that fathers get “custody” of their children whenever they ask for it, they’re including joint custody agreements. These are nothing more than maternal custody/paternal visitation rewritten to recognize the father as a legitimate parent and afford him the ability to make decisions regarding the child’s medical care and school attendance. The living arrangement of the child is the same as when a mother has full legal custody, so the difference is mainly on paper.

This situation means that women do not have to be financially stable to be awarded custody of their children, while fathers have to have enough money to pursue legal action before the court will even consider awarding them custody.

The result has been an increase in single mother households living under the poverty level, eligible for and collecting government assistance. According to the latest data from the U.S. census bureau, custodial mothers are more likely than custodial fathers to:

  •     Not have jobs and not have enough non-employment income to be above the poverty level without being employed
  •     Earn low income even if employed
  •     Have custody of four or more children
  •     Combine joblessness with multiple child custody
  •     Become custodial parents as teens.

Single fathers report more income from employment (wages and salaries or self-employment) and savings and investment (interest, dividend, rental, and other property income), while single mothers report much more income from assistance sources (for example, unemployment, workers’ compensation, public assistance, alimony, and child support). This difference is in part due to the requirement that fathers prove themselves fit parents in order to obtain custody, while mothers do not face such expectations unless custody is contested in court. Social attitudes also play a role in this; a mother living in poverty is considered a victim of abandonment and financial neglect by the estranged father of her children. A father living in poverty is considered a deadbeat who won’t man up and take care of his family. Even though both parents have the same capacity to obtain employment and earn a living, only one is held responsible for doing so.

Cutting fathers out of their children’s’ lives can have significant negative impact on the child.

Research by Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton suggests that boys are significantly more likely to end up in jail or prison by the time they turn 30 if they are raised by a single mother. Bruce Ellis of the University of Arizona found that about one-third of girls whose fathers left the home before they turned 6 ended up pregnant as teenagers, compared with just 5 percent of girls whose fathers were there throughout their childhood. A study by Mary Corcoran and Roger Gordon of the University of Michigan shows that receipt of welfare income has negative effects on the long-term employment and earnings capacity of young boys. That study also found that both boys and girls were twice as likely to become unwed teen parents if raised in a fatherless home.

Fathers’ rights groups have sought to remedy the courts’ senseless handling of child custody by introducing and advocating for legislation to change the standard custody arrangement following an uncontested divorce. These laws, introduced in the United States, Australia, and Canada, would ensure equal time with each parent. This would also change how child support is handled, as equal time between the parents would mean that neither should be faced with a greater share of the child’s living expenses. This would limit reasons for assigning a child support obligation to factors like differences in income or other personal resources.

Feminist groups have opposed the introduction of laws related to equally shared parenting using writing that uses a dishonest representation of the law as an every-case imperative, and demonization of fathers as deadbeats and abusers to argue against the proposed standard.

NOW “action alert” on father’s rights groups

Michigan NOW against shared parenting law

(Note that Michigan NOW has scrubbed the original of this post from the ‘net. The original link,, still comes up in searches of Michigan NOW’s content, ((screenshot)) is widely referenced, and is quoted all over, but there is now no example of it in its original form.

This is consistent with their past opposition to joint custody bills, as this 1981 New York Times article shows, and as this 1984 New York Magazine article shows, and as this 1986 WSJ article shows.

In 2001, NOW boycotted nationwide government consultations on changes to divorce law because men were participating.

California NOW’s 2002 “Family Court Report” restated NOW’s objections to fathers’ rights groups and custody reform legislation.

In 2005 and again in 2009, NOW opposed shared parenting bills in New York.

In 2007, Michigan NOW opposed shared parenting bill HB 5664.

In 2016, Florida NOW opposed a reform of the state’s family law that would have  encouraged shared parenting and changed the state’s alimony laws.

Feminist groups state that if shared parenting were ordered, fathers would not provide their share of the daily care for the children. The National Organization For Women and the  American Bar Association also question the motives of those promoting shared parenting, noting that it would result in substantial decreases in or termination of child support payments.

Feminist arguments include claims that equally shared parenting laws would force judges to place children in abusive homes, and that men only want custody of their children to get out of paying child support. However, proposed laws would not make the equal time standard a set-in-stone requirement, but merely the default in uncontested cases. If a parent does not want that arrangement, he or she can contest it in court. If both parents agree that they want a different arrangement, they can sign a contract to that effect, as well.

While feminists accuse fathers of being deadbeats who have abandoned their children, available information shows that to be untrue.

  • 40% of mothers reported that they had interfered with the non-custodial father’s visitation on at least one occasion, to punish their ex-spouse
  • Between 25% & 33% of mothers denied visits
  • 90% of the violence and kidnapping we have seen are in sole custody situations in which the sole custodial parent fears losing his or her custody status, or the parentectomized parent kidnaps the child away from the sole custody parent who possessively blocks the visiting parent from access.

    – Frequency of Visitation by Divorced Fathers: Differences in Reports by Fathers and Mothers – Sanford H. Braver, Ph.D., Sharlene A. WoIchik, Ph.D., Irwin M. Sandler, Ph.D., Bruce S. Fogas, Ph.D., Daria Zvetina, M.Ed.

  • Unilateral abuse of parental custodial power is more common in court ordered sole custody situations.

    – Child Custody and Parental Cooperation – Frank Williams, M.D., Dir. Psychiatry

  • “Perhaps half of the mothers valued the father’s continued contact with his children, and protected the contact with care and consideration. One-fifth saw no value in this whatsoever and actively tried to sabotage the meetings by sending the children away just before the father’s arrival, by insisting that the child was ill, or had pressing homework to do, by making a scene, or by leaving the children with the husband and disappearing. In between was a large group of women who had many mixed feelings about the father’s visits, resenting the father’s excessive gift-giving and his freedom from domestic responsibilities. These irritations were expressed in their difficulties in accommodating the different schedules of the other parent to make the visit possible and to protect the child’s access to both parents, in forgotten appointments, in insistence on rigid schedules for the visits, in refusal to permit the visit if the father brought along an adult friend – in a thousand mischievous, mostly petty, devices designed to humiliate the visiting parent and to deprecate him in the eyes of his children.”

    – Surviving the Breakup – Joan Berlin Kelly and Judith S. Wallerstein

  •  The former spouse [mother] was the greatest obstacle to having more frequent contact with the children

    – Increasing Our Understanding of Fathers Who Have Infrequent Contact With Their Children – James R. Dudley, Professor, University North Carolina

  • 70% of fathers felt they had too little time with their children.
  • Very few of the children were satisfied with the amount of contact with their fathers, after divorce.
  • Few men can afford to legally contest every infringement of the visitation agreement.

    -Visitation and the Noncustodial Father – Mary Ann P. Koch, Carol R. Lowery, Journal of Divorce, Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 1984)

That’s not fathers abandoning their children, but mothers refusing to allow their children time with their fathers. This puts fathers in the position of having to take legal action, or tolerate being evicted from their children’s lives by custodial mothers.

While feminists accuse fathers of being abusive, data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that the majority of child abusers are women.

The above list of links does show a decline in percentage, but some of that can be accounted for by an overall decline in child abuse in the U.S. over the past 5 years.

Study: Child abuse on decline in U.S. (CBS)

Child Abuse Rate In The U.S. Drops For 5th Straight Year (Huffington Post)

Statistics showing that women are more than half of abuse perpetrators in the U.S. directly contradict NOW’s inference that routinely assigning custody to mothers following divorce would prevent children from being placed in abusive homes. One could even come to the conclusion that routinely assigning custody to mothers puts children at greater risk, yet nobody is proposing that mothers be cut out of their children’s lives to eliminate that risk.

Baseless accusations and conditions which aren’t gender specific are not legitimate reasons to oppose instituting equally shared parenting as the applied custody arrangement in uncontested divorces. As a society, we’ve seen the negative effects of cutting either parent out of the child’s life. Wouldn’t it be most beneficial to the child to ensure that he or she receive the benefit of both parents whenever possible?

If the best interest of the child really is the standard feminists embrace, the most sensible way they can show that is by ceasing to oppose equally shared parenting initiatives. That opposition is not rooted in concern over abuse, but self-serving bigotry against men.

Hannah Wallen
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About the author

Hannah Wallen

Hannah has witnessed women's use of criminal and family courts to abuse men in five different counties, and began writing after she saw one man's ordeal drag on for seven years, continuing even when authorities had substantial evidence that the accuser was gaming the system. She is the author of Breaking the Glasses, written from an anti-feminist perspective, with a focus on men's rights and sometimes social issues. Breaking the Glasses refers to breaking down the "ism" filters through which people view the world, replacing thought in terms of political rhetoric with an exploration of the human condition and human interactions without regard to dogmatic belief systems. She has a youtube channel (also called Breaking the Glasses), and has also written for A Voice For Men and Genderratic. Hannah's work can be supported at

<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="154462">25 comments</span>

  • And they wonder why men are staying single. The constant assault on men has made people like me who wanted a wife and kids enjoy the single life

    • My proudest moment was watching my kid pitch his first full inning of baseball.

      That didn’t stop me from separating and getting divorced from his mom. We have shared custody, and I basically rolled over in the divorce to minimize any chances of her taking offense with my actions.

      My son is the only thing worthwhile I have from the marriage.

      • I made the same set of choices. Fortunately my ex was decent and honorable, but she didn’t have to be. that’s the problem. And honestly, my son was the only thing of value in that whole episode.

  • “Feminists will tell you that “Patriarchy” is the reason fathers are discriminated against in criminal court, via the presumption that women are better caregivers.”
    With the real victims being the women who are being stereotyped rather than the men who are having their children torn away from them. Of course.

  • The wealthy Elite families “rave” about their big extended families…while the poor and working class continue to be “Broken” by the new Femi-nazi courts.

    • My brain fart read “Femi-nazi courts” as “Femi-nazi cunts”.

      Regardless, to say the two terms one after the other would be to repeat one’s self.

  • If the bias in the family court system for custody for the mother is a product of the patriarchy , why are the feminists not fighting to eliminate this patriarchal oppression?

  • This is very good, but, sorry, this is not a feminist problem. It’s a woman problem. Fathers and children have a woman problem. Women of all stripes are behind this. HBs stop passing the buck on this.

    • This is a feminist problem for 2 reasons:
      Feminists were the ones informing policy changes which led to it, and feminists are the ones fighting against policy changes to remedy it.

      • Oh please. Do you think you’re dealing with the car chump here? EVERY separating or divorcing mother in America has the choice to share parenting with dad, but almost none do that. They’d rather have the kids and the “child” support than have dad in their kids’ lives. This is undeniable.

        It’s mothers who have crusaded against fathers (and children) for the last 50 years. Ask Warren Farrell who was lighting up the phones in the sixties and seventies imploring NOW to cut fathers out of their children’s lives. It was mothers, not feminists.

        Sorry for the terseness, but getting sick of the pussy pass. The idea that a few nut job feminists are solely responsible for destroying fathers is ridiculous.

        • Read up on Caroline Norton.

          Both sexes do the same thing when the court allows them to engage in parental alienation and property grabbing with impunity.

          There are both men and women fighting for fair custody laws that would make 50/50 shared parenting the default. Only feminists are fighting to preserve a system that facilitates parental alienation and other forms of abuse.

          Even your own comment proves you wrong. You cite NOW as a proponent of cutting fathers out of children’s lives – its the most prominent feminist organization in the United States. It’s all feminist, and only feminist.

          Feminists absolutely are responsible for keeping the courts biased against men.

          • You need to talk to Karen Straughn. How is her shared parenting arrangement going? Hahahahaha… Last I checked she’s not a feminist. If you can’t get a hold of her it might be because she’s cashing her “child” support check.
            I do agree that men would take advantage of the system if they could. I’ve been saying that for years. However, that hardly lets the piggish behavior of women the last 50 years off the hook. What’s gone on in so-called “family” court over this time is repugnant, and blaming a few feminists for it is equally repugnant. NOW has done the bidding of women. That is undeniable. Until we put the blame squarely where it belongs, how can we have an honest discussion on where we go from here?

          • I talk to Karen regularly. You’ll be interested to know you have no understanding of her child custody/support situation. It’s almost as though you have never read or heard anything she’s said on the subject.

            You really should do some research before you talk shit about people so you don’t sound ignorant of their situations.

            I’ve personally seen both men and women behave the same way when the court is biased in their favor. It currently takes more for men to get that bias, but some do because of money or social position. Further, if you knew your history, you’d be aware that the current state of the court system only goes back a century, before which custody belonged to fathers. As I said, read up on Caroline Norton & the tender years doctrine. Learn something about the history of lobbying efforts related to this subject. Get back to me when you actually know something about the history of child custody law and its abuses, who fought to bias the courts in women’s favor, and who fought to keep it that way.

          • Just like every other woman in the “civilized” west I’m sure Karen has loads of excuses why she chose not to share parenting. Her situation? My ass. Let me guess it was HIS fault? Where are all the good men anyway, right?
            I know more history on this than you do Hannah. Yep, a century! You’re right. Since women have had the vote they’ve been using it to back politicians who are screwing fathers and children over. Feminists are only doing the bidding of women.
            Where, exactly, are all the women willing to share parenting Hannah? Where are all the women willing to forgo “child” support Hannah. I don’t know any of these women. I’m guessing you don’t either. If you’re going to suggest mothers are merely innocent bystanders in this whole shitshow you need to show me something. They’re not innocent Hannah. They’re guilty!

          • Reality isn’t your strong point, is it, Carchamp?
            Karen did choose not to share parenting. Or to receive child support.

            Do your homework.

            You have women and feminists backward, dear. Laws passed related to custody and child support have been lobbied for by feminists and passed by the votes of legislative bodies made up mostly of men, not women.
            Prior to feminist petitioning to courts and legislative bodies, it was standard for men to have custody. The feminist who wrote the bill and letter the tender years doctrine came from did so because of her husband’s choice to not share custody with her. When given the opportunity, both sexes are equally capable of corrupt, dysfunctional behavior.

            Learn a few things before you start spouting off. You sound exactly like a RadFem, but in the reverse. There’s nothing productive in that.

  • The “concern” for paternal leave by feminists also seems largely shallow, and seems to stem from not wanting women to have a disadvantage due to having to take time off work. But I was thinking, that (and other feminist issues they claim will help men, like crying) is an option available to only the most privileged of men.

    A recent comment of mine (full discussion here:
    “I don’t have an issue with equal paternal leave, but it is an option only in developed places. A third-world railroad worker that labors long hours cannot afford to ask for time off to spend with his baby. To him his parenting role is primarily one of scraping together whatever he can to feed his family, and since he doesn’t have to physically deal with childbirth and nursing, he’s going to be working long hours to provide for the new addition. Maternity leave isn’t as much an option available to third-world female sweatshop laborers either, who must, due to class, take on the male role of provider.
    Being financially able to spend time with one’s children at home is a privilege. If a man is able to do that, good for them. But you can’t simply tell a manual laborer to stay home and be with his baby. You have to update the conditions and economies they work under, before that is even an option.”

  • Every judge already knows everything you wrote down therefore the war against fathers is done on purpose! Think about it, judges, lawyers and all the scum sucking low lifes involved in this ‘Transfer of money scheme’ know every one of the statistics, they have to in order to stay ahead of them, and make up lies in order to protect their gravy train.

    As I’ve said many times over the years, none of what’s happening to men and children in “family” court is an accident. This is not a case of good intentions gone bad. Modern, so-called “family” law has always been about providing for women at the expense of men and children.

    People are puzzled today by the “unfairness” of what’s happening. I have news for everyone – THIS SYSTEM WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE FAIR. It is designed this way!!!

    A hundred years ago, there was never a suggestion that men, especially, be treated fairly in the realm of marriage and family. Men were to do their duty to women. There was then and continues to be gobs of social engineering unleashed on the public trying to convince men to “man up” for the sake of a woman.

    Collectively it’s called Gynocentrisim. And it is alive and well and we let in continue…

By Hannah Wallen

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