Fabricating fatherhood: changing men and the myth of women’s disadvantage

This week I fell into a spat with the Fatherhood Institute, took a closer look at the government’s new relationship support site ‘Love Nuggets’ and started to think more deeply about the lives of men as fathers and the messages they are given by the state via the charity sector.

A long time critic of the Fatherhood Institute, I took to a facebook page to hold FI to account for their continued pattern of releasing briefings to government with pleas for funding for a new campaign attached to them.  This latest briefing is no exception and suggests an ‘inspiring men’ campaign in which volunteers will go into places where children are to raise awareness and provide role models for young men who wish to go into non traditional jobs of work.

The response of FI was somewhat predictable and I have clearly both upset and frustrated them with what they termed my ‘continued carping’ about the work that they do and the money that they hoover up to do it.  Far from carping however, I consider that any organisation which depends upon large amounts of government funding (tax payers money), should be willing to answer to its critics and be transparent about what it delivers to the people it purports to represent.

The Fatherhood Institute, by its own admission, ‘does not work with fathers,’ which leaves us to wonder what it does do.  What it does, as written in reply to my question is train professionals, produce toolkits,  talk to the government and, from my observation, run campaigns that appear to come with proposals for more funding attached to them.

On the face of things, the list of things that FI on behalf of fathers appears laudable, they list training of thousands of professionals and they speak of working with Local Authorities to change practice, all excellent things which done properly transform practice and help fathers across the country access better support in order to be more confident in their role as dad.

But digging underneath, which is what we have to do in understanding the range of blocks and barriers facing the nation’s fathers today, a more murky reality emerges, one which is far less laudable and far less convincing in terms of how FI justifies the enormous sums of money it receives for the work that it does for dads.

The Fatherhood Institute is essentially an organisation which views the role of fathers through a feminist lens.  The reality of what it does, in training professionals, working with local authorities and advising government, is that it views dads as being deficient and in need of improvement.  This deficiency model, which is exemplified by FI’s submissions to the government on child maintenance for example, sees mums as the good parent and dads as the people who need to step up.  FI, in its submissions to government on child maintenance, focused almost entirely upon the need to make dads pay child maintenance rather than the way in which the continued conceptualisation of dads as paying parents sets in place barriers to father care after separation.  And in this most recent briefing, the introductory headline is –

women in the UK are still substantially disadvataged in relationship to men

Try telling that to the young men at risk of violence, abuse and early death. Or the dads who are pushed out of their children’s lives after separation, or the men at risk of homelessness or the boys who are not going to university.

The reality is that an organisation which calls itself the Fatherhood Institute should, at least to my mind, start from a place where fathers and fatherhood is not viewed through a feminist lens.  Whilst the Fatherhood Institute set itself up unashamedly as the antithesis to the father’s rights movement, it should not be allowed to occupy the role of sole spokesman for the lives of men as fathers across the UK, especially when so many other people are doing the work of driving forward equality based work which empowers and releases men from the constraints of a life lived at the mercy of approval of women.  Too many professionals in local authorities up and down our land, start from the place where a good dad is someone who does what women tell him to. We don’t need a national institution, funded by tax payers money, confirming for them that fathering is a positive thing but only when it is as close to mothering as it possibly can be.

Fathers are not mothers and they are no less important or valuable because of that. When the Fatherhood Institute stands up and says that, when it represents fathering from a true equalities based perspective, arguing for the liberation of all dads from the suffocating constraints of gendered roles and when it is able to promote and support the many and varied choices that men wish to make in their roles as fathers, I will stop my ‘carping’ and go back to what I do best, which is working with men as fathers and their children.  Until then, expect more of the same because my work with families is affected daily by the FI’s fabrications of fatherhood and I do not intend to stop speaking about that anytime soon.

Another government initiative caught my eye this week in the form of a ghastly titled website called Love Nuggets, which has been funded to the tune of £45,000 to provide the most trite round of nonsense I have seen in a long time.  This load of bananas (I am sorry not to be more articulate in my description but this is the only way of describing it) comes about through the combined efforts of One plus One, Dad.info and Netmums.  I could not quite believe it when I first looked at it but then, encouraged to look closer by a fantastic bit of number crunching by a good friend of our work Katrine (see below), I braced myself for a squint at what is branded as the latest campaign from charity One plus One about the everyday things that people do to make a happier relationship.

Love Nuggets appears to be a site on which you can spin a slot machine and read platitudes from other people about how to improve your relationship.  Quite how that fits into the government’s aim of supporting relationships I am not quite sure but the Guardian describes it thus

According to the OnePlusOne charity, such small acts “demonstrate commitment, improve communication, show we care, achieve compromise and even resolve conflicts”.

Revolutionary way to improve relationships or phenomenol waste of money?  Golden nuggets of sound advice to couples whose relationships is on the rocks or another round of exhortations to men to change their behaviour to please the women in their lives? (Echoes of the Fatherhood Institue’s deficient dad approach to service delivery).

Well Kat kindly performed a quick gender analysis on Love Nuggets, to get underneath what One plus One calls ‘the science’ behind the site so that we can see what Love Nuggets is really about. Based upon research outcomes, Love Nuggets tells us that it can save our relationships by showing us what other people have done to change their behaviours and save theirs.  Here then is Kat’s guide to gender analysis of the Love Nuggets site, showing us who, through the use of Love Nuggets is being asked to change.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 14.39.24 Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 15.08.18

Not much of a mystery when it is laid out like this is it?  Love Nuggets, like something from Chat Magazine, is nothing more than a set of repeated instructions to men about what to do to save their relationship.  Like the deficient dad approach of the Fatherhood Institute, relationship support a la the coalition government, sees men AS problems whilst women HAVE problems and the road to repair is not for the couple to work together or the woman in a couple to understand what she may have to do to contribute to a healthy relationship but for men to change their behaviour.

Until we change this underlying approach to our work with families, nothing but nothing will change for men as fathers and nothing but nothing will improve for children whose wellbeing depends upon their mother and father being able to navigate the ups and downs of relational difficulties together, as equals, both valuable and essential, neither more so than the other.

To show you how a different approach to family services could be delivered and how relationship support costs absolutely nothing at all, here is a fantastic little nugget of information I found on facebook this week. This guide to long term relationships tells it exactly how it is, showing us the ugly truth about ourselves as well as the strategies we all need to employ to run the marathon of staying together.  Fearless in the face of the issues that the women’s rights lobby will not allow anyone to talk about, such as fighting in relationships and hating and raging at each other and forthright in its determination to make us face facts, this guide is what every couple needs to stay together.  How frank, how refreshing and how very different to the trite rubbish that is produced by the charities that purport to represent families whilst reflecting back to government what it thinks government wants to hear and see, all wrapped up in the women’s rights model of delivery.

What families need is support that reflects the reality of the lives that families live, where dad in all his forms, is loved deeply by his children, who do not care or even know that the outside world in the shape of  government funded institutes, think he is deficient and wanting and in need of some self improvement.

When those who spend our taxes reflect that back to government and stand up for the rights of men AND women to be exactly who they are, valued and valuable without exception, I shall lay down my pen and stop ‘carping,’ until then, expect more of the same.

(The hidden narratives of the charities that sit around goverment must be exposed in my view. Until and unless we do this we are not going to move forward. Unless we speak about these invisible intentions, we will not understand why this country has such devastating breakdown in couple relationships and we will not be able to prevent children from suffering the fall out from family breakdown which is driven by the women’s rights campaign disguised as family services).

16 comments

  1. Pingback: Karen Woodall: ‘Fabricating fatherhood, changing men, and the myth of women’s disadvantage’ | Justice for men & boys
  2. exInjuria · August 3, 2014

    I agree with most of this, Karen, but I would make one criticism – and I suspect I am just as guilty, so I’m not really having a go, just exploring ideas – which is that you are preaching to the already converted, and to a familiar and comfortable group of online supporters and associates, but not really to the wider world. Most people won’t understand why the word ‘fatherhood’ in the Fatherhood Institute is an extraordinarily dishonest, self-serving and cynical use of the word – they will simply take it at face value.

    On that theme, I am not sure what Kat’s two graphs represent. You talk of number-crunching, but where have these numbers come from, how have they been crunched? I can see that there is a sort of misrepresentation going on, but the graphs are not self-explanatory.

    Somewhere we need to go back to basics, and educate people far more widely and in far more detail, how they have been hoodwinked, and why what they take for granted is wrong. But until they have their own epiphany they will resist.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · August 3, 2014

      Kat will hopefully come on and explain the graphs further but they are a gender analysis of the platitudes on the Love Nuggets site. They are the numbers of platitudes analysed by the number of times the comment is about men changing vs women changing vs both being told to change vs neutral advice. In that respect they show clearly that the number of love nuggets which exhort men to change their behaviour are by far greater than the number telling women to change theirs or the couple to change or neutral advice. In a gender analysis this would demonstrate that something which is purported to help relationships per se – ie it should have content to show how relaitonships are improved by both people changing, it is actually about telling men how to change.

      On your first point about preaching to the converted, I think this is not actually true, if I look at the stats on those who read this blog, it is read in an astonishing number of places and it is increasing in terms of its readership at a pace I cannot quite believe, (I have had more visits this year already than those in the whole of last year and it is reblogged across a wide range of sites to do with parenting and family services across 17 different countries). Also, the concept of family services being underpinned by women’s rights approaches albeit in an invisible way, appears to help people to understand how, when on the surface of things, fathering IS supported by funding to people like the fatherhood institute, nothing changes. So I think that from a consciousness raising perspective this kind of article is also enlightening others.

      What astonishes me are the numbers of people who read this blog for its analysis of feminism and my own eschewing of the feminist lens. The spikes in readership from all over the world appear when I speak about this.

      I think people know they are being hoodwinked, they just cannot quite work out how, which is why I intend to keep telling them and showing them!

      K

      Like

      • karenwoodall · August 3, 2014

        and I guess to answer the other point, which is about showing people with the power to make change what is really going on the reality is this.

        Since 1999 we have worked to show consecutive governments why fatherlessness is a significant problem in this country. We have shown them the reality, in the form of gender analysis, we have shown them the reality in terms of research, we have embedded the change which is required to drive different outcomes in a variety of different governmental initiatives and we have shown the difference it can make.

        When I realised, last year, that actually, consecutive governments KNOW that current social policy drives fatherlessness and that changing it requires them to do something different and that they are actually content not to do something different, I decided that I had done all I could to try and change things from the inside. I have documented that journey on this blog from my realisation that the people with power know what is wrong with social policy and why I could not longer tolerate the cognitive dissonance it required of me to keep doing what I was doing knowing that it would not make any difference whatsover.

        So I stepped outside of the government circle and decided to put my energies only into working directly with families. Through that I educate and support men and women to understand the social policy that governs their lives and I raise their awareness that putting their lives in the hands of the state and its funded charities will not resolve their problems, it will only worsen them and the lives of their children.

        This blog is part of that education.

        People say to us all the time that we should be on the inside. Believe me, we have been there and done that and seen how the ring of steel around family policy is impenetrable and made more so by the appeasement policies of the Fatherhood Institute.

        The FI only has to stand up and say enough is enough and tell it like it really is to begin the process of bringing this whole charade down. Until they do I will keep critiqueing them, until the wall falls down I will keep on educating people wherever and however I can.

        Just not the policiticians because they KNOW what is wrong and they are not going to change it.

        Why?

        Because they are appealing to women voters who are the people who really hold power in this country and until women voters see that reality and stop buying into it, nothing will change.

        Educating our women to understand the reality of what this does to the men and boys in their lives is one thing we could all do to push for change.

        And I have a lot of women reading this blog and passing it on.

        K

        Like

    • Kat · August 3, 2014

      No real number crunching involved. The site allows you to access all the nuggets as well as rolling the fruit machine, so I simply counted them all up and sorted them. My boyfriend feeds the cat in the morning so I can sleep for 5 min longer is counted as he takes action. I leave funny sketches of the cat for him so he can have a laugh when he gets home is counted as she takes action. We go for picnics in the park: both takes action and whenever the “nugget” is written in gender neutral language, my partner…. it goes into gender neutral. I then sorted them by the categories of the love nugget site: food and drink, home etc. to see if there was any difference, but really the picture is pretty much the same regardless of their category.

      The site does rely on user input so it will change over time and the graph is a picture of the situation Saturday just gone.

      Like

      • Kat · August 3, 2014

        P.S. I did it both in % and actual numbers (raw data) to show that some of the categories have so few nuggets to make the % meaningless.

        Like

      • Carl Garnham · August 4, 2014

        Beautiful excellent profound simplicity. Well done Kat. Genius!! x

        Like

  3. Great research which someone needs to do to highlight funding which is simply wrong. Hope the government picks up on waste.

    On a slightly off topic note, this video by psychologist Tom Golden, gives a super insight into how men deal with emotion problems and efforts to change the way they inherently are, and which he states that men are good – a position which the Fatherhood Institute would do well to come from – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7yaH-DVbYQ

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    • nrjnigel · August 3, 2014

      Karen I hope you will find the energy to continue. I believe you are right to observe that people are sensing something amiss. After all marxist (women are a ‘class”) feminism is the last of the isms of the 20th Century still to be exposed as unable to deliver on politically created heaven on earth. In a radio interview in Australia with three panelists two feminists and the originator of Women Against Feminism the penultimate caller made a telling point. A mother of three boys recounted how her 5 year old son had picked and given a classmate, a little girl, a bunch of flowers on valentines day. Only to get into trouble for “sexualising” the girl. The two feminists simply ignored the mothers comment in favour of lofty statements about MPs and the ” bigger picture” . Of course the WAF rep pointed out that that was feminism in action in that mother’s life and that of her young son. Apart from anything else having said how important it was to validate women’s experiences etc. the feminists brushed aside this woman’s experience. All too slowly the emperors clothes are becoming clearer.

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  4. John Allman · August 3, 2014

    Dear Karen

    Overall, I liked this article. But at one point, I realised that what you were saying could not have been what I had thought you had been saying after all. Please allow me to explain the point at which I need clarification, even though I think I understood everything else in your post.

    “Fathers are not mothers”, I read.

    “Well said!”, I thought, supposing that I had understood your meaning here, Karen. Although any child’s male parent and his or her female parent are both his or her parents, one is male, and the other is female, which is potentially quite a large difference, I reasoned. There will be countless other differences too, between the parents, which aren’t gender-related at all, as between any two individuals, each of whom is likely to mimic to some extent the manner in which they were parented themselves, decades earlier.

    So, having two parents who are different, provides the child with two examples of different parenting roles, or styles, enriching his or her childhood. Different strengths and different weaknesses would be apt to be found between a particular mum and dad. With luck, many of these strengths and weakness might be complementary. This possibility would reduce risk of a needed strength being missing from both members of the parenting team.

    At our leisure, we can study (if we want to) to what extent average fathers might tend, perhaps naturally, more often to be strong, or weak, in particular areas, compared to average mothers, discovering (as it were) *typical gender roles*, that are observable in real life.

    “When the Fatherhood Institute … represents fathering from a true equalities based perspective”

    Good. An “equalities basis” that fathering and mothering are of equal value, even if fathering and mothering are not wholly equivalent and wholly interchangeable roles, because (as you put it) “fathers are not mothers”.

    “the liberation of all dads from the suffocating constraints of gendered roles”

    This is where I became surprised at what I was reading. I thought that you were implicitly acknowledging that the two differently gendered parents might well have different roles, to the child’s benefit, when you wrote that “fathers are not mothers”. This could be predicted by hyptheses that postulated the existence of perfectly natural differences between the two genders that no amount of social engineering was ever likely to eradicate.

    I was therefore expecting you to say that dads needed liberating, not from “suffocating” gender roles, but from the suffocating, feminist-doctrinaire *denial* of the mere possibility of the existence of different gendered roles of parents in the first place, still less that the different gender roles might actually be beneficial, so that (for example) books ostensibly on how to be a good parent tended to be nothing more than books on how to be a good mother, containing advice which it might well be disastrous (for children) for average fathers to attempt to heed and to follow, or for mothers (or professionals) to expect them to heed or to follow.

    John Allman

    PS Great session in Exeter yesterday. Thanks.

    Like

    • Carl Garnham · August 5, 2014

      “containing advice which it might well be disastrous (for children) for average fathers to attempt to heed and to follow, or for mothers (or professionals) to expect them to heed or to follow”

      Excellent point John, that alone could be a source of later alienation…..where the mothering father is rejected….and even put in danger with regards to family law. It could could also have affects the other way around too…if mothers are given advice on how to be a father and expected to carry the advice out from professionals……that too could also be disasterous…….has been, is being.

      I think the phrase you refer to of Karens….may need adjusting, i cant speak for Karen, i can see your concern, but i think your fears are misplaced….although rightly noted……..I think Karen is refering to the sick feminist gender narrative and roles they want men to have which is actively being rammed down everybodies necks in the shape of Love Nuggets…. or hyper traditional roles where nob ends are cut off babies while hypnotised bots do the hokey cokey…..i could be wrong….then again, i could be right…and im not even johnny rotten and i havent had a pil. I best get my head down or nowt til be rising in the morning…..tis not far off now. G.one

      Like

  5. ChrisTR · August 6, 2014

    As you say, Karen, a load of bananas, indeed. For your delectation and delight, please see the following links from the Guardian and the Mirror regarding this whizz-bang initiative from the Department of Education and One Plus One: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2014/jul/28/love-nuggets-relationship-tips and http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/taxpayer-funded-lovenuggets-campaign-strengthen-3924724.

    Did anyone at the DofE cotton on that “love nuggets” is slang for, ahem, testicles. Perhaps someone involved in the creation of the website subconciously realised that they were putting £45K of taxpayers money into a load of b*****ks.

    But watch out for the stinger in the tail… this initiative is also insidiously patronising. Do we really need to be told how men and women should behave towards each other in a loving relationship? Next they’ll be giving us all copies of “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”!

    Like

  6. Anonymous · August 6, 2014

    The Fatherhood Institute exists to promote father’s responsibilities and demonstrate good role models for all Dads to live up to. It reminds us of how uniquely important to the family a good Dad is. It prides itself on its academic status eking out hitherto unknown research which all goes to show that Dads really are worthwhile.

    Back in the post-separation family court the wise man or woman deliberating over your case is faced with the immediate task of:

    1. Understanding whether the father is worthy of being a father
    2. Dealing with mother’s list of complaints about father.

    After hearing mothers list of complaints the registrar turns to father to see how he pleads. Father says, “Not guilty” Milord whereupon mother bursts into tears. Father then has the arduous task of providing evidence to disprove his former partner’s list of complaints about him.
    Meanwhile he is not allowed to see his children. Women’s Aid has collaborated with mother to accuse father of domestic violence. This is then backed up by Cafcass who have written a report based on mothers complaints. Rings are being erected around the children. Father is not allowed anywhere near the school, nor his own home, a “prohibitive steps order” has curtailed his movements.

    All this and the only words so far uttered from father’s mouth are these, “not guilty Milord”.

    If the judiciary are going to use “the fatherhood institute” template of all that is good about fathers to devalue each and every father in the dock, reminding him of his shortcomings, then clearly the way the information about fathers is being used is deficient.
    Since time immemorial man has always been responsible for his wife and his children and this is not likely to change. What has changed is that he has lost his authority. In western societies, he can no longer have his post-separation plan for the family heard or at least treated with any degree of sincerity.

    Consequently he will still be paying for the family whilst being treated like an alien. The world is full of angry mothers who steadfastly refuse to let the children’s father see their children, and our reaction to this is to try and placate the mother and make assurances that her relationship with the children won’t suffer as a result of father still being involved with his children…………but that’s all it is: a pleading, a reasoning, a request, perhaps a wish all at the mercy of mother’s mood.

    Being someone who now works in social care and also male I do feel that the Fatherhood Institute have my support when trying to encourage employers to employ men in this area of work. Whilst I will probably never meet the dizzy heights of Cafcass worker I do feel my experiences, namely being counselled, studying on parenting courses and working through self-development books stands me in good stead as a Carer.

    I don’t see myself as an inadequate father simply because I am part of a minority group working in an area largely dominated by women employees. However I do accept that the world of care work is underscored by the needs of women and their perceptions of the world. The bottom line is we do need more men in Primary and Secondary schools, in Social Care fields, working with toddlers and there are men who will do a very good job. Unfortunately society is afraid of men thinking it’s best to keep him digging holes in the ground fighting wars and tinkering in the garden shed, earning the money that will keep his children after his divorce.
    When I look around I see selfish individuals all demanding their rights, devoid of any sense of family or collaboration, lacking in empathy and strident in pursuing their needs. The essence of the family seems to be dissolving and making way for a new world in which our children are brought up by unknown social workers in vast farms; the super crèche. I can imagine the Government with plans for several of these to make the logistics of dropping off the children before going to work long shifts possible for both mother and father. In this brave new world I see factory crèches located perhaps next to a floating prison of bad fathers. Then when the children are 16 they can go and join the world of work, like their parents.

    kind regards

    Like

    • karenwoodall · August 6, 2014

      Short reply…

      Why do the Fatherhood Institute not stand up to Women’s Aid et al and defend fathers as they are systemically stripped from their children’s lives?

      Why do the Fatherhood Institute see paying of child maintenance as a core responsibility of a father?

      What about dads who wish to care for their children AND provide?

      The essence of the family is dissolving because the government’s voice of choice on fatherhood chooses to align itself with the leftish/feminist approach that good fathering means adapting to what women want.

      A father is as essential to a child’s well being over it’s lifetime as a mother and it is never said with anything other than some kind of apologetic – where it is safe or where the dad is a good dad.

      What is a good dad?

      The man at the coalface, the man in the nursery, the man caring for his kids and sharing the providing responsibility after separation, the man who is proudly masculine as well as the man who adapts his behaviour to suit women.

      Where are those images promoted by the FI?

      And where is their absolute fearlessness in standing up for dads who are wronged in deeply discriminatory ways.

      They said they were the antithesis of the father’s rights movement and they are.

      Condemning fathers and fatherhood to a narrow band of accepable masculinity in which every man outside of that is seen as wanting.

      Deficient dad syndrome, it kills the dignity and the wellbeing of every dad in Britain, paid for by the state and delivered by people who recycle ideas for funding for nothing other than, in my view, the sake of it.

      Like

  7. John Rew · August 17, 2014

    It would seem from your article that the fatherhood institute is just another arm of the feminist movement. Of course this is the kind of deception that is all to common when dealing with feminism which shows absolute contempt for men by employing these kind of tactics. The funny thing is that it is easy to detect these organisations if you realise that they have one very important thing in common with feminists and that is the belief that it is the responsibility of men to provide for women be it their happiness or physical comforts. Yes despite all the rhetoric feminism is actually an effort to retain part of the status quo in a changing world. In fact the current efforts by feminists to return us to a state of controlled Puritan sexuality are hard to deny. If you take a step back you can see some of the more draconian rules of past and present religions and ideologies taking form today it’s fascinating and like being in a time machine. The feminist movement is like the classic narcissist no matter how hard they try to change things they just end up with the same old problems.

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