A 1998 email exchange between liz and Nick Szabo, a Father's Manifesto signatory.

Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 16:42:10 -0500 (CDT)
From: [1]
To: liz <>

Dear Liz,

I would like to put aside the ad hominems and patronizing comments.  Let us have a serious debate about fathers being important in childrens lives.

I believe this study to be incorrect.  The majority of studies that I have viewed show that children fair far poorer when fathers are absent in childrens lives.  May I recommend "Life Without Father" by David Popenoe.  He has researched this problem for over thirty years and the conclusions all point against the particular study you are quoting.

Also, in Child Magazine, June/July 1995, there is a study by Kyle Pruett who has studied father involvement for 10 years found that, regardless of income, education, etc., having the father/child connection in the first year is crucial.

"When a father is actively involved during the first six months, his child will score higher on intellectual and motor development tests later on."

"Babies tend to be more socially responsive if their fathers are involved in the everyday care during the first two months."

Both quotes are from page 117 in the magazine.

Seemingly counterintuitive because of the traditional view of women, a 26 year longitudinal study has found that "paternal involvement in child care" determines "empathetic concern" of these children in adulthood, not maternal involvement.  "Fathers who spent time alone with their children more than twice a week, giving meals, baths, and other basic care, reared the most compassionate adults." (Popenoe, page 149.)

Liz, what worries me about the study you are quoting from which you draw a litany of inferences is this: this study is based on a SURVEY which the respondents filled out based soley on jobs and income, not emotional, physical well being of children.  For example, mothers and their boyfriends are far more likely to abuse their children than biological fathers. Another problem that I found with the study is it seems a bit arbitrary to equate jobs to numbers in order to rank them.

There are parts of the study I do agree with: mothers tend to be more plugged into families than men. Two parent families are better than single parent families, etc. But the conclusion that fathers are not important in children's lives is simply wrong.


Nick Szabo


Popenoe says not much of anything about father involvement when there is not an intact home.  His entire thing is about intact homes being better and easier for all, something with which nearly no one would disagree.  He is not a source for father contributions post-divorce, in the abstract, or otherwise where there is not an intact home.

Neither are the other studies to which you allude regarding fathers' involvement, comparing intact homes versus single parent homes, a source of support for the notion of "father involvement" in the absence of an intact home.  "Having two parents 'involved'" who do not live with and love each other does not duplicate what it is about intact homes that benefits children.  It is not simply a sometime penised caregiver.

And, contrary to the conclusion you came to after reading the article you referred to in Child magazine, Kyle Pruett's findings were NOT that father involvement out of the context of an intact home is "crucial."  Father involvement where there is NOT an intact home (in other words, where that means an infant is flipflopped between hostile caregivers, or even just two disparate households), is not only not "crucial," but it's very destructive of what a baby needs most: consistency from one happy and secure caregiver.

You state the ostensible findings: "When a father is actively involved during the first six months, his child will score higher on intellectual and motor development tests later on." You proffer this in support of father involvement in situations in which there is not an intact home.

This is flawed reasoning.  Where a father is actively involved in an intact home (from studies in intact homes) that also correlates with a father who is not only "involved" with the child, but also supportive financially and/or emotionally of the mother.  It also correlates with higher education and wealth in the home.  It also correlates with an overall happier home. Not only are we looking at what is a healthier, wealthier, happier situation, and probably a more well-adjusted father as an individual, but also a situation in which the MOTHER as well, and because of the other factors, ALSO is able to offer better of herself.

You go on to recite: "Babies tend to be more socially responsive if their fathers are involved in the everyday care during the first two months."

This may appear to be true, but babies being more "socially responsive" in their first two months doesn't mean that anything good for that baby is occurring!  It's not indicative of anything that has been shown to be desirable either during that period of time or for later on. In fact, from what else we know about infant development and well-adjustedness, it is likely a negative.  What looks like "social responsiveness" is the result of infantile attempts to get attention, to discover how to get needs met. It's the result of an inconsistent caregiver response. And that correlates with a whole lot of demonstrable negatives for the infant's emotional and intellectual development.

We already know that babies develop an optimal sense of security (translating to self esteem and well-adjustedness later in life) when they get a consistent and satisfying caregiver response to their signaled needs.  "More socially responsive" i.e. responding to persons other than the primary caregiver, at two months of age (!) really only indicates an a confused infant that has discovered that s/he cannot count on a consistent response to signals.  It's not enhanced development, but stifled development, an inhibition of learning, and a depreciation of the infant's developing sense of self-worth.  At this extremely young age, there is nothing "social" to be going on.  The baby is completely unable even to distinguish his or her caregiver as a separate individual.

You further cite Popenoe: "Fathers who spent time alone with their children more than twice a week, giving meals, baths, and other basic care, reared the most compassionate adults."

Again I reiterate: Popenoe deals with INTACT households, and ALL the other factors that go with that, the sum total of differences of which go far, far beyond just the mere presence of a male biological parent.  Involved HUSBANDS ALSO tend to be more LOVING men, more spousally supportive men, and more well-adjusted men.  Nature and nurture.  The causation between what it is which may be creating better outcomes in households where there are more loving and supportive fathers and happier marriages, is not shown by this correlation; it says nothing about father-involvement absent all the other factors that would be present.  Joint custody in the absence of an intact home, in fact has been correlated with WORSE childrearing outcomes (Wallerstein.)

You further argue: "mothers and their boyfriends are far more likely to abuse their children than biological fathers.

(You're lumping "mothers AND boyfriends" together versus "biological fathers?!")

First off, mothers generally commit very little of one of the most egregious kinds of abuse, that being sex abuse, of which 97% is committed by men, a considerable portion of it by biological fathers. Mothers also are not "more LIKELY" to inflict any other kinds of abuse. When numbers of INCIDENCES are adjusted for the amount of time of caregiving, numbers of mother caregivers versus father caregivers, and numbers of children cared for by each, fathers are 4-600% as likely to abuse or neglect a child!

The CONCLUSION from the study I posted was that children reared in single father homes fare worse than children reared in single mother homes. It was NOT that "fathers are not important in children's lives."

Fathers who love and support a child's mother, who live in an intact household with her, who can provide the role model of a sucessful and well-adjusted husband and citizen, and who have something of value to share and a willingness to share it are important additions to a child's life. However the drunken bum on the street; the felon; the addict; the cheater; the beater; the sex pervert; and the kind of jerk who calls women feminazis and sluts and signs documents like the Father's Manifesto, which, inter alia, calls for the repeal of women's right to vote (as you have): NOT NEEDED.


Date: Fri, 1 May 1998 08:51:33 -0500 (CDT)
To: liz <>
Subject: Re: SMH

Dear Liz,

Popenoe ... does talk about the effects of divorce on children -- I am not sure where you got your information.  The front cover of his book states "Compelling new evidence that fatherhood and marriage are indispensable for the good of children and society."  The converse of this is that divorce and single-motherhood do a poor job in raising kids and he proves it in his book.

Anyway, I still have a problem with the research you quote from.  A survey which respondents fill out, and which only measures economics, is not comprehensive enough to gauge the wide problem of divorce effects on children.  All studies I have quoted from span at minimum ten years and studied behavior...

Most Americans are divorced and not doing well. Why do you think that is?  Is it that American men are somehow more brutish, more aggressive, more violent, more potentially rapists, etc. than other men in the rest of the world?  If a couple were to get married today, they would likely divorce in almost 70% of the cases.  Since women file for divorce approximately three out of four cases, does that mean more than half of the American men are flawed compared to men in other countries with lower divorce rates?  I am interested in hearing your take on this, Liz.  When foreign women come to the United States, they remark how gentle and caring most American men are, and I am not talking about Islamic women or the like, I am talking about European women from our American ancestral roots.



You start off by quoting as evidence to support your argument, claims made on the cover of Popenoe's book, written by a copy editor at a publishing company, in order to increase book sales.  I'm surprised that you would confuse this with the contents.  Popenoe's mention of divorce is in glancing references.  His focus is on intact families as being better than broken families and single mother households.  He really has very little to say about father involvement in the absence of an intact household.

The FRs quote Popenoe frequently.  Apparently the dearth of real studies supporting their arguments lead them to seize on virtually anything in desperation to support their positions regarding post-divorce families.  In general, Popenoe offers little on point supporting their positions on divorce.

You conclude that Popenoe's argument indicating better child rearing outcomes from intact homes means that "The converse of this is that divorce and single-motherhood do a poor job in raising kids and he proves it in his book."  This conclusion, however, is not born out.

Studies of WIDOWED homes show little difference in childrearing outcomes between these "single mother households" and "intact families."

And, the recent study I referenced proves that it's OTHER factors tending to be present in one situation or the other that are moving the different outcomes, not the sex or number of parents involved.

When I quote Wallerstein to the effect that joint custody is no duplication of the intact home, and in fact yields worse child rearing outcomes, the FRs complain that hers is a clinical study (versus bean-counting research.)  Yet when I cite to more objectively quantified research, they still complain.  Only their own sources, it would seem, mainly consisting of snips of research taken and quoted out of context, pop psychology books, and the conjecture of ulteriorly agenda'd angry men are valid.

"Divorce effects on children" is not at issue here.  At issue is the FR agenda and proffered "solutions" (joint custody, father custody, and removing from women the right to divorce and other rights) versus traditional custody (usually with the mother, but not always), which the FRs like to refer to as "single mother households" (a group whose dire "statistics" they parrot includes the never-married teenage set.)

What is at issue is what's at the heart of the FR movement.  Woman hate: the desire to turn the clock back to the days, not all that long ago, when women and children were men's chattel.  

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that conflict, anger, loss, abrupt change is stressful and is a negative for everyone.  There isn't a person around, man, woman, or child, who isn't going to be scarred from a divorce, and who wouldn't have been better off if the need for same hadn't arisen in the first place.  

But the "divorce is bad" talk misses the point.  Where there is a divorce, it's because at least one of the parties to the marriage has recognized that remaining married is WORSE.  That no "marriage" exists in the first place.  That a good and stable intact marriage simply is not an available option.

You say, about marriage, that most Americans are "not doing well."  Not doing well how, and compared to what?  Everything is relative.  Do you have a standard you are comparing everyone to?  Or are we talking about reality compared to possibly unrealistic expectations, or someone's ideals.

If "not doing well" means "not happily married" it's a combination of a lot of things which cause that. I seriously question how happy people really were when divorce was not an option.  Men routinely had mistresses in some cultures and ethnic groups, and women were semi-chattel.  Had this "ideal" been satisfactory, a "woman's movement" never would have arisen in the first place. See The Declaration of Sentiments.

You ask, "Is it that American men are somehow more brutish, more aggressive, more violent, more potentially rapists, etc. than other men in the rest of the world?"

Surely you haven't bought into the nonsense that there's some kind of nirvana going on in other countries.  Most societies are far worse than American society in many ways. And where others are better in some ways, there are still no utopias out there.  Nor can we really pretend that "people in a country" are somehow fungible, not individuals, some of whom are healthy, wealthy and happy, and some of whom are not.

You've got numerous countries out there with higher divorce rates than the United States. Also countries where the marriages nevertheless are miserable and in name only, men have mistresses and other families even though married, and women just have to take it. I don't consider this to be "success."  It may just be, and this is just a throw-out hypothesis, that we simply are deluding ourselves that with the longer lifespans especially, humans are monogamous and that remaining married forever is the most ordinary and expectable state of things.  Not that long ago, lifespans, due to child and war deaths of males, and childbirth deaths of women, hovered around age 40. It was extremely common prior to birth control for men to have "serial marriages" -- all those stories about the wicked stepmother, etc.  Women just got pregnant over and over again until one of them killed her.  I doubt that there's ever been a culture in the world where it could be said that most of the inhabitants lived past our current retirement age AND ALSO stayed married to one person without "de facto" alternatives for their entire lives.

As for the divorce rate itself, it's just over 50% for first time marriages, and about 70% for subsequent marriages (not 70% overall as you've claimed.)  And these percentages include divorces occurring at all ages and stages of life, e.g. among the short-term-married and childless, as well as older couples whose children are grown.

Yes, women DO file for most of the divorces -- 70 to 80%.  But there's no "feminist plot" or anti-male statement to be found in this.

WHY WOMEN FILE FOR MOST OF THE DIVORCES: The reason women do most of the filing for divorce is that, when a marriage is bad, stifling, unhappy, and nonexistent in the nonlegal relationship sense, women just don't have the same freedom and options for escapist behaviors that men do.  

A man who is dissatisfied with his marriage, his wife as a companion, can hang out in a bar, socialize with his buddies, go to happy hours instead of coming home after work, disappear on weekends to the office or to sporting events, find extramarital "adventures" at the office and while traveling on business, etc.  I've known many men who simply walked out and set up another household with their girlfriend.

By contrast, women, especially much older women and women with young children, often are financially dependent or at least interdependent on their husbands, as well as frequently anchored with child care or parent care responsibilities. Thus when a marriage is bad, as a group they just don't have the same kind of freedom to "escape" from the marriage and household.  They are more trapped.  There's also less social recognition that it is WOMEN who become stuck without options in marriages, not men.  "Feeling trapped" is, ironically, the frequent complaint of men, who have more freedom, and yet less tolerance for the perceived lack of it.  It's MEN from whom we most frequently hear (and to whom we listen) in this regard!  But it actually is women who are most confined and stifled when a marriage is bad, and sadly, our gender-biased society also takes women's complaints less seriously.

It should come as no surprise that it's women who actually file most often for the divorces. Quite simply, there's more incentive for women to file. The why of it is no mystery.

You make the statement, "When foreign women come to the United States, they remark how gentle and caring most American men are, and I am not talking about Islamic women or the like, I am talking about European women from our American ancestral roots."

[liznote: shades of white supremacy and bigotry peekin' out here...?]

Foreign women who come here to marry American men do so because their lives and prospects are cruddy where they come from. (And foreign women tourists have actually seen HOW much?  Not.)  These women are used to less and hence when they are here, they are willing to accept less.  As for how "gentle" American men are, that itself is a rather silly statement.  Men, like women, in the United States, as elsewhere, are very different from individual to individual.  Women who come here to get married are strangers without support systems, often not fluent in English, and they and their children are dependent upon and at the mercy of their American husbands.  They pretty much have to tell him what he wants to hear.

Personally, I've always thought that men who deliberately set out to marry foreign women are men who have insecurities competing with other men, or else trouble relating to strong, comfortable and independent American women. Their need to import submissive brides from cultures where the women are desperate to leave poverty or used to a subordinate status indicates that these are essentially weak men. Where it's not obvious to outsiders what their insecurities might be arising from, my own hypothesis is that it's a lack of something arising in the erection department.


Date: Sat, 2 May 1998 12:47:38 -0500 (CDT)
To: liz <>
Subject: Re: SMH

Dear Liz,

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to answer back statement by statement.  I guess my bottom line question on the marriage issue is the following.  It appears that we both agree that marriage, intact families are a good thing.  Of course, undying love and respect would make it even better, but is that realistic?  Do you think women stay madly in love with men from marriage to death?  This is where committment comes in even when the love wanes, for I do not believe anybody wants to die alone, man or woman.

Back to the point.  If marriage -- in general -- is a good thing, why is it that almost 70% of people who would get married today (5/2/98) will end up in divorce court?  This is far different from the 50% divorce rate, and in many ways, much scarier.  Do you think that marriages that occur today (5/2/98) which have only a 3 in 10 chance of surviving is mainly because men are assholes?  This is the bottom line.  We can all quote our sources and criticize methodologies. But what we cannot deny is that divorce is out of control.  Committment no longer means anything.

This is the problem as I see it, and I am interested in your response. 7 out of 10, Liz, 7 out of 10.



Well... let's take one little thing which causes really big problems.  Attitude.  Would you want to be married to someone who considered you an inferior, and held the position that those advocating your right to equal worth and respect be "taken out and shot?"

Commitment is really a pointless word, unless we first clarify commitment to WHAT.  When a young woman in love marries, she doesn't consider herself to be making a commitment to be disregarded, abused, belittled, used like a maid or hausfrau while the guy prefers the companionship of others.  She hasn't agreed to get be constantly stuck alone in the house with babies and never-ending chores while he gets the freedom to "be out..." during his nonworking hours.

I think many, many women are willing to make a commitment to partnership, friendship, common goals, being family, working through or waiting out the down periods that every relationship does go through, etc.  I know MANY enduring marriages (even your successful 3 out of 10 is a lot in sheer numbers), and I think I pretty much can compare the differences between these couples and the couples I see coming out of divorce courts today.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD MARRIAGE:  One of the differences is that the men in good marriages really think highly of their own their wives and they let her know it.  They don't cheat; they don't use pornography; they don't hang out in their free time with buddies instead of with their wives and children; they work hard and contribute their fair share in terms of effort and time (whatever equal effort and time translates to in results); they respect their wives'opinions; they consult with their wives prior to making any decisions that will directly or indirectly affect the wife or children; they frequently defer to the wife's opinion in situations in which she or the children will be as affected as the husband; and finally, they indulge their wives' needs for companionship, material things, to the extent their time and finances allow. In general, these husbands and wives are each other's best friends.

Too many men treat their wives as if they were their mothers. They think of her as a household "fixture," and just as they learned to do as boys, as adolescents, they look outward from the home and elsewhere for companionship.  Many of these men learned only one way of relating to women because their own fathers -- whether present or not-- did not counter their boy-mother relationship by setting an example of a good marriage.  It is telling that men whose fathers were not around AT ALL, and who learned to relate to their mothers as persons as they got older (see Shere Hite On The Family: Growing Up Under Patriarchy), and men who grew up in intact homes with GOOD marriages (as I've defined them) don't have these problems relating to women.  Instead of a companionate relationship with the wife, the men who do have this trouble relating to their wives as peers, spend their free time engaged in other pursuits with other people.  And usually find their marriages on the rocks.

I would say to any man that the moment he stops thinking of his wife as his best friend and the person he most wants to spend time with and do things with, then he should be prepared to see his marriage fail, sooner or later.  He is a likely candidate to join the set of divorced men who claim that their wives walked out "for no reason at all," and who look for reasons elsewhere, including feminist-blaming, welfare, vindictiveness, money...

The biggest boo boo that I see men make when their marriage IS troubled, actually is another form of escapist behavior which just postures under the pretense of marriage-concern -- going off to talk about problems in their marriages with other guys or, in even more detail, with other women "friends."  As soon as there's that crack in confidentiality between the husband and wife, it's a sure sign the marriage is doomed, just as sure as if it were a sexual affair.

Perhaps what ought to be looked a lot more is not all the problems with failed marriages, but why it is that some marriages SUCCEED, despite the availability of extramarital sex, the psychobabble of "getting your own friends and interests," the stressors of modern life and work, and the availability of divorce.

Second marriages have their own unique problems, because of ex-spouses and stepfamily blending, etc.  So look at first marriages.

I can pretty much predict: the guy who goes to his bachelor party before the wedding, and jokes with his buddies about how he'll be wearing the "ole ball and chain" while having a last sex-oriented "fling," really doesn't have much to worry about in that regard.  His "ball and chain" isn't going to be on the porch rocking with him in their twilight years.


Date: Sun, 3 May 1998 01:11:14 -0500 (CDT)
To: liz <>
Subject: Re: SMH

Dear Liz,

I do not consider women to be inferior, but I also do not consider them to be equal to men. Therefore, equal worth with respect to men and women doesn't make sense.  Worthy yes, equal no.  Do you not agree that men and women bring different (and therefore unequal) contributions to a marriage?

Women do not want to truly be equal to men anyway.  For example, women want to be in the military and fight in combat positions, but you do not hear them clamoring to be signed up for Selective Service in order to vote or get loans for college like men have to do.

I agree with a lot of your post.  However, you mention a lot of responsibilites for men and how they should behave and you barely touch on how women should behave and act responsibly. It sounds like you are saying men alone are the problem when marriages fall apart because they didn't treate their sweet pea right.  I don't buy it.  I think women also play a major role.  A lot of women think divorce will be a freeing experience only to discover that divorce brings its own set of very big problems...

Still, accepting your statistic as 5 out of 10 [versus 7 of 10], do you feel this is an acceptable level in our society?  What about you Liz, do you think your life would have been different had you grown up with a father not present vs. growing up with one present?  Should not society strive to keep families intact with the exception of extreme circumstances? [2]

Isn't marriage good and does not society as a whole have an interest in supporting it, unlike it is currently doing?


P.S.: My comment that you refer to was taken out of context.  I asked John Knight to remove it but he won't.


You said, "I do not consider women to be inferior, but I also do not consider them to be equal to men.  Therefore, equal worth with respect to men and women doesn't make sense.  Worthy yes, equal no."

Isn't this that "equal worth, different function" tritism?  Are the fundies still drilling this drivel? [3]  (You didn't even get it right.)  This is the sort of word-game proselytizing that damages children's ability to think!

"Equal" is an adjective implying how much.  When we use it alone without a noun, it implies the noun it's modifying.  That noun is "worth" (value.) Equal worth.  Although "equal" means "same" as a measure of how much, it doesn't mean "same" as "identical in kind."

By contrast, even worms have "worth," if aerating the ground or going fishing is your goal; it's not a quantitative measure. There is no measure (how much) stated or implied in the meaning of the noun standing alone.  "Worthy" by itself is not a measure.  To the extent it's used to mean "but not equal" it's an insult.

Look... if some men really believe that a man has more worth than a woman, that the inherent value of each of them is not equal, the same, then you pretty much have your answer to why marriages are failing.  Would YOU stay in a relationship in which you were considered in this demeaning way?

You further say, "Women do not want to truly be equal to men anyway."

Most women do not want to be MEN.  They are WOMEN.  That does NOT mean that they, and their lives and contributions, are not of equal value.

You bring up the military as an example of how women allegedly don't want to be "equal." You claim, "women want to be in the military and fight in combat positions, but you do not hear them clamoring to be signed up for Selective Service in order to vote or get loans for college like men have to do."

And MEN "clamor to be signed up for Selective Service?"  Nonsense. First, off, I believe that if one sex is required to sign up for the draft, then both sexes should be so required.  Each person, regardless of what sex they are, still is going to be assigned roles and jobs IN the service depending upon his or her individual abilities.  Just as men alone are so assessed for their individual talents, strengths and weaknesses, and assigned work accordingly.  Some don't have the physical prowess to do certain jobs, and some don't have the brains required to do others, and within the service, different ROLES and jobs are assigned based upon individual strengths and weaknesses.

As for what women are "clamoring" to do, well frankly, the biggest nay-sayers on this are men in the military, and they don't want women.  Why would it be rational for feminists to spend time and energy arguing with them, when there are so many other things which are life-enhancing to attend to first?  There's a big difference between allocation of limited lobbying resources and being against military contribution by women.

In the man-woman arena, this whole business about men and women not being of equal worth, or just the claim of mandatory different roles that only men play was created to placate men.  It was invented to give men something "more special" that supposedly only they can do. But the fact is, is that there's ONLY one activity that is unique to any particular sex, and that's child-bearing. Everything else is up for grabs, and there is no male or female role.  A person of either sex may or may not be able to perform any given role.  Even where it's true that MOST men are better than MOST women at a given task, that still doesn't mean that SOME women are not going to be better at it than SOME men (and vice versa.)  "Male" and "female" have to do with reproductive biology.  And as to that, women alone have an extra job, and that's bearing the next generation.

You comment, "I agree with a lot of your post.  However, you mention a lot of responsibilities for men and how they should behave and you barely touch on how women should behave and act responsibly."

Each of us only can control our own behavior. A woman didn't ask me what might help women get and stay married. This aside, there's no lack of lecturing to women from girlhood on on this subject.  Check the magazine rack in the supermarket.  Compare what's fed to men about "relationships" -- those are on the magazine rack in the convenience store.  On the whole, it's relevant to my response that it's MEN (here you, speaking for the FR side) who are doing the complaining about failing marriages and single mother households.

I'm not saying that it's "only men" who are causing the breakdown of marriages.  But the fact is, it's the men complaining.  Studies have shown that women, regardless of their financial struggling post-divorce, are generally content with their decision, even the ones who are NOT getting that "terrific" welfare, or child support or alimony.  MOST women are NOT getting anything but SOME child support (not enough to pay for half of what the cost is to them of raising the children), and it's only for a limited number of years. They also do not remarry in the percentages that men do.  But women nevertheless are more content post-divorce, because women haven't broken up the marriages.  The women KNOW there was no viable alternative to a divorce, and have learned to accept that, and to accept that "being in a good marriage" just was not an option.  So where the men are wailing about "married life" versus "divorced life," women are looking at it as "the miserable marriage" versus a "a difficult, but freer and more life-fulfilling situation."

Most women are the fixers in relationships, and really do try to keep their marriages together. And in fact, it's usually the women who seek out, work at developing, and desire the marriage more to begin with.  What happens.  When the marriage is having problems or going downhill for a variety of reasons, the future divorced-male-to-be will respond, not by saying to himself "how am I contributing to this and what changes can I make in myself," but by other-blaming, and by seeking "relief" from the marital problems with escapist behavior which puts the nail in the marital coffin.  It's an emotional abandonment of the union, and when there are not two persons working on something, even problems in the union itself, it's gone.  It just doesn't exist.  Divorce is merely the official dissolution and disentangling of the two persons' legal and financial affairs.

The FRs have complained in general that this ultimate reaction of women, the filing of divorce papers, and women's legal ability to do so, is what is "breaking up marriages."  The FRs urge that women be restrained or prohibited outright from having the freedom to divorce for the ostensible reason that it's the women's divorcing behavior (rather than the men's escapist behavior) which is creating "fatherless homes."  This is purely delusional.

The solution of the father's rights movement is to find ways to force women to remain dependent upon their husbands and under their control, unable to exit marriages, no matter how miserable they are.  This is the essence of patriarchy.  Ironically, when these attitudes are held by men in a situation such as the present where men have to behave such that women will want, of their own volition, to remain with them, the patriarchal attitudes are the kiss of death to the marriage.  They come out in demeaning remarks, abusive behavior and generally unfair treatment.  

We each of us have to earn what we get; it doesn't come merely "because."  A man who wants respect as a breadwinner, has to prove himself to be a good one.  A man who wants to be considered by his wife to be wiser in decision-making, has to in fact BE wiser.  A man who wants to be considered to be making valuable contributions as a father, has to in fact BE a good role model. That means a good husband!

If as men, you want to encourage marriage, start by ridding yourselves of this "pride in manhood" thing.  When we, each of us, feels good about ourselves and our individual talents and achievments, we just don't need to get our sense of worth and pride from abstract groupism.  It's just as silly when WOMEN claim to "love" "being a woman," or to have "pride in womanhood." Or when fat toady guys feel "pride" in "their" city's team winning -- it's not them who scored that touchdown!  All nonsense.  We are all individuals responsible for our own individual failures and accomplishments.

You say, "Isn't marriage good and does not society as a whole have an interest in supporting it, unlike it is currently doing?"

I think our society IS still supportive of marriage.  It's also supportive of women who don't want to be subjected to abuse, virtual imprisonment, or misery in their lives.  What's the point of supporting ANYTHING if half of society is unhappy?  Ultimately, society is the people in it.  So now, if half of marriages are succeeding, the half that's content is made up of half-women and half-men.  Putting things back to where the half that was content was all male isn't an improvement.

I agree with you that good marriages ultimately are the way to go.  But, unlike you, I believe that they can be encouraged in a society in which both men's and women's interests and happiness is considered.  I also believe that they are more likely to arise when they represent a goal, and not a given, and when women have the bargaining power to enter into marriages which are supportive equal partnerships.  

Change is what we are going through now.  There are always problems which arise merely because of the change, state of flux, before things settle out.  Before women even have achieved political, social and economic parity, insecure and frightened men such as the Father's Manifesto crew, started campaigning against that.  Men like John Knight are afraid that if they aren't accorded their places by virtue of their gender, that women such as me will come along against whom they wouldn't be able to compete or measure up.  So that would put them, not only on the bottom of the pile of men, but on the bottom generally. They also are clueless, and know they are clueless, about how to relate to women and maintain a long-term relationship that is mutually satisfactory.  I think they'd do better to concentrate on improving themselves instead of seeking to put women down.

You remember what you learned about bullies in the schoolyard: they feel bad about themselves so the only way to make themselves feel better is to try to put someone ELSE down.  It's telling that bullies generally are the kids from the poor and screwed-up homes who themselves are put down; they're never the kid in the class who is making A's and who is really "top gun."

Men who have a need to assert themselves special "as men" are men who are on the bottom of the heap OF men, and who are desperate to put women into a place where they can feel, well, but heck so what, I'm still better than you, women, I'm a Ma-an.  It's really pathetic.

Your P.S. "My comment that you refer to was taken out of context. I asked John Knight to remove it but he won't." [4]

He does that; I expect that everyone knows that by now.  He takes lots of things out of context.


Date: Mon, 4 May 1998 11:57:44 -0500 (CDT)
To: liz <>
Subject: Re: SMH

Dear Liz,

[You write:] "... even if it's true that MOST men are better than MOST women at any given task, that still doesn't mean that SOME women are not going to be better at it than SOME men."

This may be the post where I recognize where we fundamentally disagree.  Men and women are not equal and never will be.  That is not to say there aren't women who can outperform men in certain areas.  That has always been the case.

However, I speak in generalities and you speak in specifics.  In general, men are better at supporting a family through protection and provision and women are better at nurturing and holding a family together.  Many feminists will say that this is all learned behavior, that human beings can be manipulated to whatever society wants them to be, as defined in the Port Huron Statement of the sixties.  Therefore, there are no innate differences between men and women and I say hogwash.  To some degree, society does have and influence on what are masculine v. feminine pursuits but society cannot redefine humans with regard to their sex.  If you disagree with this, we need go no further...

I never said "superior worth" or anything close to it.  Women can do things (in general, again) that I could never do, and I believe the opposite is true too.

Take your military example: untrue.  I was a counterintelligence officer during Desert Storm. I did not even wear a uniform.  But, one thing every soldier had to be trained on was being a killing machine: knowing how to use the m-16, throwing grenades, etc.  Because in war, when it comes down to it, we are there to kill the enemy and blow up his property.  Period.  All military specialties are secondary: killing is primary.  Many women did not measure up to this standard but were promoted anyway.

Bottom line, Liz, women have superior worth in some areas, and men in others.  And although society does have some influence on influencing the sexes, by no means can it fundamentally alter the sexes, i.e., fathers make shitty mothers, and mothers make shitty fathers.  This in itself means that we are not equal but does not mean one is superior over the other.



You say "I speak in generalities and you speak in specifics.  In general, men are better at supporting a family through protection and provision and women are better at nurturing and holding a family together.  Many feminists will say that this is all learned behavior."

Yes, the way things currently stand, "men" as a group are better at supporting a family. The primary reason for this is that pregnancy, childbirth, and infant nurturing (and, in the current state of things, women's having to do the bulk of the child care and housework) will unavoidably interfere with doing other things.  There are residual other factors (established male networking, etc.), but being otherwise occupied -- that's the biggie.  There are only so many hours in a day.  But none of this has anything to do with inherent behavior or ability per se.  And none of it says anything about any individual man or woman.  It's flat out logistics.

There are no innate differences that will hold between any particular man and any particular woman except reproductive biology.  That is not to say that there aren't "tendencies" overall when speaking about "men" or "women" as a group.  And what creates these group tendencies is a variety of factors, biological and social.

As for what is "feminine," I think that if I can and do do it, then, since I'm a woman, it's "feminine."

Regarding your women-in-the-military comments. I'll have to take your word on it that "many" women didn't measure up as fighting soldiers.  But some did.  And the simple fact is, is that the military is a huge organization with lots of jobs that must be done, and they don't always have to be done by the best fighting soldiers.

Be that as it may, men can't really complain out of both sides of their mouths that on one hand women are not clamoring to be in the selective service and on the other that women don't belong in the military because they are not good at it.  If women ARE willing to be assigned where the military determines they can be used (even if it's running on-base daycare centers), men can't also complain that women are not willing to at least put in the time in the same way. The human time and effort is the same.


Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 11:59:10 -0400 (EDT)
To: liz <>
Subject: Re: SMH

Dear Liz,

I guess I have really two questions. 1)  Is our divorce rate so high because of men?  In other words, are they primarily to blame?

2)  Are fathers unique in how they raise children, i.e., mothers cannot do the same job as fathers?

If you don't mind, Liz, could you answer both of these questions starting with a "Yes" or "No" and then going on with your explanation.



You ask: "Is our divorce rate so high because of men?  In other words, are they primarily to blame?"

There are lots of reasons for our high "divorce rate."  Your question suffers the same defect as the references FRs make to the increased "crime rate" or a comparison of "crime rate" in other countries to "crime rate" in the United States.  Imprecision.  It's not going to the issue of the behaviors themselves.  "Crime rate" cannot be addressed in any meaningful way without first looking at what constitutes a "crime."  A "crime rate" can be manipulated by just adding or eliminating behaviors considered to be "criminal."

"Divorce rate" is similarly flawed in that it does not describe what it ostensibly is describing: the breakup of marital relationships.  It too could be simply manipulated just by altering the ability of individuals to obtain a divorce. The term begs for a response to your question to the effect "because divorce is possible."  Persons who cannot legally divorce but whose marriage nevertheless is gone, are not necessarily living in intact homes!

I'm not interested in the "divorce rate."  The more fundamental question is why are the marriages, the relationships failing.  Divorce is simply the legal and financial disentangling of individuals who no longer have a marriage in fact.

I'm not interested in forcing women into legal and economic dependency upon men who they may not even live with, or who beat them, or under other circumstances in which their very lives are controlled by someone else.  (If the FRs believe that that is what is required to eliminate "the divorce rate," how sad for them, and how telling about their lack of confidence in their own abilities to get along with women and maintain good relationships with them.)

At the point an individual seeks a divorce, there is no marriage, as in FUNCTIONAL, as in RELATIONSHIP.  I have found that in general, most women are able to articulate clear reasons (from their point of view) as to why their marriages failed, whereas most men are unable to explain it.

The breakdown of a relationship is not usually caused by one thing, but an accumulation over time of hurts, disappointments, misunderstandings, reactive behaviors and then responses to those behaviors and then responses to THOSE behaviors.

You ask, "Are fathers unique in how they raise children, i.e., mothers cannot do the same job as fathers?"

Again you ask the wrong question.  "Father" could be anything from a gamete provider who never lived with a child to a husband in a functioning intact household.  HUSBANDS as parents are unique in what they can provide and add to a child's life and as role model.  A mother alone cannot teach a child what being a father in an intact household is and feels like, or what a good marital relationship is and how it works.  Similarly, a father alone cannot teach a child what being a mother in an intact household is and feels like, or what a good marital relationship is and how it works.

But penised caregiver in and of itself has nothing to offer unique but the fact that he has a penis and male secondary sex characteristics and whatever is unique about that.

Your question implies that you're looking for something special that only a male can do out of the context of his role in a family relationship.  Well, if we're talking about a "second parent," absent a label of male or female, there are unique individual strengths and weaknesses any of us might have that another might not.  I cannot imagine how just being the biological father per se could automatically bestow on a person particular parenting talents or abilities, particularly in the absence of what is acquired by doing, and the growth of a relationship over time.

In case you're wondering what the CORRECT question is, it is: what do I -- as an individual (not as a "father" or a "mother") -- uniquely have to offer this child; what can I -- as an individual (not because I'm a "man" or a "woman") -- add of benefit to this child's life?  What can I do that the child's other parent canNOT do, or what can I do more easily.  What talents, strengths, and abilities do I have as a person that I can share, and which are special.  If you cannot answer that question except by reference to studies reciting generalities about a group you claim membership in, well... some self-improvement might be in order.

Finally you ask, "If you don't mind, Liz, could you answer both of these questions starting with a "Yes" or "No" and then going on with your explanation."

I do mind.  First, you pose your questions in absolutes. That makes me wonder whether you aren't anticipating or even hoping for one of those "extremist" feminist responses, or, on the other hand, one going the other way which can be misquoted.

Second, you demand absolute answers to ambiguous questions. You use words which, defined differently, would tend to yield a different answer.  By "father" do you mean "any guy who once had sex with the mother" or "loving and supportive husband in an intact household." By "unique" do you mean "special" (as in "important"), or merely "something only a person with a penis can do" (assuming there is some child raising activity that requires possession of a penis.)  

Are "men" to "blame" for (the cause of) what happens in a relationship between a SPECIFIC man and a SPECIFIC woman?  What "men?"  But if the answer is no, that "men" are not to be blamed, does this imply that women are to be blamed for the breakup when they file for divorce if in fact they have determined no marital relationship in fact exists?

Which brings me to my third point.  Your questions ignore that certain CONDITIONS for something to occur may be multiple, but by asking about only ONE of them, you imply that this is not the case.  A simplistic response could lead to the inference that conditions not even mentioned were not a factor.

A word about "causation": CONDITIONS can be necessary or sufficient.  A condition for an outcome (divorce) may be necessary (e.g. the legal right to obtain a divorce) but that condition is not a sufficient condition such that it alone could cause the divorce.


Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 12:44:21 -0500 (CDT)
To: liz <>
Subject: Re: SMH

I am sorry, Liz, but I find it increasingly difficult to communicate with you.  I am not asking questions in absolute terms, I am asking them in general terms -- there are always exceptions to general rules.

You want to define everything to death, typical of lawyers, to the point where you never answer the question, much like President Clinton says a lot, but never answers questions.

The question was "Are fathers unique in how they raise children."  A father is a father is a father and I put it in the context of him being present to raise children. I am not sure what the confusion is.  The gist of your response was:

"But penised caregiver in and of itself has nothing to offer unique but the fact that he has a penis and male secondary sex characteristics and whatever is unique about that.  Your question implies that you're looking for something special that only a male can do out of the context of his role in a family relationship."

Liz, I am not talking about a "penised caregiver" which could mean a male day care attendant, I am talking about fathers.

My question implies that I am looking for something special that only a FATHER can do INSIDE the context of his role in a family relationship.

Now will you answer the question, yes or no?

I am sure if I asked the same question about mothers, you would answer "Yes" with no long drawn out explanations about clitorised caregivers.



You write: "I am sure if I asked the same question about mothers, you would answer 'Yes' with no long drawn out explanations about clitorised caregivers."

No, I wouldn't.  Surprised?  I would still clarify it.  Only the natural mother gestates the child. This DOES give GESTATING mothers (not ova donors) a unique bond and desire to care for the child AT birth, and for a period of time thereafter.  This comes about from hormones as well as an actual relationship, not just a label, a "status," an idea in the abstract.  And post-birth, only the natural mother can provide her particular "cocktail" of breastmilk that from beginning to end of a baby's meal, is tailored to counter precise toxins in their mutual environment and to provide an optimal nutritional mix in a particular order (the milk during ordinary breastfeeding alters during the breastfeeding.) OTHER THAN THAT: there is nothing that a "mother" can do in the ABSTRACT that couldn't be done by someone else.

There is only one important factor when we are talking about children and parenting, and that's EXISTING RELATIONSHIPS.  Where there are existing relationships, altering them, altering caregivers, or creating loss or upheaval in a child's life will be a negative. Therefore, SPECIFIC persons of EITHER sex who already have these relationships with a child are in a unique position, once these relationships are established in fact.

But to talk about "fathers" or "mothers" having certain specialness by virtue of biological status, and outside of the context of a personal relationship, the answer is no: from the "male" or "female" standpoint, there is nothing which one person can do for a child that no one else can.


Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 08:30:03 -0500 (CDT)
To: liz <>
Subject: Re: SMH

So it is all about relationships? That the children one raises is your flesh and blood is immaterial?



Why is it that the same people who think it's perfectly okay to encourage young unwed women (who not only have that "flesh and blood" connection but also a real emotional connection with the child they've carried) to give their babies up for adoption, inconsistently flip out over men's possessory claims to "flesh and blood?"

Parents who have adopted a child do not "raise" that child or treat that child, or feel about that child differently from their "flesh and blood" children.  A person might think they would, until actually being in the situation, and this is a head trip.  It's a head trip about loving themselves (not a child), possession and ownership.

Medical students have donated sperm for decades; these men now aren't tossing and turning in their beds at night wondering about children out there.  A man might think he has a "connection" of some sort with the product of sperm he ejaculated 40 weeks earlier, an infant whom he has never met, but this is just a head trip.  It's not reality.

And what does that DNA connection and reproducing it really mean?  Well, the maternal grandmother's body created the ova involved (during her pregnancy carrying the mother), and so the maternal gandmother's DNA and gamete contribution is akin to that of the father whose body provided the sperm.  Relatives of all sorts have DNA connections.  This doesn't make a parent, doesn't create a relationship, and is irrelevant.

We're all products of all kinds of DNA that has been mixed and combined and which is connected to other people and passed down, a bit here, a bit there... for millions of years.

Of course it's about relationships.  And in connection with a child's welfare, what's important is the preservation of *existing* relationships, not whose DNA out there somewhere matches part of the child's.


Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 06:12:26 -0500 (CDT)
To: liz <>
Subject: Re: SMH


One evening I was sitting at dinner with a man who stated "Women don't understand abstract justice."  I said, "What do you mean by that?"

He said, "They can only see the world through relationships, and that is all that matters to them."

Thanks for proving his point.

Look for this man's book coming out this year, "The Case for Father Custody." [5]

Liz, a man is very interested in raising his progeny, not somebody elses.

"Organisms have evolved to expend their very lives enhancing the fitness prospects of their descendants.  Parental investment is a precious resource, and selection must favor those parental psyches that do not squander it on nonrelatives." --Daly and Wilson, 1988.



I see you've run out of arguments and now have descended into thinly veiled insults, i.e. telling me (a lawyer), that (being a woman) I do not understand "justice," as well as resorting to sloganism, and the "authoritative fallacy," i.e. quoting others, who are to be given extra credence because their words have been published.

You go on to say: "A man is very interested in raising his progeny not somebody elses."

I have a question back.  It's "why?"  Why do you think so?  Are you sure it's RAISING that progeny and not merely passing on genes?

My response to you is this: catering to an adult's ego is just not a priority consideration.  It has nothing whatever to do with the interests of a child.  If you believe a parental DNA connection is a motivating thing, well that speaks volumes.

We're talking "possession" here, as in property, as in "mine."  And "molding" here as in "indoctrination into my beliefs."  Not caregiving.  Not a child perspective.  But self-adoration and replication.  If the biological connection alone was so motivating, how is it we have the numbers of nonmarital unions and bad marriages we have?  what about adoptive parents?  what about sperm donors?  I'll agree with you that some men think this way. I just don't buy it as some naturally arising drive, and even as a result of social indoctrination, I don't buy it as a given.

But let's accept your theory for the sake of argument.  If a biological father's ostensible natural interest is in raising his own progeny, that interest nevertheless still is unlikely to compare favorably with the gestating mother's interest.  She's got the very same biological connection, PLUS the biological relationship in fact with the child!  And how is the father's interest later on demonstrated?  Who is more likely to be the primary caregiver?

"The Case For Father Custody?"  Nonsense.  By your own measure, natural mothers' parenting generally would come out on top on both counts: your "abstract justice" theory, as well as my real life relationship preservation.

In one breath you've pretended (that male superiority thing?) that "women don't understand abstract justice," and then implicitly called upon nature, quoting talk about about organism evolution.  Evolutionarily, the male reproductive drive in species the world over is merely to pass on the genes, not to raise the children.  Most organisms also have evolved such that mothers raise their young.

And what about your "abstract justice?"  Life is not lived in the abstract, and some men's egos are just not the sum total of what counts.

This is really what the FR movement is about, isn't it.  Children and women as men's possessions. The ideology of property rights.  Patriarchy.  It has nothing whatever to do with the well-being of children.

By the way.  Clarence Darrow, a famous man lawyer well known for his righting of wrongs, had this to say about "abstract justice":  there is no such thing, in or out of court.


[1] Nick Szabo, signer and supporter of the Father's Manifesto.  See The Father's Rights Movement: In Their Own Words.  RETURN TO TEXT

[2] There is argument which has been made to the effect that even the 50% so-called "divorce rate" is meaningless because it originally was calculated comparing the number of divorces over a period of time to the number of marriages over the same period of time without considering the existing population of ongoing "marriages" and what actually happens to most of them over the long haul.  RETURN TO TEXT

[3] Yes, apparently, given the recent policy statement of the Southern Baptist Church.  RETURN TO TEXT

[4] Ibid, note 1, The Father's Rights Movement: In Their Own Words. Szabo said, in his comment beside his signature on the Father's Manifesto that "Feminists should be charged with nothing less than Crimes Against Humanity, sentenced, and summarily executed in public squares." RETURN TO TEXT

[5] He is referring to Daniel Amneus, Cal State Professor aka John Knight aka Art Books aka Mark Hall aka Father's Manifesto etc. RETURN TO TEXT


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