Edmonton Sun

Saturday, June 9, 2001

Throwing a hissy fit is wrong way to go

by Mindelle Jacobs
The Edmonton Sun

When a parliamentary committee held hearings on child custody and access in 1998, the men's and women's groups were frequently at each other's throats.

This week's buffoonery proved nothing has changed.

Ottawa has begun a new round of consultations on reforming the Divorce Act but a gaggle of women's groups gathered up their marbles and went home in a huff.

Like whiny kindergarten kids, the feminists decided they didn't want to play any more if they had to co-operate with the boys.

The federal Justice Department held a consultation forum in Ottawa Thursday, attended by father's rights groups, child welfare organizations and other representatives.

But the feminists threw a hissy fit and boycotted the session.

"The consultation document does not make one single reference to women," sniped Bonnie Diamond of the National Association of Women and the Law, explaining why a coalition of women's groups snubbing the latest round of government consultations.

"This is an astounding omission given that women have overwhelmingly been and continue to be the primary caregivers of children," said Diamond.

Well, come to think of it, Ottawa's consultation paper doesn't refer to men either. It does talk about parental rights and responsibilities after divorce, however. And it invites the public to respond to a number of suggested options for reform of the Divorce Act.

There is nothing radical in the proposals. You may not agree with all the options but they're clearly well thought out and worth considering. Yet if you believe the women's groups, the sky is about to fall.

Why the feminist uproar? The women's groups want a "gender analysis" of the law. Sounds like some of these people spent too much time engaged in feminist dialectics in women's studies classes.

Without a gender analysis, according to Diamond, the consultations will "jeopardize the rights and safety of many women and children."

You see what I mean? Never mind that women already get custody of the kids in the vast majority of cases. Float a few ideas on how to make the system a little fairer to men and all of a sudden it's a plot to subjugate women.

And God forbid women's groups and men's organizations should rub shoulders in the same consultation forum without resorting to heckling and name-calling.

The two sides couldn't bring themselves to act like adults during the joint Senate-Commons committee on child custody and access three years ago.

So the feminists have drawn a line in the sand. They won't participate in the current government hearings because they don't want to face fathers' rights groups.

Instead, they'll send their written brief to the federal Justice Department.

It makes you wonder whether there is any hope for a truce in the battle of the sexes if intelligent professionals from both sides can't sit down at a table and treat each other with respect.

So far, there is no sign of a meeting of minds. Men's groups want a more balanced system so that divorced fathers have a better chance of winning custody.

But women's organizations would just as soon stick with the status quo.

The joint committee's key recommendation in its 1998 report was to replace the terms "custody" and "access" with the concept of shared parenting.

Ottawa's current options range from retaining the current terminology while expanding family law services to shared parenting where kids would have extensive interaction with both parents.

But the feminists have flatly rejected the idea of shared parenting. Such a neutral approach may make women more vulnerable to male bullying, they say.

As far as they're concerned, the best interests of children can only be met through the well-being of their mothers.

And if there are men out there who would make great dads?

Too bad. Let them pay up and shut up.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.