A knight defending fatherhood
By Roger F. Gay
web posted June 3, 2002
You can tell this is an election year in the U.S. because
politicians, bureaucrats, and TV "talking heads" are bashing
fathers. In the mid 1970s Congress decided to get the federal
government involved in domestic relations law. Ever since, the
war against dads has driven gender politics, expansion of the
welfare system, and increased spending. By the early 1990s it
seemed commonly accepted that battering women and
abandoning wives and children to welfare was a character flaw
genetically fixed by every Y-chromosome.
Enter Stephen Baskerville -- a knight defending fatherhood.
Baskerville might not be what many people imagine as "one of
those fathers' rights guys." A political scientist at Howard
University, Dr. Baskerville's files are filled with scholarly articles
with lots of citations to other scholarly articles, a growing number
of which he has written. In his appearances on television and
radio however, as well as in the articles he has written for the
general public, one might occasionally sense a certain irritation
with mis-educated public remarks about fathers.
In an article in the May issue of Liberty
Magazine entitled "The Myth of Deadbeat Dads,"
Baskerville offers to educate the rich and famous. He reports
that TV host Bill
O'Reilly recently declared that "There is an epidemic of
child abandonment in America, mainly by fathers." "Sen. Evan Bayh has
attacked 'irresponsible' fathers in several speeches.
Campaigning for president, Al
Gore promised harsher measures against 'deadbeat dads,'
including sending more to jail. The Clinton administration
implemented numerous child-support 'crackdowns,' including the
ominously named Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act." In
response, Republicans "want to send the strongest possible
message that parents cannot walk away from their children."
"Special interest groups demonized fathers," says Baskerville.
"They called them 'deadbeat dads' and criminalized them. The
result is a system that traces newly hired employees, shifts the
burden of proof to the accused, and throws fathers in jail for
losing their jobs." He is not alone in that opinion. His article
sports 46 citations from a mixture of sources, including books
and academic journals, the popular press, and even relevant
"The system of collecting child support is no longer one of
requiring men to take responsibility for their offspring, as most
people believe. The combination of 'no fault' divorce and the
new enforcement law has created a system that pays mothers to
divorce their husbands and remove children from fathers."
Baskerville presents a convincing argument, well supported by
research and other commentary. Quoting an article entitled "The
Strange Politics of Child Support"; "By allowing a faithless wife
to keep her children and a sizable portion of her former
spouse's income, current child-support laws have combined with
no fault jurisprudence to convert wedlock into a snare for many
guiltless men." (Bryce Christensen, Society, Vol. 39, No.
1 (Nov.-Dec. 2001, p. 65)).
Baskerville adds, "This 'snare' can easily amount to a prison
sentence without trial."
His work and commentary have captured the attention of the
fathers rights movement. Dave Usher has been a leading activist
since 1987 and served for nine years on the exectutive boards of
the two largest fathers rights groups in America. He knows that
political opinion has been influenced by false information and
how difficult it has been to report serious problems with policies
that effect fathers. Too few "researchers" who have witten about
fathers and fatherhood actually did any research. "We need a
few dozen more Baskervilles," he says. "He is a solid
Although there are many wrongs yet to be righted, the fathers
rights movement does not face the extreme prejudice that it once
did. Hundreds of organizations and conferences, loads of
scholarship, and countless Web sites have sprung up over the
past few years focused on issues of concern to fathers. Dr.
Baskerville organized one of the first fatherhood conferences
three years ago at Howard University. Conferences on fathers
issues and fatherhood have been organized and supported by the
Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Labor, the state of
California, and other well established institutions.
Ironically, the Democratic Party -- the party that started the war
against fathers in the mid 1970s is out to capture the male vote. Before they finalize
their strategy someone should conduct a poll to see how many
males age 25-50 want to be their own worst political enemies.
With fatherhood knights like Stephen Baskerville around, father-
bashing will not be as easy to get away with as it used to be.
Roger F. Gay is the Director of Project for the Improvement of
Child Support Litigation Technology. He regularly contributes
articles to Men's News Daily and Fathering Magazine, and
occassionally to Toogood Reports
Enter Stage Right - http://www.enterstageright.com