HBR Talk 16 - Reproductive rights, accountability gap personified

Last week we introduced the accountability gap, a gender disparity in the degree to which people are held accountable for the impact of their choices on themselves, and on others. In many ways, gynocentric society labels men and boys disposable. This results in being not only less likely to recognize the agency behind the choices women and girls make, if there is accountability to be applied to our choices, society often scrambles to protect women from any consequences by foisting that off on men, on top of their responsibility for their own choices. 

A prime example of this is the legal and social approach to reproductive freedom. In today’s society we hear a lot about a concept called “reproductive rights,” described on findlaw.com as the rights of individuals to decide whether to reproduce and have reproductive health. However, with the exception of men’s advocates specifically, the term is used exclusively to refer to WOMEN’s decision whether to reproduce, or after having reproduced, whether to carry to term, and having carried to term, whether to keep the baby… and there’s more. It has even been argued that women with jobs and incomes do not have “access” to birth control if their employers are not government-forced to pay for insurance that covers, without co-pay, elective treatments like hormonal drugs, intrauterine devices, or abortifacients. 

When men’s advocates use the term to describe nothing more than men’s right to equivalent decisions regarding their fertility and parental responsibility, women’s advocates vehemently object. They have treated the topic like a zero sum game, in which any ability men have to control their reproduction takes away from women’s control over theirs. In the past, this resulted in Betty Friedan leading a “no male pill” protest when the idea of one was being explored. Even today, feminist media writes about male birth control as an attack on women’s reproductive control. Some argue that conception should be entirely a woman’s decision, even if the man does not want to conceive. Others act as if the use of medical birth control by men would mean women couldn’t use theirs any more, with articles asking whether women can trust men to use hormonal birth control. Why would they have to, when women have access to multiple forms of birth control of their own? The reality is, that argument by women’s advocates is projection that reveals their interest in retaining for women the ability to conceive without the consent or knowledge of the father. 

This is further indicated when women’s advocates claim that giving men the option of paternal surrender, a legal equivalent to safe haven abandonment which would absolve a soon-to-be or new father of any child support obligation by permanently terminating his parental rights, would “force” women to abort, or take away their “right” to retain custody following birth. They defend the broken, punitive child support system, which forces parental responsibility on men, as a necessity to protect women’s so-called right to chose to be mothers even if they cannot fund that choice themselves. They treat the woman’s single status as evidence of abandonment by a father they deem irresponsible, when the mother has control over consent, the risk of conception, carrying to term, and retaining custody. With all of the options women have, this is the direct argument that it is a men’s responsibility to fund women’s lifestyle choice to become single custodial mothers. In other words, women’s advocates are basically defending entrapment pregnancy as a woman’s right. Therefore, they can honestly be said to use the term “reproductive rights” to slap the label “rights” only for women on not just the right to choose to prevent unplanned reproduction, but also the choice to reproduce with a partner who does not want to reproduce, the choice to walk away from parental responsibility, regardless of whether they have reproduced or not, and the ability to do it all on someone else’s dollar.

Meanwhile, should the father wish to take full parental responsibility and raise his child in his home, he gets a totally different story about custody rights. Should he seek even equally shared custody through the court system whether post-divorce or as an unwed father, he is at a severe disadvantage, courtesy of legal standards that are in place due to feminist agitation. Not only is he in for a hard fight to get any recognition of his parental rights at all, if he does get equal or primary custody he will not get the same consideration under child support standards that a woman would. He is presumed responsible for her support. She is not presumed equally responsible for his. A man can make less money than the mother of his child and be assessed a child support obligation. A man can even be assigned primary custody and still be legally obligated to pay child support under some circumstances.

Before Maternal custody became standard in nations whose legal systems were informed by English Common Law, the default in divorce was paternal custody. The father was expected to provide for his children and see to their care without any of the considerations feminists demand for women today; no support payments from the ex-wife, no government-assisted child-care, nor financial assistance from a government source… just his own income, minus whatever support he was required to give to his ex-wife.

The flipside of that situation was that men had the legal capacity to alienate their children from their mothers the same way many custodial mothers do today. When Caroline Norton fought to change that in the UK and set a precedent that influenced every country informed by English Common Law, she likely viewed it from the standpoint of her own terrible experience of parental alienation, and did not foresee the pendulum swinging so far in the opposite direction. It did, however, in a big way: Women are now primarily awarded custody, but without the degree of responsibility men faced. Custodial mothers are more often than not entitled to receive child support from noncustodial fathers. In fact, According to an assessment of data from 1995 through 2009, published at dalrock.wordpress.com, mothers receive over 80% of all child support dollars paid in the United States. 

They’ve also been assisted with government-funded childcare, increased eligibility for welfare programs, initiatives by charitable organizations, and greater flexibility in the workplace. Men have always had to do or obtain for themselves those factors for which women have traditionally received assistance. As a result, there are stark gender-based differences in the circumstances in which single custodial parents raise their children. 

According to U.S. Census data published in 2011: 

A higher percentage of single custodial mothers than single custodial fathers 

  • Become custodial parents as teens 
  • Earn low income or are entirely jobless, and without enough alternate income to rise above the poverty level.
  • Have custody of four or more children, and combine joblessness with multiple child custody 

On the other hand, a higher percentage of single custodial fathers than single custodial mothers 

  • Have jobs
  • Earn high income 
  • Have enough alternate income to stay above the poverty level without being employed 
  • Have custody of only one child 
  • Maintain employment when they do have custody of multiple children 

Despite the obvious implications of this information, 85.3% of ALL custodial single parents are mothers. In 2014, Time.com announced that more millennial mothers are single than married. According to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 4 in 10 children are born to unwed mothers. According to a 2016 survey by the American Sociological Association titled “How Couples Meet and Stay Together,” 69% of divorce is initiated by women. And of course it is… the stark gender differences in consequences faced when breaking up one’s family would both severely limit men’s ability to even escape abusive marriages, and make it easier for women to give up on a marriage that’s merely on the rocks than to work at salvaging it. In fact, there is no accountability for a woman who chooses to break up her marriage, regardless of her reasons, as her prospects for custody or property awards in the divorce are unaffected by most factors and her ex doesn’t even have equally shared parenting rights.

Initiatives intended to reform the custody, support, and alimony systems have been effectively prevented by opposition from women’s advocates using demonization of men as deadbeats and abusers and accusing them of only wanting time with their children to reduce their obligations to the mother, or to torment her. Some articles have made the argument that fathers should not have equal time with their children because time away from their children is painful for mothers. Feminist writers unironically describe this pain without ever considering that fathers experience the same pain, or that being separated from their fathers hurts children, as a wealth of research shows, if one’s common sense doesn’t make it obvious. 

As a result, numerous times, equally shared parenting legislation has failed to pass because of lies and melodrama introduced into the process by feminist organizations. Neither the gender differences in financial solvency nor the wealth of information demonstrating the importance of father involvement in a child’s life have affected these outcomes. Mothers are not socially or legally accountable for the impact these life choices may have on their children. Fathers, on the other hand, are presumed responsible for not just that impact but also how their ex-wives feel should they try to mitigate it through involvement in their children’s lives… or they’re held responsible for the circumstances created by their sex partner’s choice to become a single custodial mother… all with no recognized right to prevent those circumstances by controlling their own fertility. 

The contrast between Men’s advocates’ view of the situation as an inequality in reproductive rights and the accompanying responsibilities, vs the gynocentric (and feminist) view of women as victims of their own choices, has made it impossible for the two groups to find common ground on issues of divorce, single parenthood, custody, and property division… and in the discussion at large, feminists still have the advantage due to the socially-driven accountability gap between the sexes. One individual using the court system to extort another for support following irresponsible lifestyle choices with far-reaching consequences only sounds reasonable to a society in which women are not held to the same accountability standard as men. Ultimately, the people most affected by this particular manifestation of the accountability gap are their children. Is it any wonder that some involved in the greater gender-issues discussion have argued that women are, in effect, also children?