There is an organisation in the UK which operates behind closed doors. It prevents the dissemination of information and debate. It denies people the right to reply to its edicts, and removes from those who dare to question it the opportunity to speak for themselves. It pushes an ideology it refuses to substantiate with evidence and will brook absolutely no dissent or deviance from its rulings.
I am not referring to the family justice system but, of course, to the campaign organisation Fathers4Justice.
I anticipated that my last blog post would set the cat amongst the pigeons and I have not been disappointed. I have been blocked from commenting on all related Facebook and Twitter accounts, which means that I am unable to respond to the post about me on Matt O’Connor’s Facebook page where he kindly makes public my private email address. Though he has stayed true to his word that he ‘won’t engage in personal attacks’ on me, that same courtesy does not appear to have been extended today to my fiancée.
Anyone who posts any moderately challenging post on the F4J Facebook page now will be removed, usually with the comment that ‘So-and-so appears to have liked the wrong page’. One such father, desperate for help and advice, has vented his disgust on Youtube. Good on you, Jason.
The tragedy is that F4J behaves as if it is running some sort of scam which cannot possibly be justified and has to be run deceitfully, while the truth is that its position is unassailable, its case is enormously powerful and absolutely vital to the health of the nation. Although he is slightly weak on detail (as we’ll see below) Matt O’Connor has – or at least had – an unerring insight into the injustice of the justice system and an instinct for what would make a spectacular public splash.
It would be far better to let the offending comments on Facebook stand and to expose the failings in the posters’ arguments; embarrassingly, F4J is earning itself a reputation for having little respect for free speech. Clearly they cannot see the contradiction between that and Tweeting about freedom of the press.
I was slightly amused by the comment made about me in relation to Fathers4Justice that I ‘no longer supported our clearly defined position (as in our Blueprint)’.
Ironically the most recent version of the F4J Blueprint, from 2010, was my work!
Since 2010, however, new scientific research has irrevocably changed the parenting landscape.
The shared parenting debate had become polarised between positions typified by Jenny McIntosh on the one hand and Michael Lamb on the other.
McIntosh believes that young children require a continuous, emotionally available parental relationship that only a mother can provide and which a father’s involvement disrupts. Where there is separation and conflict the father’s role becomes dispensable.
Lamb rebuts this: children form attachments to both parents at the same time and require relationships with both if they are to adjust appropriately.
While the feminists and lefty liberals lined up behind McIntosh, the fathers’ rights movement chose Lamb as their champion.
Developments in neuroscience, however, show us how babies’ and young children’s brains develop: for their brains to mature babies must establish ‘conduits of empathic attunement’ with their parents: emotional umbilical cords. As these attachment processes evolve they trigger the development of neural pathways which lead to the growth of a healthy brain.
This science shows us not merely that children need relationships with both parents, but also what form those relationships must take: parents must achieve this state of ‘empathic attunement’ in which their minds are aligned with those of their children.
Karen Woodall commented thus,
This blows away all of the arguments around parental rights and refocuses the mind upon the rights of the child to enjoy peaceful alignment and attunement to the different things that their mother and father can bring to their developing brains and selves. It neither upholds McIntosh’s anxieties about the problem of young children having overnight stays with their father, nor Michael Lamb’s rebuttal, in fact for me, it renders both of these standpoints void. Just like the arguments about the rebuttable presumption of 50/50 shared care, meaningful relationships for children and both of their parents cannot be furthered using parental view points, the only way of looking at this is from the experience of the child.
The fathers’ rights movement needs to respond to this new science, and modify its position accordingly.
Raising this issue has resulted in my expulsion and attempted silencing, but the matter won’t go away.
Matt O’Connor’s response has been to shift away from the F4J Blueprint – which, whatever he says, rightly puts children’s rights foremost – and revert to what seems to me an unsophisticated, 20th century rhetoric about fathers’ rights. This opens the campaign up again to allegations that fathers just want to assert their own rights and don’t really care about those of children. I had hoped we had advanced beyond that.
Other parenting groups are talking, listening, discussing, debating and cooperating. On empathic attunement Karen Woodall is leading the way and explaining the new understanding in a way fathers’ groups can take on board and adapt to their own agendas.
This is why I was so angry when F4J chose to target Karen and the Centre for Separated Parents; this was the one occasion when they should have put petty rivalries aside and tried to work alongside someone else for once, but they failed to step up to the mark, and attacked the messenger for delivering a message I can only assume they fail to understand.
Only one fathers’ group stands aloof and refuses to join in this exciting debate.
You can guess which one it is.
(Update, 15/01/2014: O’Connor has now reneged on his pledge not to resort to personal attacks and has posted some very false and libellous allegations on his website. Ah well.)