Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sexist Assumptions

While listening to the radio in the car the other night, the deejay played a song for a man whose wife had left him with their two children and had willingly given up custody of them.

The radio host couldn't keep from injecting her two cents into the matter saying that she couldn't understand how any woman could give up custody of her own children and that a woman just had to be either mentally ill or on drugs to do so.

Oh, where to begin.

Let's start with the obvious sexism. Men walk away from their kids without a backward glance all the time and while many people will agree that this is an unfortunate situation and that the guy is a bastard, no one would ever assume that he was necessarily mentally ill or on drugs. Nor does anyone wring their hands at the thought of a father relinquishing custody of his children, be it willingly, reluctantly, or compelled by the courts to do so.

The implication is that men either can't or don't care about their offspring as much as a mother can or should.

Bullshit. Both women and men give up custody for a variety of reasons, some of them selfish and shitty, and in other situations, with it being better for the children's welfare. Every situation is different and what's best for the child isn't always, without exception, having the mother being granted custody.

Sometimes, it's better for the children if the mother has custody; but in other instances, the father would make a better custodial parent. For many families, joint custody is what's best. It's ludicrous to have a "one size fits all" custody model that is deemed right for everyone and it's unfair to automatically make negative assumptions about those who don't follow the the most common pattern.

One must look at each situation individually on a case by case basis, and not give in to the temptation to make sweeping, sexist, moralistic judgements like this radio host did.

I speak from experience. My ex ran off and left me alone with our son who was less than a year old at the time.

Was it a shitty thing for her to do? Hell, yes. Would my son been better off with her? I would have to say no.

But I can state without hesitation that she was neither mentally ill, nor on drugs. In fact, other than her internal plumbing, she was little different than many of the men who abandon their families each year.

My son turned out fine and I'm guessing that the children of the guy on the radio have a good chance of doing so as well.


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