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Karen Woodall on Cameron's speech

(4 Posts)
Tyr Mon 20-Jun-11 15:38:58 ... -yourself/

"David Cameron, you should be ashamed of yourself." 19/06/2011 by Karen Woodall
This government might do well to reconsider its leader. On Father’s day, a time to celebrate the men who give life to our children alongside mothers, David Cameron has launched one of the most bigoted attacks on dads that I have ever read, and he, supposedly the leader of the party that supports the family.

I was astonished to read the rhetoric. In an article for Father’s Day for the Sunday Telegraph Cameron said:

“It’s high time runaway dads were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them,” he said. “They should be looked at like drink-drivers, people who are beyond the pale. They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they’re doing is wrong – that leaving single mothers, who do a heroic job against all odds, to fend for themselves simply isn’t acceptable.”

Does this man work for the single parent campaign group Gingerbread, I wonder? If not, then they should snap him up quick. I have never read anything so ‘on message’ since the nineteen eighties. Given that Gingerbread have succeeded for nearly two decades in persuading us all that family separation is all about men running off, leaving women to cope single handedly, David Cameron should be made their ambassador. What an insult and utter shame that he has so little understanding of the real world of family separation that he falls back upon the stereotypes and the myths that have been created around such a painful experience.

Who are these ‘runaway fathers’ I wonder.

Perhaps its Garry from the North East, who, just like Cameron’s own father, rose at 6am every morning to work ten hour days to feed and clothe his four children, only to find one day when he got home that his wife had taken them and left him? Or maybe, Alan from Cambridge, who had to live in the garage for a year because he had nowhere else to go and he didn’t want to leave his children in the care of his mentally ill wife who repeatedly attacked him? Could it be Freddie, a dad who worked in the City and made a lot of money, whose wife took his two children and flew to the States, keeping them there against court orders for seven years.

Family separation affects the whole of our society and it cannot be stereotyped, categorised or understood in a few sentences. Each and every family separation is different and yes, there are fathers who walk away and don’t look back, but equally, there are mothers who run away, take the kids away and all hope of relationships between dad and kids away forever.

Working with separated families means that I see what people do to each other and I know how each of them is advantaged and disadvantaged by family policies and practices in the UK. I know that separated dads start from a doubly disadvantaged position, they are neither supported in their care for children nor encouraged in their efforts to stay close. Dads are pushed away and given every reason to walk away and then when they do, we berate them for doing so.

Cameron described in the article how he had learned his values from his own father, Ian Cameron, who died last year aged 77. “From my father, I learned about responsibility. Seeing him get up before the crack of dawn to go and do a hard day’s work and not come back until late at night had a profound impact on me,” he said.

What David Cameron doesn’t understand is that whether dads run away or mothers run away, it’s always dad who is blamed for the break down. Justifying the way that we treat separated fathers, means keeping the stereotype of the runaway dad alive. Keep your marriage intact Mr Cameron, you too could the next deadbeat dad if Samantha tires of you.

This message about fathers from a man who is supposed to be supporting ‘the family’ is shameful. It is lazy, it is spiteful and it is ill informed. Out there are some of the most heroic fathers it is possible to meet, separated dads who stick in for years, fighting to be with their children against all the odds. Dads who shape up, step up and pay up, often over the odds in order to make sure that their children do not suffer. This is an equalities issue and in any other field, Cameron would be hauled over the coals for such discriminatory remarks.

In the shadow of a gender equality duty that lacks balls, I sincerely hope that Superman, Spiderman and Batman are dusting off their outfits even as I write.

by karen woodall ... -yourself/

timehealsall Thu 23-Jun-11 23:41:32

Whoever posted this thank you so much - as a divorced father who really isn't in as bad a position as many others, but still feels pretty discriminated against I found Cameron's remarks ignorant in the extreme - and it was so good to read my feelings summarised so eloquently.

Seriously, on Father's Day? Probably chimed well with his core demographic though.

Plus all seems a bit steretyped in terms of the father who works long hours to provide for his family. Isn't that a bit 1940s? What about the father who works slightly less hours and maybe earns slightly less, but then spends more actual time with his children. In the end Dave what's more valuable - time or money?

marycorporate Fri 24-Jun-11 15:44:06

I wish you'd been over to support me on my arguement over in 'In the news' forum with all your eloquency and personal expereince. Damn it!!

timehealsall Sun 26-Jun-11 22:59:35

Hey Marycorporate

The turth is I try to limit myself to Dadsnet these days as I'm really not sure some of the other boards are meant for me and sometimes I've encourntered a little harshness because of that - fair enough.

So I think where I'm up to with Dave's comments is as follows.

Fathers who run away from children, refuse to pay for them or see them unquestionably = bad.

I think ultimately that was what Dave was saying but it is emotive for all us single Dads out there who do pay maintenance, are extremely reliable and, you know what, would snap someone's hand off for a system where shared care was assumed on a split - not something that has to be fought for with all the horrible choices that means in relation to "upsetting the co-parenting relationship", which in turn upsets the child more.

I think he would have been much better advised on Father's Day to celebrate all responsible Dads and mention single Dads who do step up - sometimes difficult circumstances - as being a good thing.

Then on Mother's Day celebrate all responsible Mothers including those who are left abandoned and let down by absent Fathers and how difficult and amazing that is too.

Then no-one responsible is feeling stigmatised.

Reading your In The News post was very interesting. The vibe I got from that was that some of the Government's recent proposals re: CSA, etc are making split Mother's feel discriminated against - presumably feedback he's picked up and was maybe trying to rectify with his comments.

For the record my opinion of the divorce system in this territory for parents is simply that it's "one size fits all" approach is no longer fit for purpose in a world where equality is legislated for in almost every other area - no comment on how successful that is, beyond that it's legislated for more stringently than family law - many Mumsnetters I think would argue with this but the problem for me is that many of those arguments seem to end with either "but the Mother is more important" or "well no Mother would leave a Father unless he deserved it" - both arguments that can be fairly compellingly deconstructed as (whisper it) possibly sexist - although biologically I'll accept pregnancy and breast feeding as stages where the mother is more important.

I think what the Government are trying to do with their CSA / benefits proposals is:

1. Primarily cut costs
2. Slightly under the auspices of "evening up" family law a bit

But it's all very see through and much more useful would be comparing a parental divorce system like Sweden's - which to me seems far more evolved in a world of equality - with our current system and having that debate openly and constructively.

In the end all this - Camreon's comments / Government proposals / the grey areas of family law - actually seems to be driving more of a wedge between divorced parents who are already by definition likely to have already stopped being each other's favourite people. And the people who suffer from that wedge most are the children.

Apolgoies, here endeth the rant!

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