As a woman, a feminist, and the owner of a law firm dedicated to representing dads in family court, I have to be careful how I make friends. Father’s rights law firms and organizations were around long before I opened my company. But the old father’s rights movement was about male power and superiority, ownership of children, and public damnation of the court system, female judges, and the government. Those concepts have no place in my practice, relation to what I stand for, or influence on what my clients want.
Because I was on the lookout for some like-minded advocates, writers, and fathers, I recently attended the DAD 2.0 Summit in Houston. Thankfully, I finally met my friends.
The modern father’s rights movement is about families and equality on all sides. Family equality requires the recognition of dads as equal and necessary caretakers—not superior or more deserving than mom—but not the bumbling sitcom dad either. The father’s rights movement successfully led to gender-neutral laws regarding custody and visitation. But those legal changes haven’t changed stereotypes.
We need a full scale attack on businesses and individuals that denigrate dad and portray him as an incapable idiot, because that common imagery hurts fathers in court. The incompetent, indecisive, and hapless father is a television staple, but he reinforces yesterday’s stereotype to judges who we ask to respect Florida’s equal timesharing laws. We want those judges to see the necessity and value of a father having equal time with his children.
The modern father’s rights movement wants to educate the many well-meaning family court judges who can control how much time children spend with dad. It wants judges to ignore the comic portrayals, and to feel confident that children will be nutritiously fed, required to do homework, diapered, and bathed, on dad’s watch.
The old and inaccurate myth was that time with dad was a party—dinner at McDonald’s, pajamas and video games all day, incomplete homework. This mythical dad was once called Disney Dad. He got every other weekend and Wednesday dinner. He was divorced from who was known as Mundane Monday mom. She made you eat your green beans, was no fun, and laid down rule after endless rule. Neither label is good for either parent.
Modern dads seek equality that is similar to and intertwined with the equality sought by women in the workplace. Women have experienced growing equality in the boardroom, courtroom, and operating room. The modern father’s movement wants men to be viewed as equal in the nursery, playground and PTA.
Dad’s role as an equal caretaker for the children also helps mom achieve her professional goals. When mom isn’t deemed the only one capable of nursing a fever or driving the carpool, mom can more easily meet her career demands. Indeed, female judges, frequently targeted by old father’s rights groups, could be a dad’s most sympathetic supporter. After all, if mom is on the bench, dad is probably carrying much of the parenting load.
So, my message to my new Dad 2.0 friends is keep on doing what you are doing and how you’re doing it. And watch out Disney Dad, your days are numbered.
Chantale Suttle, Esq., is President and Founder of DADvocacy®, a Law Firm Just for Dads based in Miami, Florida.
Image courtesy of Brandon Atkinson
Listen to our interview with Chantale Suttle on The Life of Dad Show.