Wednesday, 4 July 2012

ASA rule against Fathers 4 Justice ad

The Advertising Standards Agency have ruled against the controversial Fathers 4 Justice ad that ran in national newspapers this Mother’s Day. The ad was targeted at brands who advertise with the Mumsnet social network, which Fathers 4 Justice believe paints men as rapists, paedophiles and wife beaters. 

Fathers 4 Justice argue that Mumsnet is full of distressing misandry that’s as unacceptable as homophobia and racism. However ASA instead found that there are 1000s of comments on the web forum, some which may be more extreme than others, and that Mumsnet did not endorse sexist comments. Therefore the site was not at fault.

I kind of had to laugh a little bit at this. I mean, if women asked for brands to withdraw ads every time we experienced incredible levels of unpleasantness below the line, we would be on the march against CIF, the Daily Mail, every gaming blog, every political blog… every single day!

But that’s beside the point. 

I don’t believe it can be a co-incidence that Fathers 4 Justice produced this ad around a similar time that Mumsnet launched their ‘We believe you’ campaign. This was a vital web space for women to share their experiences of domestic abuse, rape, sexual abuse and violence. It was a space for women to be supported and believed, as they detailed the terrible crimes committed against them – yes, by men. For some women, the silence had been maintained for years. For some women, when the silence was broken, they hadn’t been believed. The We Believe You campaign gave women the space, the time and the support to speak out about the violence, the horror, the torture. It said to women that they were safe, that they could speak and, most importantly, that they would be believed. Whoever hadn’t believed them before, Mumsnet and the women online would believe them now. 

I think there is something singularly wicked about taking something as strengthening and empowering as the We Believe You conversation, and turning it into a weapon for Fathers 4 Justice to hit women with. 

Many of the men talked about on the We Believe You space are rapists, are paedophiles, are wife beaters. But never was it said that all men are. Never was it implied or suggested by Mumsnet that all men are. Because as we know, not all men are these things. Some men choose to commit these crimes. 

It isn’t Mumsnet’s fault that these men chose to commit these crimes. Mumsnet didn’t label the men who committed these crimes as rapists, paedophiles and wife-beaters. They took that label when they chose to rape, to abuse, to hit. 

Despite fervently supporting equal parental rights for years, I’ve never been a fan of Fathers 4 Justice. This is a campaigning group who use criminal actions to get noticed. Who, as well as publicly threatening Mumsnet, have also had members send threats to offices of domestic abuse support services (a friend of mine who’s mum works in the sector confirmed this). Who's members once made statements around 'No More Lesbo Dads'. And who now have targeted women sharing their experiences of male violence, in order to silence those women, to take away their safe space. 

There are of course terrible situations where divorcing parents use their children as weapons to harm one another, and where women withhold access to punish their ex. This needs to be tackled, and dealt with, so that the children are cared for and are safe. But, as a recent consultation commissioned by the government has shown, these incidents are far, far rarer than the public believe. Of all the divorces that happen, only 10% seek custody through the courts. A tiny percentage of these then lead to contact orders. In 2010, 300 litigated custody cases out of 95,000 resulted in the father being denied access to his child. Considering the British Judicial System is built on centuries of patriarchal rule, where only 170 years ago women were completely denied custody of their children in every case, there’s generally a very, very good reason for denying access. Considering it is so rare hopefully shows that it’s not a decision the courts take lightly.  

Contrary to the beliefs of F4J and much of the general public, the government-commissioned consultation found that there was no bias against fathers in the family courts. There was, rightly and of course, a bias towards the primary caregiver, and in our current society that is the mother. However, in a situation where the father was the primary caregiver, the bias would be towards him. 

The idea that feminists are at fault for ‘promoting’ the mother in the courts system is a long-standing myth. In fact, equal parenting is something that feminists have been campaigning about for a long, long time. The assumption that women are the primary caregiver has been a feminist issue since before F4J were in short trousers. For decades now we’ve been arguing for equal parental leave, so that mothers and fathers are involved in child rearing from the start. We argue for more flexible working, for a reduced pay gap, for an end to the ‘mother gap’, so that all parents in a family are equal, involved and caregiving.  

Fathers 4 Justice have congratulated the government for ignoring the findings of their own consultation. This is despite advice from lawyers, who have expressed concern that changes to the law will not be beneficial to children. And surely that’s what has to matter in the end? That the safety and welfare of the children is paramount? Surely that’s more important than rhetoric about Walton family values, and political point scoring? Surely what matters is that children are safe, and happy, and protected. That they are not failed by the system, by their families. 

I’m glad ASA have found against F4J. I hope this means they start to understand that bullying tactics that defame women will not help the cause for equal parenting. I hope they understand that using the words of survivors against them is not acceptable. We Believe You was never about misandry. It was never about calling men rapists. It was about naming the crimes committed against women. It was about raising our voices, together in solidarity. If F4J want to blame anyone for building a world where men can be called rapists, blame those men who choose to rape.

This piece has been cross posted in a shorter version at Liberal Conspiracy 


scallopsrgreat said...

Excellent blog post. You are right it was no coincidence that F4J attacked MN when they did. And let's not be mistaken, they took the fight to Mumsnet, not the other way round and then whined when they were given as good as they gave.

Naming the crimes committed against women - so important.

Forty Shades Of Grey said...

Great post Sian. My only quibble is that I don't care about F4J (or any group) using tactics that are illegal, per se. This is simply because any tactic may be deemed illegal, governments have been widely known to try to stop protest in this way (see Quebec student protests recently). What I actually would care about is if people use harmful tactics - which F4J, as you have demonstrated, do. Haven't they planned a couple of kidnappings too? Yeah, great way to show you're fit to be around children.

People like F4J see children as property and a prize to be won, and it sickens me. The laws in this country are geared towards what is right for the individual child in a situation, and they want to override that right to promote their own self interest - regardless of how many children will suffer as a consequence. They seem incredibly keen on the rhetoric about spiteful mothers not allowing them to see their kids, and I just don't get it. It seems pretty simple to me - if the other parent doesn't let you see your children, go to court. The evidence holds up that only the most horrifically abusive parents won't be allowed to see them, so if they're as good parents as they claim they are, why aren't they getting court orders which give them access to their children?

Finally, they claim misandry because they think the word has magical powers to denigrate women. So it can be used in any circumstance. Talk about women's issues? MISANDRY. Talk about men's issues in the sphere of reality rather than the MRA fantasy? MISANDRY. Hard chairs? MISANDRY. Friendzoning? MISANDRY. It's quite a fun game to name something then try to work out the torturous logic that makes it misandric.

sian and crooked rib said...

Thank you both. And yes Nat, that's a really good point which I hadn't considered. and agree with you.

And damn those sexist hard chairs! excluding men's delicate nether regions from university libraries! we'll never forget...

David said...

@Sian: thanks for the post, particularly the Guardian link about bias in the family courts, which is an interesting foil to paternal paranoia.

"People like F4J see children as property and a prize to be won"
@FSOG: I agree with the majority of your post, but I think this kind of generalisation needs propping up with more evidence than you provide.

My initial comment got lost during my Blogger signup. Is this a feminist conspiracy? :)

sian and crooked rib said...

hi david, glad you like the post. sorry - i pre-moderate and i think sometimes it isn't clear it's gone through to moderation. however, it's posted now!

Rebecca said...

"If F4J want to blame anyone for building a world where men can be called rapists, blame those men who choose to rape."

I need a more powerful word than "fucking exactly". Irritation that women are talking about rape and abuse (and daring to label those who raped and abused as, shocker, rapists and abusers) never fails to astound me. Meanwhile, rape is written off as an inevitable problem that you must work around, one that women must be careful to avoid. Awful.

Thanks for the great post Sian.

sian and crooked rib said...

thank you Rebecca :-) x

johnpaul said...

some femenist groups do protest agisnt the daily amil or guardian beign sold in WH Smiths,

Fabius said...

Rebecca , men shouldnt rape but then falsely accusing some one of rape or "Murder" is as damaging for the man as it is to be actually raped.

Th epolice and courts are dealing with all men as default rapists and abusers. And some women are taking full advantage of this.

My wife for instance accused me and my freind of plotting to kill her at a dinner we had with his wife their four children , our two kids, whihc was a happy family occasion (im not deluding mysel fhere) after my wife accused me nd my freind "of plotting to kill her" I asked the kids of they saw this and phoned my friend, eventually my wife said "well you looked a tme a bit funny when I asked for the salt" ( I was actually coming down with painful arterial fibulation at this meal bought on by her stress)

No sorry Rebecca if you phone th epolice up and say "my husband is plotting to kill me" and or "my husband looked at me a bit odd "

They are two completely different things and Rebecca if you meet women you will know what devious liars they can be sorry but this is true.

Me I just want my kids bought up properly,

childofsparta said...

The ten percent, fathers lack of parenting time commoly known as contact and violence rebuttle

As for the comments on the partracky malarcky look up the history of the charterists and dont confuse gender rule with the rule of the elites, thats how they keep winning. As for your comments of days of old, men/fathers protected their families in these times where common law ruled (common law very simple and effective) and ownership was how you protected the family from the state or any other individual. Now the state has removed that protection the state now owns the children.

karenwoodall said...

i am sure that the world seems to be a certain place to you, your post is so childish you have to be under the age of 30. As an older woman, a feminist and a worker for equalities let me tell you that world is simply not divided into two distinct parts of one side good and other side bad and conspiracy theories about who did what and why and when to whom are for kids. Mumsnet vs f4j doesnt quite divide as neatly as you would like it to, when you grow up you will understand that. There are men and women in the world who behave badly towards each other and their children and whether male or female if anyone has been raped then they should be believed. half baked ideas about why a campaign group supporting fathers would object to a website like mumsnet hosting some pretty horrible attitudes towards men and boys doesnt help anyone, least of all the men and boys targeted by the horrors writing on said mumsnet site. Get over yourself and grow up, equalities is not about bullying men and innocent women, it is about tackling discriminatory attitudes and balancing chances and choices for men as well as women

ste said...

another little child that hasn't got a clue

sian and crooked rib said...

you all seem lovely.

Rebecca said...

"if you meet women you will know what devious liars they can be"

*If* I meet women? What? Also "The police and courts are dealing with all men as default rapists and abusers" I suggest you read some of Sian's older posts (complete with statistics) on the frequency with which women are disbelieved, victim-blamed and no-crimed even after coming forward. The fact that less than 8% of rapes results in a conviction enormously contradicts that the courts (male-dominated professions, also) are biased to think men are default rapists.

But hey, low convictions are just because those women are liars, right! Fucking hell. *facepalm*

sian and crooked rib said...

well said rebecca!

Forseti said...

Oh dear, Sian, you are very confused and poorly-informed, aren’t you?

Let’s start with your first blunder. The F4J Mumsnet campaign actually started before their We Believe You campaign and had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The two matters are unrelated.

Let’s move on to your understanding of the family justice system; reading a Guardian article by the feminist Ellie Mae O’Hagan is no substitute for the sort of research we have conducted in this area for the last 10 years. You are dangerously out of your depth.

It’s clearly escaped your notice, for example, that since 1989 the terms “custody” and “access” have been replaced respectively by the terms “residence” and “contact”. I don’t know where you’ve been since 1989, but it obviously hasn’t been in the family courts.

You are hopelessly confused by these terms; it isn’t custody that fathers are applying for but contact (access). “Litigated custody cases” can’t result in orders for no contact. The 10% figure you and your kind rely on measured something else entirely, but you are so muddled I don’t think you know what you imagine it measures anyway. You should also understand that an order for no contact is not the only way – and certainly not the main way – a father can be denied contact. There were 95,460 disposals made for contact orders in 2010; if you consider that about 215,000 children saw their parents’ relationships break down that year, I wonder how you can still call that a “tiny percentage”?

You also confuse reports with public consultations. There is a consultation regarding a contact. It is ongoing and the results are not yet in. You may be referring to the Norgrove Report, which was published in November, but was not a consultation. This was not the report which found there to be no bias against fathers; that was another report published in 2008. What it found depends rather on how you interpret it and on your starting position: if you think fathers are second-class parents you will be happy with the very low levels of contact which are standard. You state, “There was, rightly and of course, a bias towards the primary caregiver, and in our current society that is the mother.” So you accept there’s a bias against fathers, but think it is justified.

That is a legitimate position to hold, but it is very, very far from the belief in equal parenting you think feminists hold. What you describe is the old primary carer ideology which derives from John Bowlby’s “early years” theories. It has long been discredited by Sir Michael Rutter, and even Bowlby doubted it by the end. But you can’t be expected to know that.

“Fathers 4 Justice have congratulated the government for ignoring the findings of their own consultation. This is despite advice from lawyers.” Aside from your confusion between consultations and reports, this isn’t true. Your link is to an article featuring David Norgrove who is not a lawyer. Did you read, in the same article, the comments from children’s minister Tim Loughton who said, "There is a familiar picture in the UK of parental separation leading to thousands of children losing meaningful contact with the non-resident parent, usually the father. This issue affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and it would be negligent not [to consider all options]." I wonder how you think the Government should protect all those thousands of children if a change in the law is not the way to go?

Can I suggest, Sian, that before you blog on this issue again you conduct a little research, other than reading a handful of Guardian articles? See if you can understand the difference between custody and access. See if you can grasp what a consultation is. Try to find the origin of the 10% figure and work out for yourself if it is accurate. Then if you really want to take F4J to task, do so for something they have done rather than for something they might have done but didn’t do.

ExileOnMainStreet said...

The point that thus far EVERYONE has missed is that the comments on Mumsnet were directed against the statistically insignificant number of people who constitute Fathers4Justice. They weren't directed against "men & boys".

As I posted elsewhere, thankfully F4J are as representative of fathers/men/boys as Basil Fawlty is of hoteliers.

They are attention seeking drones, directed by media hungry stooges.