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A few words about our much maligned Fathers

FatherknowsbestI should have some kind of witty or profound thing to say on the occasion of Father’s day, but I don’t.

These are just a few disjointed thoughts jotted down. (Consider these almost vignettes or morsels to chew on as part of a broader thought process.)

Whether warranted or not, Fathers are often a maligned or simply ignored component of adopted people’s lives.

Much of this is territory littered with political and feminist landmines, but for what it’s worth, here goes.

  • “Walking sperm banks”
  • “Hit and run”
  • “Just a back seat Friday night impregnator”
  • “Roving inseminators”
  • “Drive-by-daddies”
  • etc.

We’ve all heard the various dehumanizing slurs the adoption industry slings at Fathers (when they both to mention him and acknowledge his role in all this at all.)

Slurs that when their sentiments are reflected in state law tend to strip Fathers of their parental rights.

More often than not, he is simply treated as a null, a void, a silence.

Or someone to be pushed out of the picture as rapidly as possible.

Whatever it takes to sweep aside or hide his rights in relation to his own child.

Pregnant women must have absolute autonomy and personal sovereignty in relation to their own bodies and in making the determination whether or not to bear that pregnancy to term. That pertains to reproductive autonomy and women’s rights.

Once a child has been born, though, the child has their own set of rights and Fathers, whether the adoption industry, adopters, etc. like it or not, do have at least some rights still left to their own children. There may be attempts to curtail or thwart such by the state, the industry, Adopters, or even Mothers but their (so often unenforceable) human rights and relation to their child remain.

Decisions pertaining to who will raise said child, and maintaining or relinquishing parental rights are no longer in the realm of reproductive rights, they pertain to the realm of child rearing.

Understanding that clear demarcation between the realms of reproduction and child rearing is key to understanding the legal realities in relation to adoption, foster care, guardianship, etc.

It’s also important to listen to the experiences of Mothers in relation to the men who Fathered us. Some of them were simply left to deal with the pregnancies alone.

Whether overwhelmed or uninterested, a fellow who was simply seeking a “good time”, or someone genuinely unable to be there due to Military service, or for whatever reason,  women were left and were forced to make decisions or decisions were made for them.

Some women were abused. Some were raped.

Some were underage.

These situations were and are complex and listening and having both empathy and compassion for the realities for our parents positions at the time is important.

We’ve all heard it, more often than not at a party or other social gathering:

Either would be adopters themselves or someone who knows some all worked up about an adoption attempt that fell through.

They are infuriated that a Father dare assert his parental rights, and accusing him of “interfering” with THEIR “right” to what they perceive as “their” child.

They view fathers and their rights as mere obstacles to be overcome.

Fathers are considered “the enemy,” those who stand between “helpless orphans” and “their new parents.”

Never mind the fact that if the kid had an identified father, clearly they’re no “orphan!”

(At least in the lay sense of the word. In international adoption, there are complexities relating to how an “orphan” is legally determined. Most International “orphans” by the legal definition are not “orphans” by the lay definition of having no parents.)

What of adoptees ourselves, and our human right to know our own Fathers? (Yes, even those who may have walked out or even treated our Mothers poorly, or in some other form been viewed as “socially undesirable”.)

A parent may not live up to some ideal of perfection, but that lack of perfection still does nothing to negate their parenthood or the basic human rights that pertain to these complex relationships.

What of those men who are unaware they even are Fathers?

Considering the actual circumstances of human reproduction, there are plenty of men walking around completely unaware of their status as Fathers, let alone Fathers whose children were placed into adoptions.

More often than not these men are simply relegated to “the shadows.” There are few resources or studies pertaining to them.

As a Radical Feminist myself, I have been very wary of various factions in the so called “Father’s rights” and “Men’s rights” movements as oftentimes individual cases have been utilized to interfere with women’s reproductive rights, or force children to remain in abusive situations.

That said, there is a fine line to walk here. The “movement” ends of these things are often but fronts of other ends, such as a part of the broader attempt to dismantle women’s reproductive privacy.

But setting those aside for the moment, there are also individual cases of merit pertaining to Fathers’ rights in child rearing decisions and the loss or surrender of parental rights.

Fathers do have inherent human rights in relation to their children.

I readily acknowledge, understanding the differences between some individual cases and so called “movements” that seek to utilize some cases towards other goals can be tricky to parse.

It’s an ongoing process, and one I speaking as a Bastard AND a Radical Feminist, obviously have a vested stake in.

Understanding who these Fathers are and some of the discrimination they genuinely face, stripping their rights away from them and providing fodder for the adoption industry itself can be a starting point.

Materials such as “Out of the Shadows: Birthfathers’ Stories” for example, can provide at least some basis from which to begin these discussions.

Posts such as this Fathers Day 2010: Unmarried Fathers Who Fight for their Rights to be a Dad on Birth Mother, First Mother Forum also bring out some of the recent case studies.

Eric Smith’s page contains articles and a number of legal citations that are also well worth exploring.

Correspondingly to what I said back on Mother’s Day, somewhere out there, if he’s even still alive, I have a father.

One I’ve never known, and know absolutely nothing about, but that not knowing doesn’t negate his existence and role as a Father.

Just as I’ve written in the past about Mother’s Day, today is a day that on some level, adopted people face the prospect of making two Father’s day phone calls, yet oftentimes only being able to make one.

That silence, that null doesn’t mean our Fathers don’t exist, it simply means there’s a huge gulf between where we stand and any ability we might have to do so.

All that said, adopted people also often have adopted Fathers as well. That is the one phone call I did make earlier this evening.

While there’s plenty to be said about adoptive Fathers as well, this post is primarily about Fathers (”of origin,” for clarity’s sake, though I reject all the modifier terminology.)

I don’t really have a conclusion for this piece either. As I said, these are a series of disjointed notes and thoughts.

The real bottom lines is, though while this is all tricky territory and rife with other interests that want to utilize these cases, Fathers do have human rights in relation to their children.

Untangling the differences between reproduction and child rearing  go a long way towards making some of those rights a bit clearer and perhaps a bit less threatening to those of us trying to preserve women’s reproductive autonomy.

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