Young dads have difficulties, that doesn’t make them deadbeats


There was great feature on Young Fathers by Yvonne Roberts in this weekend’s Observer newspaper.

Fatherhood is one of the key issues addressed and the National Conference for Men and Boys so if this topic is important to you then book your tickets for the conference online today here.

The feature highlights research that shows that children with involved fathers generally have fewer behavioural problems, greater emotional self-regulation, increased language development and improved cognitive skills. Evidence also shows that the more fathers are involved with their children when they are babies, the more likely their relationships with their children will be sustained over years, in spite of divorce or separation.

In the UK, the proportion of fathers who aren’t living with their child’s mother from birth is higher in Britain than in most other European countries. Though an often overlooked fact is the nearly half of these fathers attend the birth and are involved in some way at the beginning of their child’s life.

In terms of young fathers,  Roberts says, “if the relationship between father and mother is fragile, and the mother denies access, many teenage fathers lack the resources to fight for the right to be in their child’s life.”

Roberts highlights the work of the academics Charlie Lewis and Michael E Lamb, who since the 1970s “have challenged stereotypical and one-dimensional portrayals of fathers as “deadbeat dads” or “play partners” incapable of the serious business of rearing a child.”

According to Roberts, Professor Lamb argues that “good enough” fathers perform very similar roles to that of “good enough” mothers; they offer love, interest, boundaries and security.”

“For young fathers, however, the barriers to becoming a “good enough” dad are multiple and complex not least because, too often, their own needs aren’t addressed,” says Roberts.

“Many have little or no contact with midwives, health visitors, social workers or the staff of children’s centres. A study for the Department of Work and Pensions published last year describes ‘a cycle of disengagement’. ‘Low self-esteem leads to an inability to find appropriate support both because of a reluctance to seek [it] and a lack of available services. That leads to increased frustration and conflict with the mother’.”

Roberts quotes Chris Facey at the charity Working With Men who says:

“It’s very difficult for many of these young men. They have to sit through meetings with lawyers and social workers. Everyone has a negative perception of their abilities and they have to keep their cool. At risk is the real chance that if they show their frustration, even by an inch, their child may be put up for adoption. It happens. It takes maturity to handle a situation like that.”

Roberts also quotes the American author Mark S Kiselica who said in his book When Boys Become Parents: “For too long our culture has treated boys who become fathers… as detached misfits who are the architects of many of our nation’s problems, rather than seeing these youth for who they really are: young men trying to navigate a complex array of difficult life circumstances that place them at a tremendous disadvantage.”

You can read Yvonne Roberts’ full feature here: Too Young To Be A Dad 

To buy your tickets to the conference today please click here now. 

Give dads better rights says centre-left think tank

121018_bs_fatherandsonFathers need to be given greater parental leave rights if we are to tackle fundamental inequalities between men and women according to a new report on parenting by the centre-left think tank, IPPR.

The news comes as the Lib Dems prepare to reveal plans to increase men’s parental leave entitlement from two weeks to four weeks.

At the tail end of the 20th Century mothers and fathers had very little access to parental leave. This has changed dramatically in the past decade.

In 2006  New Labour introduced a parental leave system that was described by  Duncan Fisher, a former commissioner with the  Equal Opportunities Commission as  “one of the most unequal parenting leave entitlement regimes in the world”.

In 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised to reform this system saying the laws on parental leave marginalise dads and deny them the chance to play a hands-on role.

While the Coalition government has made reforms to the system it still  discriminates against fathers. According to Ben Moxham at the TUC “the incentives in place for fathers are so poor that even the government estimates that only 2 to 8 per cent of dads are likely to take this leave”.

The Lib Dems now say that: “We believe men and women have equal rights when it comes to working and raising children.”

This is a somewhat meaningless statement as mums and dads don’t have equal rights and the Lib Dems proposal to increase paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks falls way short of equality.

According to the IPPR, a progressive system “would not only provide the mother with a leave entitlement sufficient to protect her health and that of her baby, but would also support a similar paid entitlement for fathers. A third bloc of shared parental leave, also paid, could be split by parents in a way that works best for them and their family.”

The Icelandic system is held up as an example to aspire to, where from 2016 parents will be given five months of maternity leave, five months of paternity leave and two months of parental leave for parents to use as they see fit

“This is a far cry from the UK’s current parental leave provision: a year-long maternity leave (paid at a relatively low rate), two weeks of paid paternity leave, and a period of transferrable leave (up to six months, which can be transferred fromthe mother to the father),” says the IPPR.

“Allowing the mother to transfer leave to the father in this way reflects strong assumptions about maternal and paternal needs and responsibilities. It also means that fathers don’t have their own entitlement to paternity leave – they are dependent on the eligibility of their partner.”

Last week, the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said dads needs better paternity pay, saying:

“Unless the government raises statutory paternity pay, which is set too low, many dads simply won’t be able to afford time off work. In countries where paternity pay is higher, fathers play a greater role in their kids’ early lives.”

However, opposition to giving dads better rights is strong. According to Duncan Fisher:

“A business lobby, keen to ensure men do not bow to domestic responsibilities as women have to, and the maternal lobby, keen for mothers to remain in charge in the home, combined forces in an unholy alliance, and this Government, like its predecessors, was no match for the pincer movement from both sides.”

And yet parental leave is one area where the men’s and women’s lobbies could be working together as greater equality for dads at home means greater equality for women at work. As the IPPR puts it:

“Unless fathers are given greater rights to paid parental leave, more fundamental inequalities will persist.”


Wow! A degree in Working with Men and Fathers

imagesHere’s some interesting news from the University of Newcastle in Australia, the Family Action Centre has launched a Graduate Certificate and Master of Family Studies that allows students to choose “Working with Men and Fathers” as a specialism.

The University says:

“With one of these internationally recognised degrees under your belt, you will be able to pursue a career that enables you to make a real difference in people’s lives no matter where you are in the world.”

And you don’t need to be in Australia to study. You can apply to study Working with Men and Fathers or International Family Studies 100% online in Trimester 3 which commences in September this year.

The University says that including men and fathers in support services, policy and programs is at the cutting edge of family practice and being involved in this works makes you part of a global movement to support families by engaging with male parents.

“Among practitioners supporting families and children it is well recognised that fathers have a profound impact on how children develop,” says the University.

“The way that male parents offer support and take responsibility for children’s development can strengthen family resilience under stress. Research into father-infant and father-child relationships makes clear that for the sake of children’s healthy development services and programs should engage with fathers.”

“For professionals across the range of human services, from those dealing with abusive behaviours to those addressing disability, health and education, father-engagement skills are part of good practice. The study of fathers and fathering can offer evidence-based guidance to practitioners, managers and policy advisors wishing to support fathers to enhance their families’ wellbeing.”

Further information about the application process can be found here. You will also find program requirements, course fees and online study information on this site.


Cast Your Vote: What Kind Of Men’s Movement Do We Need?

YesNoAnne-Marie Slaughter, the former Director of Policy Planning for U.S. State Department has said that the world needs a men’s movement—so we thought we’d run a poll to see what kind of men’s movement our readers think the world needs.

To put the statement in context, Slaughter sparked an international debate with an article called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” that sparked a global debate about how women can (or can’t) balance family and career. Now she’s shifting her focus slightly to talk about how women AND men struggle with work-life balance.

“I really think we need a men’s movement, and you’re starting to see it,” she said this week. “Guys are starting to speak up for themselves about masculinity, about care-giving. You know, women are hypocrites this way, because we would go crazy if men treated us in the workforce the way we typically treat them at home — if a guy in the workforce assumed he was more competent than you are, and told you what to do — but that’s the way most women treat men in the household.”

So is she right and if so what kind of men’s movement does the world need? We’ve come up with 10 suggestions based on some of the key factions of the global men’s movement that we’ve come across over the years and produced a poll at the end of this post so you can cast your vote and tell us what kind of men’s movement the world needs.

Of course the 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys is open to everyone so if you want to come along and take part this year then please buy your tickets online today.


1.    A Men’s Liberation Movement

A global men’s liberation movement would be pro-feminist and focussed on liberating men from rigid gender roles on the past and helping men to address unhealthy male behaviours and develop and promote healthy masculinity.

2.    A Men’s Human Rights Movement

A global men’s human rights movement would tackle feminism head on and address all the areas of life where men’s human rights are under attack, with a particular focus on tackling laws, policies and initiatives that favour women and girls and discriminate against men and boys in the process.

3.    A  Men’s Rites of Passage Movement

A Men’s Rites of Passage Movement would ensure that all men and boys had the opportunity to take part in rites of passage work with the support of other men and help every boy make a safe and healthy transition into manhood in the process.

4.    An Integral Men’s Movement

An Integral Global Men’s Movement would seek to unite everyone committed to improving the lives of men and boys no matter what perspective they came from and seek out areas of common interest and opportunities to work together for the greater good.

5.    A Men’s Social Justice Movement

A Men’s Social Justice Movement would focus on areas where men and boys experience inequality or problems with their health, education, family life, personal safety, social care needs etc and take action to find solutions to these issues.

6.    A Religious Men’s Movement

A Religious Men’s Movement would help to solve the problems that involve men and boys by actively working to bring more men to God—with a focus on one religion only (whatever that religion is).

7.    An Interfaith Men’s Movement

An Interfaith Men’s Movement would work across religious boundaries to help solve the problems that involve men and boys by actively working to bring more men to a life of faith, no matter what that faith is.

8.     A Fathers’ Rights Movement

A Fathers’ Rights Movement would seek to ensure that every child knows the love of their father by tackling the failings of the world’s legal systems which favour mothers particularly when parents are separated.

9.    A Shared Parenting Movement

A Shared Parenting Movement would work to unite mums and dads to help men and women equally share the responsibility of caring for their children, looking after the home and earning money through a rewarding career.

10. A Men Go Their Own Way Movement

A Men Go Their Own Way Movement would encourage and support men to “go their own way” and live their lives free from any problems associated with being in a long-term relationship with a women.

So what kind of men’s movement do you think the world needs? Cast your vote below now. You can vote for more than one option if you want to and please feel free to share this page with others so more people can cast a vote today. Thanks for taking part, getting involved and taking action today.

And now you’ve voted why not join the movement towards the 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys and buy your tickets today.

What kind of father will Prince William be?

Charles Diana William Mother Father Royal Baby

What kind of father does the nation need the future King of the United Kingdom to be? Should he parent like his father or his mother? Here we summarize two commentators who have speculated on Prince William’s parenting potential. Both think he has a great parenting role model, but they don’t agree on who that role model is.

Penny Juror in the Daily Telegraph was full of praise and optimism for royal fathering writing last month that Prince William has had the benefit of an excellent role model in Prince Charles:

“There is a Father’s Day saying: ‘’Small boys become big men through the influence of big men who care about small boys’, she wrote.

“To many people’s surprise, Charles turned out to be a rather good father – in very difficult circumstances. Charles was a big man who cared about his small boys and had a lasting influence over them. The question is, will William follow his father’s model of parenting, albeit with a happier marriage (we trust), or will he want to give his own child something rather different?”

Fatherhood commentator Jack O Sullivan, writing for Prospect Magazine disagrees with Juror and says Prince William should strive to be a different kind of Royal father, saying:

“The traditional alpha male, militarised version of kingship for which royal men are trained, has long been irrelevant. In a democracy we don’t want an “Action Man” ruler in the Palace.

“So, what would be the best training for modern kingship? Not helicopter-flying or shooting the Taliban. Becoming an involved, hands-on parent is the perfect induction course. Raising children is a great way to gain the emotional intelligence that is a must-have for royal success in 21st-century Britain.

“The Windsors’s aristocratic notions of gender roles are unlikely to encourage such behaviour from a “real” royal man. They are still turning out alienating, militarised men, Pythonesque parodies weighed down by ridiculous medals.”

According to the Juror, the description of Charles as an alienating, militarised man couldn’t be further from the truth:

“The private Prince has always been very much more relaxed than the public one,” she says. “There have always been hugs and kisses for his sons; and he would readily fool around with them, pull funny faces or put on silly voices to make them laugh.”

Juror also reveals some of the problems that Charles’ hands-on parenting style caused his valets over the years —not a problem many dads have to contend with!

“One of the biggest challenges his valets used to have when the children were small was cleaning sheep droppings from his suits,” she writes. “Whenever he arrived at Highgrove by helicopter, it landed in a field by the house where sheep grazed. The moment the boys heard it coming they would excitedly rush out to meet him. They would race into the field and leap into his arms for a hug, smearing his suit with everything they had trodden in on the way.”

This contrasts sharply with Jack O Sullivan’s account of the hands-off parenting style of the Royal Baby’s great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II:

“Who can forget her returning from a five-month Commonwealth tour and greeting her young son and heir, the four-year old Prince Charles with a gloved hand to shake?” he asks.

According to O Sullivan, the nation needs William to be a hands-on dad and spend more time with his child than his father spent with him saying:

“The first few months after the birth are crucial. That’s when hands-on skills and confidence in this realm are established. If Will misses the opportunity, he’ll be poorly qualified for the day job of understanding a nation. In setting limits on work and exploring the world of children and family, William would also be a leader for change, a role model, echoing the aspiration of today’s dads – and mothers – trying to do the right thing for their children and each other.”

Juror argues that Charles did do right by his children in difficult circumstances saying

“You just have to look at William and Harry today – confident, caring, well-grounded, hardworking – and the warmth of their relationship with Charles, to know that he got it more or less right.

However, Juror agrees with O Sullivan about William being a more involved father:

“If there is one caveat, it would be that Charles didn’t spend enough time with William and Harry when they were growing up – and I imagine William will strive to make sure he has more time for his child,” she says.

But O Sullivan is adamant that Charles is not the man to model his parenting on, saying that the key to William being a good father, is to be more like his mother:

“He has a great asset. Unlike older Windsors, William was well mothered. When Princess Diana went on long trips, baby William came too. A memorable film clip shows a generational shift—Diana arriving back on the Britannia, greeting her boys with outstretched arms. Diana hard-wired William to be the Royal family’s first modern king. He could, unlike his own father, make himself fit for purpose as a 21st-century monarch and not leave it up to Kate.”

If you’re concerned with the challenges facing fathers today, why not join us for the Third National Conference for Men and Boys. You can buy your ticket online today here.

When the Queen is Dead, Long Live the Patriarchy?

David Cameron will puff out his red cheeks for a royal baby-1512782Congratulations to the Royal Family on the birth of a future King of England — after 61 years of being ruled by a Queen, we now have the prospect of three Kings in a row to look forward to—which barring a republican revolution, could mean jobs for the Windsor boys way into the 22nd Century. All of which is surely great news for people who care passionately about sex equality in the monarch and means we’ll have plenty of time to get used to singing “God Save The King”!

It’s an often overlooked fact that we have been ruled by Queens for 125 of the last 175 years—so it’s time we gave the Kings a chance to show that real men can rule too. Despite the sexist laws of primogeniture that have given male heirs precedence over female heirs for centuries, you have to go back to 1901 to find an example of the discrimination in practice.

When Queen Victoria died her eldest surviving child was Princess Victoria who, had she come to the throne, would have reigned for just 7 months as she sadly died the same year as her mum. This would have meant that the throne would have passed to Princess Victoria’s son —the infamous Kaiser Bill who led Germany, Europe and countries around the globe into the First World War—how different history might have looked if that  hadn’t  happened!

The other quirky fact of sexism at Buck House is that we’ve had no end of Queens in recent centuries as the King’s wife generally gets an automatic promotion to the top job whereas the Queen’s husband generally has to make do with being a Prince—no sex equality for regal spouses there!

Of course, being a thoroughly modern monarchy we have now fast tracked the “Succession to the Crown Bill”  through parliament so that men will no longer be automatically the first in line to the throne.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords shows no signs of ending rules which deny most hereditary peerages to women. Currently, 92 seats in the House of Lords are reserved to holders of hereditary aristocratic titles and only 2 of these seats are currently occupied by women—though as many commentators point out, the best hereditary peerages “equal” is to scrap them all together and get more commoners in politics.

And one thing all women (common or not) have politically is their very own Women’s Minister but there’s still no sign of a Men’s Minister being appointed by any of the major political parties.

We debated the topic of a Minster for Men at the First National Conference for Men and Boys in 2011. We don’t expect we’ll be discussing royal babies at this year’s conference but the delegates set the agenda so who knows if this will still be a hot topic come September.

Fatherhood commentator Jack Sullivan has already written an interesting article speculating what kind of father Prince William could and should be.

Meanwhile our friends at NORM UK have been fielding media calls asking whether they think Wills and Kate will circumcise their son—of course, if they had a daughter, no-one would be asking this question.

It has been royal tradition in recent decades to circumcise royal boys though campaigners against medically unnecessary male circumcision are hoping this tradition will come to an end.

David Smith of NORM UK, who attended last year’s conference, says:” ‘as a 21st century parents we trust that William and Kate, like the rest of modern British parents, would not even contemplate it.’

If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on this year’s conference then buy your tickets online today here now.

Fathers’ v Mothers’ v Childrens’ Rights

stop male circumcision ukWhose rights should take precedence in law—mum’s rights, dad’s rights or the child’s rights?

The UK Court of Appeal had to consider this question recently when a Malaysian mother sought refuge in the UK in an attempt to prevent her husband—who had converted to Islam—from having their son circumcised.

Protecting boys from medically unnecessary circumcision and improving fathers’ rights to be involved in their children’s live are two areas of concern for many people who come along to the National Conference for Men and Boys.

To buy your tickets for this year’s event click here to book online now.

The case that the Court of Appeal heard involved a Malaysian mother who was brought up as a Sikh but converted to Roman Catholicism as an adult. In December 2006 she married a Malaysia man of Nigerian origin who was also Roman Catholic. Their son was baptized and brought up Roman Catholic but nt 2010 dad became interested in Islam and expressed his intention to convert.

The mother sought asylum in the UK on several grounds including the fact that she didn’t want her son to be brought up Muslim and circumcised for religious and cultural reasons. The mother’s legal representative submitted that the English courts would be unlikely to bow to the father’s wishes in that respect unless the mother also consented. She submitted that in those circumstances it would not be in the child’s best interests to return him to Malaysia where his father’s wishes would prevail over those of his mother.

According to Lord Justice Moore-Bick who oversaw the case:

“Male circumcision is a widespread religious and cultural practice which has ancient origins. It is usually, though not invariably, carried out at a very young age when the child is unable to understand what is involved or to express any view about it. Although invasive in nature and not commanding universal approval, it is regarded as an acceptable practice among communities of all kinds, provided it is carried out under appropriate conditions. These may include appropriate medical attention and the loving support of parents and close family members.”

Bizarrely, Moore-Bick, also said that male circumcision: “cannot be compared to other cultural or religious practices, such as female genital mutilation, which involve a far more serious violation of the physical integrity of the body and an expression of subservience.”

In truth the female circumcision performed on around 90% of girls in Malaysian is generally less invasive that the male circumcision that the boys are subjected to, as this article by a Muslim Malay woman on female genital cutting explains.

The fact is that male circumcision is different and sometimes worse than female circumcision and is a painful procedure often performed on boys without anaesthetic which can cause damage, disease and in extreme circumstances, death.

Despite this fact, it is perfectly legal for anyone to cut off a boy’s foreskin in the UK. but illegal to perform any kind of genital ritual on girls—including the Malaysian style practices that are generally less invasive than male circumcision. It is also illegal to take a girl based in Britain abroad for such a procedure.

In the case of this 7 year-old Malaysian boy, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that “he would be conforming to the broad expectations of the culture and society in which he would grew up”.

The court decided that it was in the boys’ best interest to be brought up by both parents which could only happen in Malaysian where the fathers’ (and the country’s) religion would take precedent over the mothers’.

So in this case the UK court ruled that the boys’ best interest was best served by putting the fathers’ right to choose his child’s religion and have his son’s foreskin cut off ahead of the mothers’ right to make the same choices and the boys’ right to choose for himself what happens to his penis when he becomes an adult.

It’s a ruling that is likely to anger intactavists (ie people campaigning to end unnecessary male circumcision) and fathers’ rights campaigners alike.

The reason this ruling may anger UK fathers’ rights campaigners is because they will struggle to understand why the court gave precedence to the rights of a Malaysian father in the name of the child’s best interest, when they will  point to cases where family courts fail to support children being brought up by both parents and give precedence to the wishes of the mother.

Both intactavists and fathers’ rights campaigners are welcome to attend the Third National Conference for Men and Boys in September.

To buy your tickets for this year’s event click here to book online now.

To find out more about unnecessary male circumcision in the UK see our post help change the way we think about male circumcision.

Is this a new movement to end sexism against dads?

father-s-day-426875363-1355733Is there a movement to end sexism against dads bubbling up in the UK?

There seems to be a growing willingness to challenge sexist assumption about men’s ability to parent and it’s coming from lots of different angles, some of which we highlight below.

Does all this dad-friendly discourse constitute a movement or are the people speaking out too disparate and disconnected to have a shared voice?

The Third National Conference for Men and Boys is a unique opportunity for people who think differently about dads to get together and find out what they have in common and how they can push together in the same direction in future.

If you care about fatherhood, or any other issues facing men and boys, then why not join us at the National Conference for Men and Boys—you can buy your ticket online today.

And to whet your appetite, here we present some of the key themes that the nation’s “Dadvocates” are talking about.

1.     Challenging sexist assumptions that “mum knows best”

The Fatherhood Institute recently sparked a social media debate about casual sexism towards dads after one father said he was referred to as “Mr Mummy” when he dropped his children off at school.

In his blog post about the debate —“He needs mummy: keeping dads in their place” —Jeremy Davies of the Fatherhood Institute said:

“Within families, men and women are finding new ways to share the breadwinning and caring – throwing away decades of social expectation in the process….but no matter how much more involved fathers become, the world around them seems insistent on keeping them in their place: playing a supporting role to a more present, more competent, more loving mother.”

His sentiments echo Gideon Burrows, father and author of “Men Can Do It”  who wrote a comment piece in the Huffington Post on why he thinks “Both parents are to blame for unequal parenting”.

According to Burrows: “All around us, we are fed the idea that parenting is a woman’s job. Mums alone have a special bond with their babies and children that fathers just seem to lack. It’s no wonder we’ve all convinced ourselves that women make naturally better parents. This drip-drip-drip of the special mother-baby relationship allows us all to assume childcare is none of men’s business.”

2.     Challenging sexist media portrayals of dads

There is a growing willingness to challenge sexist portrayal of dads in the media. Last Christmas the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received more than 600 complaints about Asda’s “behind every great Christmas there’s a mum” campaign—helped in part by Fathers 4 Justice mobilising supporters. On this occasion, the campaign was unsuccessful with ASA ruling in January that the advert was within its guidelines.

In June, netmums added its voice to the “stop sexism against dads” movement with a survey revealing that nine out of ten parents claim children’s shows don’t represent real-life dads and three out of ten say the way dads are portrayed in the media is a “subtle form of discrimination” according . “The type of jokes aimed at dads would be banned if they were aimed at women, ethnic minorities or religious groups” says Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard.

Over in the States, Daddy Blogger Chris Routly has demonstrated the power of the effective lone crusader causing two leading brands to pull ads that were sexist against dads. Chris led a successful campaign against a sexist Huggies nappy ad last year.

Proving he isn’t a one hit wonder, Chris scored a second success last month and persuade the Clorox bleach brand to pull a sexist ad that said:

“Saying ‘No-no’ is not just for baby. Like dogs or other house pets, new Dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well. Here are a few dangerous no-nos new Dads might make, and some training tips…..”

3. Challenging sexism against separated fathers

Fathers 4 Justice has been making national headlines again recently with high profile stunts targetting national works of art like the Haywain, but is sexism against separated fathers being acknowledged elsewhere?

When the best-selling author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernier—patron of the charity Families Need Fathers—spoke out on Fathers’ Day. He highlighted the “general mythologising of fathers as irrelevant and feckless abusers” and slammed the family courts for treating “fathers heartlessly as mere sperm donors and bankers”.

Ally Fogg in The Guardian made a similar point, saying “sweeping generalisations are made about “deadbeat dads”; separated fathers are portrayed as probable abusers”. And Karen Woodall at the Centre for Separated Families says in her blog post on dignity, equality and respecting the difference between us that “Dads are discriminated against in family separation policy, that is why they are disaffected, disappearing and desperate.  There is nothing more, nothing less to say about it.”

4. Challenging sexist laws and policies

Continuing the theme of sexist laws and policies, the way separated fathers are treated isn’t the only area of law and social policy where dads are discriminated against.

The laws of parental responsibility—which give automatic parental rights to all mothers but place conditions on which fathers can be given automatic rights —have been indirectly flagged up by David Lammy MP on the left and the Centre for Social Justice on the right, who both propose ensuring all dads’ have their names are put on the birth certificates (an act which grants all dads automatic parental rights).

As the former Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) commissioner Duncan Fisher said, when a Welsh dad whose partner died in childbirth was legally prevented from leaving hospital with his new born child:

“In UK law, a father can only be a father if the mother approves him. She can do this in two ways – marry him or invite him to sign the birth certificate. If neither of these happens, he is not the father until the family court approves him. A man has to be vetted by the mother or the state before he is allowed to be a father.”

A similar principle applies in UK parental leave law introduced by New Labour in 2006 which Fisher described as “one of the most unequal parenting leave entitlement regimes in the world”.

In 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised to reform this system saying the laws on parental leave marginalise dads and deny them the chance to play a hands-on role.

Ultimately, while the Coalition reforms are more flexible than before, they still discriminate against fathers. According to Ben Moxham at the TUC “the incentives in place for fathers are so poor that even the government estimates that only 2 to 8 per cent of dads are likely to take this leave” adding that “unions will need to step up bargaining with employers to strengthen what will be fairly minimal shared parental leave entitlements”

Duncan Fisher’s analysis of this issue is that reform didn’t happen because:

“A business lobby, keen to ensure men do not bow to domestic responsibilities as women have to, and the maternal lobby, keen for mothers to remain in charge in the home, combined forces in an unholy alliance, and this Government, like its predecessors, was no match for the pincer movement from both sides.”

5. Challenging our sexist society

Many commentators are also pointing to sexism in our social and economic structures which conspire to discriminate against fathers.

Traditionalists like Peter Hitchens  in the Daily Mail talk of a “national experiment in fatherlessness” caused by what the Centre for Social Justice describes as a “tsunami” of family breakdown that creates “man deserts”. In a similar vein, the Education Minister, Michael Gove, spoke out about the impact of fatherlessness on children saying “more children are growing up in homes where the male authority figure will be fleeting or absent”.

Interestingly, Nelson Fraser, editor of the right-wing Spectator magazine is none too complimentary about some of the hands-on fathers in his neighbourhood, saying in his “work is becoming a woman’s world” comment piece:

“Where I live, in Twickenham, cafés are full of kept men buying breakfast because they could not be bothered to make it – sometimes pushing prams with one hand and holding toast in the other. Teenagers are not the only ones responsible for record pre-order sales of PlayStation.”

Meanwhile, Professor Lynda Gratton from the London Business School speaks more highly of  a new generation of men are leading the charge for a change on fatherhood and says that it is our attitudes to work and parenthood that need to change and “specifically the assumption that parenthood should be practised in a singular and specific way by women.”

Pointing the finger at the corporate world, Gratton says: “Organisations need to adapt out-of-touch policies, many of which are still shaped by social and working conditions that are no longer the norm. Organisations need to let go of outmoded thinking about gender roles and realise that fathers are increasingly as likely as mothers to be active in parenting.”


So who is to blame for sexism against dads? Is it men or women? Is it left-wingers or right-wingers? Is it capitalism? Is it the patriarchy? Is it feminism and the women’s movements? Is it different fathers’ groups going about tackling the problem in the wrong way?

Maybe there’s some truth in all the perspectives listed above—afterall, none of us is smart enough to be wrong all the time. And if you want to deepen your understanding of issues like these then the place to come is the Third National Conference for Men and Boys.


Is internet porn harming men’s chances of having a happy sex life?


There’s a fascinating article on the changing sexual problems facing men by Steve Biddulph in Australia’s The Age newspaper this week.

We’d love to hear more experts talking about men and sex at the National Conference for Men and Boys this year, so if this is your area of expertise then do get in touch.

And if you want to make sure you get your tickets today then remember you can buy them online now.

Biddulph, who is well known for his books about men and boys, says it’s a “tough balance, to both affirm and yet guard sexuality”.

When he first wrote Raising Boys in 1997, Biddulph says he was acutely conscious of the harm done to men by the prudish and repressive atmosphere around sexuality in the second half on the 20th Century.

Biddulph says he wanted to help achieve better relations between the sexes by restoring a healthy and life-affirming openness, with better information about how our bodies worked and why. He wanted to support parents to raise boys who weren’t repressed and were able to develop “a happy and life-affirming sense” of the joy of a healthy sex life.

“With just a word or two of understanding….parents could let their sons know that they weren’t perverts or sex maniacs for thinking about sex an awful lot of the time,” says Biddulph.

It’s 16 years since Biddulph first published Raising Boys and now he’s concerned about the the lasting harm that internet porn could have on the next generation of boys and girls.

“Porn naturally fascinates because it’s sex and that is wired into all of us,” says Biddulph. “But the subtext of domination, rape, humiliation, hurt or even killing that is now woven into much available pornography, let alone the absence of tenderness or respect in almost all of it, shapes the sexuality of boys in ways that endanger their chances of a happy sex life in the real world.

“My books now carry a really different message,” he adds. “Yes, affirm your teenager as a sexual person, and encourage their privacy and right to feel happy about desire and release. But don’t let mid-teen boys or younger surf the internet in their bedrooms. The chances of getting hooked on uglier and crueller porn, distorting and disturbing their faith in human warmth and lovingness, and becoming disabled around normal healthy girls, is increasingly high.

Read Biddulph’s full article how to raise boys in the era of internet porn

You can find out more Biddulph’s work at the Steve Biddulph website

To come and talk about sex—or whatever else is of interest to you—at the Third National Conference or men and boys—buy your ticket today.

10 Media Articles About UK Fatherhood

imagesFatherhood is always one of the top topics of conversation and debate at the National Conference for Men and Boys and this year will be not exception.

If you can’t wait until to September to join the debate then here’s a summary of ten conversations about dads that have been taking place in the media in the past month.

And if you haven’t booked you place at this year’s conference why not take action and buy your tickets online today here…

1. One Million Children Growing Up Without Dads

The Centre for Social Justice (the centre right  think tank set up by the former Conservative Party leader Ian Duncan Smith) released a report on fatherhood in the run up to Fathers’ Day. The report warned that a “tsunami” of family breakdown was creating “man deserts” with a million children now growing up without fathers. Responses ranged from Peter Hitchens  in the Daily Mail saying the the “national experiment in fatherlessness” was costing the country £49 billion a year to “Scouse Bird” in The Guardian  saying that fatherless was the result of Liverpool mums not putting up with the stupid, incompetent, gobshite behaviour of dads! The Centre for Social Justice is now shifting its focus to researching some of the barriers dads face to father involvement—they probably won’t be asking “Scouse Bird ” for advice!

2. The Left Needs to Talk About Dads Too

David Lammy continues to be the Labour MP who seems to be  most concerned about fatherhood and while he didn’t endorse the tone of the Centre for Social Justice report he said “at least the right is engaged in this issue…..hen did a left-leaning thinktank last publish a report about fatwhers?” In the past month Lammy has submitted a report on fathers to Labour’s policy review and penned a commentary on fathers in The Guardian and and article on young fathers at Central Lobby.

3. The Media Discriminates Against Dads

Nine out of ten parents claim children’s shows don’t represent real-life dads and three out of ten say the way dads are portrayed in the media is a “subtle form of discrimination” according to a survey by netmums. “The type of jokes aimed at dads would be banned if they were aimed at women, ethnic minorities or religious groups” says Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard.

4. Dads Arent Duds. They Deserve Better

The Observer picked up on the Netmums survey in a positive editorial about dads to mark Fathers’ Day. “The majority of fathers want to spend more time with the family while research tells us the most stressed men are those who work full time and regret not having sufficient hours to ‘father'” said the Sunday newspaper.

5. Fathers 4 Justice Makes an Art of Protest

Fathers 4 Justice has had a colourful month heading to Westminster in June to launch a political petition sponsored by the Respect Party MP George Galloway and subsequently declaring that it was “refusing to deal with the government” after two high profile protests targeted works of art including a portrait of the Queen and Constable’s Haywain. The issue has sparked media debate include commentary by Ally Fogg in The Guardian, Iain Dale at Conservative Home and Glen Poole (part of national conference team) at The Good Men Project.

6. Courts Treat Dads Like Sperm Donors Says Author

The link between art and fathers’ rights was deepened further when the best-selling author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernier—patron of the charity Families Need Fathers—spoke out on Fathers’ Day. He highlighted the “general mythologising of fathers as irrelevant and feckless abusers” and slammed the family courts for treating “fathers heartlessly as mere sperm donors and bankers”.

7.  Gender Neutral Laws Discriminate Against Dads

“Gender neutral laws in a gender biased society, deliver gender biased outcomes” says Karen Woodall at the Centre for Separated Families. “Dads are discriminated against in family separation policy” she said last month, “that is why they are disaffected, disappearing and desperate.  There is nothing more, nothing less to say about it.  In a gender analysis, it is quite simply a fact.  Now we either live with it (and the fatherless society that it creates) or we do something about it.”

8. Children Lack Male Authority Figures Says Gove

The Education Minister, Michael Gove, spoke out about the impact of fatherlessness on children at a Church of England seminar saying “more children are growing up in homes where the male authority figure will be fleeting or absent, where there will be what we now call ‘guesting parents……while it’s very far from being a majority of parents, manifestly, it is a growing and troubling minority and often concentrated in particular areas.”

9. It’s Time For Dads To Pull Their Weight

Gideon Burrows, author of the fatherhood book “Men Can Do It”, probably agrees with Michael Gove that children benefit from involved fathers, though it’s hard to imagine him using a phrase like “male authority figure”. Burrows is an advocate for men and women sharing childcare equally and says in The Guardian article “why men don’t pull their weight” that men only pay lip service to equal parenting.

10. Happy Gay Fathers’ Day

There are thought to be 12,000 same-sex couples raising children in the UK, an increase of 300 per cent since 2010 according to a feature in The Scotsman exploring the lives of gay dads north of the border.

And remember it doesn’t matter if your are of interest is young fathers, separated dads, dads sharing parenting, policy on fatherhood or the experience of gay, bisexual and transgender dads, whatever your interest in fatherhood you are welcome to join us at the The Third National Conference for Men and Boys.

Buy your tickets to the conference online today here