Being an avid watcher of all things to do with family separation I am aware of Lucy Reed, a family law barrister by her own description and her blog Pink Tape (pinktape.co.uk). Having read some of what she writes I find that she has, at times, come quite close to an understanding of the difficulties that families face. Sadly this time, she has fallen far short of understanding and worse than that she has had a crack at poking fun at fathers and family separation, something she should perhaps have learned long ago, is not really material to be used in parody or play.
I left a comment on Lucy’s blog this morning, it read –
As a Parenting Co-ordinator and Family Therapist as well as the Director of the Centre for Separated Families, I found your original post about as offensive as you and others found Matt O C’s response.
Don’t poke fun at real life suffering, you may only see a tiny part of it but the wider picture is pretty miserable. It’s not material for fun and games and cheap jibes at spelling mistakes.
The Children Act 1989 is not fit for purpose, it is fairly meaningless as it stands and those of us working with family separation every day, trying to support families to build business arrangements around care and provision for children, need a clear legislative statement about the importance to children of mothers and fathers in their lives.
Liz Trinder may have done a good deal of research in the area but she is a stand point academic who maintains the status quo by interviewing the people that she has already told us make up the majority of separated families in the UK.
Gender Analysis demonstrates that research such as Trinder’s only shows one side of a very complex story. You might think dads who are diligent in their analysis of such research are obsessive. I consider that for these dads, the efforts to unpick the tightly woven mask that has been held in place by the likes of Liz Trinder for too long is the only way that they can survive the sense of loss, bewilderment and injustice that comes from being simply disposed of after family separation.
Whether you love or loathe F4J and their Children4Justice video, they represent a disenfranchised group of parents who are treated abominably in too many cases. The levels of discrimination that are acceptable around fatherhood are appalling in the UK. I hear it in the way that fathers are made fun of, belittled or simply suspected of being weird because they want to spend time with their children. Don’t add to it by using that suffering to have your own little bit of sharp-witted fun.
Cheap jibes at disadvantaged people might make you feel better and pompous responses about the etiquette of debate may ensure that you remain ‘on top’ in the comment thread, but it leaves this reader with a bitter taste. I hoped for better than this from someone I thought might ‘get’ what is really going on.
A few hours later, my comment appears to be still awaiting moderation. Perhaps Lucy is less comfortable in dealing with direct challenges from people who actually work in the family courts than she is in taking pot shots at father’s groups. I found her original comments on the government response to the Family Justice Review to be misleading and rather discriminatory in places but what really struck me was the thinly veiled sneering tone that emanates throughout. It is something that I have encountered time and again in my work with separated families; mothers and their support groups are venerated, whilst fathers and their support groups are airily dismissed as ranting and potentially abusive. Lucy goes down this road very quickly in her latest posts and I was sad to see someone, I had previously considered to be more balanced in her view, emerging as someone with an over inflated ego who is massively out of touch with the reality of family separation.
I differ in many ways on many issues with F4J and I may not support all of their tactics, but I respect the fact that they have verbalised and highlighted the misery that too many families face in this country and that for their supporters, this is the only hope that they have had in too many years. There may be more than a bit of peacock posturing from some of the caped crusaders and a large dash of self publicity at times, but who amongst us does not want to have our voices heard and our words read, particularly when we have lived the experience of family separation and know from personal experience the horrors it can inflict.
I dislike discrimination in all of its forms and from my perspective the pernicious mockery that runs through a lot of commentary about fatherhood issues was showcased in Reed’s latest posts. I am sick and tired of the way in which it is seemingly OK to make derogatory statements about men as fathers. It’s not OK and it’s not funny either. Family separation isn’t a subject for sarcastic sketches and using men’s disadvantage to show how sharp-witted you are? Well that’s not clever and it’s definitely not funny either. I’m all for free speech (though Reed it would appear is not given her selective posts of comments), but sneering at other people’s disadvantage just for the fun of it doesn’t impress me very much at all.
NB. 25.2.2012 At the request of Tom, I add that Lucy Reed has, apparently, published my comment and responded, I was asleep this morning so hadn’t looked, I shall head over now to see what She says.
3.15pm I have read Lucy’s ‘respnse’ to my post, which appears to suggest that the reason my words were not included is that she ‘hasn’t got time to sit around waiting for the next abusive comment’. My comment was not abusive, it was a considered response based upon my experience of working in the family courts. I remain disappointed and Tom, I think you are being somewhat disengenous in your reference to ‘dishonesty’. Lucy appears less concerned with meaningful debate and free speech than perpetuating the notion that anger/bad language/disagreeing with her views equals abuse. A common misconception in the world I work in. People who experience discrimination get angry, sometimes they use bad language, it does not make them bad, mad or dangerous and neither does it make them somehow lesser mortals than the ‘educated’ classes. I respect Lucy’s right to say whatever she wants to, But in saying it out loud, in words, for other people to read or listen to, means that others also have the right to disagree. In the field of family separation, where there are too many people perpetuating an unbalanced view of the realities that face dads after separation, anyone using that to have a bit of fun should be prepared for the response.