Sense and sensibilities: on equality and all of those things that purport to be it but are not

I have been away to a different country, well to Scotland in fact, which if we are to believe what we are told by those who voted in their very own nationalist party, is in fact, another country.  Working in Scotland is indeed a learning curve for us at the Clinic and it requires us to understand a slightly different legislative framework as well as what we are told is a different culture.  This difference and the learning curve that comes with it, has lead me to ponder somewhat philosophically upon the issue of difference and how it plays a crucial part in achieving equality.  This issue is at the heart of the work that we do at the Family Separation Clinic and it underpins the child focused approach we take.  Put together, I would say these two elements are the critical aspects of how we make a difference in family lives.  To me they are nothing but common sense, to others in the field it appears they are less common sense than one of the great mysteries of life. Or so it would seem on reading around the news from the world of family separation.

Take the hoo ha about Mrs Justice Pauffley’s recent comments about smacking and the need to consider this in a ‘cultural context.’  Whilst maintaining great respect for this Judge, I’m afraid the old ‘cultural context’ approach doesn’t quite wash when it comes to equalities work and children.  “cultural context’ are the words often used by those afraid of being called racist, but ‘cultural context’ is what caused children to be groomed for abuse in Rotherham and it is what caused the death of Victoria Climbie.  ‘Cultural context’  are by words for fear of other people’s views and it has no place in the safe keeping of children. Either we have equalities in terms of the right not to be controlled through fear and physical violence for all children in this country or we do not.  Equality does not mean more equality for some children and less for others depending on their cultural backgrounds, it means that we all have the right to live safe from any kind of violence;  beating, caning, hitting, smacking, tapping or otherwise.  And equalities work in these sphere means educating, supporting and helping parents from all backgrounds to learn how to parent without violence and understanding where this is needed and delivering it in culturally sensitive ways.  That puts the onus back on us as adults and removes the tacit acceptance that hitting is ok depending on how long someone has lived here or how different the cultural background is.  First rule of equalities work, agree the terms upon which people are equal and then deliver the different kinds of interventions that ensure that everyone’s lives meets those standards.  The difference is in the intervention that levels up the playing field, not in the narrative that attempts to.

And then there is great outrage about the mum and son who have gone on the run because Judge Wildblood took the bold and unusual step of changing residence.  The outrage in different quarters focuses upon the mother’s right to be a mother or the fact that if this were a father on the run there would be a manhunt underway by now.  From where I am looking there is a pretty powerful womanhunt going on tonight and a no holds barred approach to ensuring that this mother and her son are brought back from where-ever they have gone to so that the residence transfer can be enacted.  The rest is all just hot air and wind baggery as far as I can tell, people having their say and being outraged.  And in the field of family separation, someone somewhere is always either outraged or on the verge of it.  Equalities work in the field of child protection however, which is essentially what these cases are, is about focus upon the child and how the child can be enabled to live free from controlling abuse which blights too many lives post separation.  Wildblood has made a bold decision, lets hope he sees it through to the end because whatever this mother has done, it is mirrored by too many other mothers and fathers in this land and only strong judicial control of such cases will stop it.  Equalities work in this field is to see the need of the child for a healthy parent and focus on making sure that parent has more of the power and control than the parent who is unhealthy. That is far far away from treating everyone the same and far far away from 50/50 shared care, which is the oft heralded panacea for the problems facing families post separation.

And finally there is the sad and sorry tale of social services and the blunders and gaffs that lead to the demise of the father in family life. There is the blinkered and blinded belief that seeing everything through a feminist lens is somehow all about equality.  It is not. I grow tired of saying it but it is not. Feminism is a political ideology, it teaches that in all circumstances women are inherently disadvantaged in a patriarchal society which gives men advantages simply by being born male. In Scotland, where I am nose up against the worst that this political ideology can throw at families, it is a pitiful and frankly painful experience to watch this enacted in the lives of children who are supposed to be protected but in fact are not.  Feminist teaching about the family holds that the father is unnecessary and that all women are to be believed without question. Feminism silences the voices of concern about a child and sees the child’s well being simply as an extension of its mother.  As in the case of baby P and Daniel Pelka, feminism closes its eyes to the dangers of seeing all women as being inherently disadvantaged and gives them the kind of control over children that only dictators can dream of.  In families where transgenerational dysfunction is normalised and violence is rife, where coercive control is weilded by women over children AND the men in their lives, feminism is not an equalities based practice that delivers safety and protection to all vulnerable people.  Using feminism in this field is a bit like poking out one eye and telling everyone you have 20/20 vision and then believing that if you shout about it loud enough you will force everyone to poke out an eye so that 20/20 vision becomes sight in one eye by default.  I have never felt so bullied, so marginalised and so under pressure as I have nose up against the feminist family services and i have felt it all over again, in a country where this approach is epitomised by the leader of a nationalist party who is somehow ‘doing it for women,’

My sincere apologies for allowing my views about nationalist politics come through in this post, I am sure I will be scolded by those who without irony, berate me for speaking against feminism because that it is being political and being political has no place in the family courts.  When I look at the political statements that are regularly made within this arena and I look at the politics cloaked as equalities and I see the terrible outcomes that are delivered for children, I worry less about the scolding and more about the sense and sensibilities of those working in this field.

Equalities.  In order to ensure that you have the same chances, I may have to treat you differently and whether you are a man or a woman or any of the choices that you make in between, that difference depends upon me and what I do.  Equalities work starts within each one of us, it is a sensibility which values the differences between us. The rest is not.


  1. It is great to claim that courts should avoid being political and then allowing one political voice only, greater cencorship is hard to conceive.
    It was an absolute stroke of genious for the feminist movement to make the claim that they are about equality and that claim is so successful that it has now even become the dictionary definition of feminism. It is at best illogical: If feminism is about equallity then it follows from that word, feminism, that equality is a feminine value. I cannot think of a greater denigration of men than that. Men (and women) have fought for equality for the centuries preceeding the invention of feminism.
    Feminism is a movement for women’s rights no more, no less. In a political climate where it is the only rights based movement that is allowed to exist then the only possible result is inequality. I believe there are two ways of countering this, either we can create more and more rights based movements resulting in increasing “us and them” attitude OR we can try to move away from narrow minded gender right movements and generate a sense of mutual compassion, to quote Glen Poole: “Women have problems, men have problems”


  2. I am a divorced woman and haven’t had any contact with mij daughter for two years. So a little feminism could come in handy to me. There are mothers suffering out there, too. My daughter of ten doesn’t want to see me anymore, this after she was taken away from my ex and put in a foster home. As a mother, I don’t feel I have any rights at all. He fights custody every year or so, but never succeeded. Right now I am waiting for child protection to enable me to see my daugther again. But it is a hard battle.


    1. You dont need feminism lottehendriks19671. Read Karen’s other blogs and understand how you feel in your lack of relationship with your daughter. There are many many mothers in your situation and Karen works for all of us all of the time.

      We do not need to be told that we are in this position because we are belittled but more likely as a result of the emotional abuse our children have suffered at the hands of our ex partners. (Or in some cases ourselves.)

      My teen daughter refuses to have a relationship with me but is still living with my ex and having her behaviour reinforced and approved. At least (this is absolutely not intended to minimise how you feel or suggest I am worse off) your daughter is away from the environment that causes harm.

      Try not to give up hope and continue to fight for the help you need to get to see her again.


  3. Hi Karen

    Whilst I abhor violence I deplore the heavily spun, biased and deliberately misleading reporting which is all too commonplace in our press. The Telegraph report of Pauffley LJ’s judgment is a glowing example. I would urge anyone that may have read it to read it again and bear in mind what is actually being quoted and what is being implied or mischievously inferred.

    The Telegraph does not need Katie Hopkins. It creates more than enough bile to go around without outside help.

    Like it or not, the fact is that physical chastisement of children IS allowed (within defined limits) in English law. If the defined threshold is exceeded then there is an assault. Aside from the selective quotations and creative use of language, the judge in this case, after hearing the evidence, made a finding of fact that she did not believe the assault threshold had not been crossed. For reasons which have not been reported she believed that the child’s allegations of physical abuse were false. Instead of simply accepting the child’s words at face value she has taken steps to ascertain their veracity. Were her comments as described by the Telegraph or were they intended as a criticism of social workers making their own laws by expressing outrage at conduct which is not illegal? This is something about which she has a track record for being plain speaking and forthright. Her job as a judge is to apply the law as it is and not as the court of public opinion or those with another agenda would like to see it. However, she did find that there had been domestic violence against the mother.

    I would like to read the actual judgment to see whether the Telegraph has kept us accurately informed or are they repeating the same dismal standards of reporting that they apply to Human Rights articles. There is a big difference between the application of imperfect law and bias which our press have a well-earned reputation for harbouring.


  4. Karen, I think it is helpful to disentangle the feminism from the nationalism here. The UK has certainly made a mess of family policy, and feminism has contributed to this, in ways that you describe here and elsewhere on this blog. But that mess was made regardless of Scottish nationalism. Or are you suggesting that the situation is particularly bad in Scotland and that the SNP and the Scottish government have contributed to this?

    Scotland has set out on its own path, significantly different from those of England and Wales. There are reasons for this. We English may or may not like what is happening, but we have to accept the situation and work with it.


    1. I knew I would be scolded for letting my views on nationalism come through and at the risk of sparking a bit of a debate on the matter here is my view of the SNP.

      The SNP are a nationalist party, their sole purpose is to take Scotland out of the Union. To do that they have at the moment aligned themselves left of the left and promised things that they think appeals to the Labour voters. If they thought they needed to go right to get votes they would do so, they are not the saviours that people in Scotland thing they are, their fiscal policies do not stand up to scrutiny, their leader is viewed as someone who is ‘doing it for women.’ She is doing it for nationalism, a word which when it is used in other places is a dirty word with racist connotations…..the SNP have played a blinder in terms of fooling most of the people for much of the time on the back of disatissfaction with Westminster politics.

      In that respect the SNP remind me a little bit of a sociopath, no real empathy, no real ability to connect to the fabric of society but a whole lot of skill in playing the game to the highest level. I will stand by for fireworks Daddy Hardup but you asked me and I told you.

      And sociopathic behaviour is linked in my mind to the way in which feminism dominates the psychology of family services, it is blinkered and blinded by the belief that a political ideology is somehow a more evolved state of being…. it is not….

      So there you go. Scotland in terms of family services, is already in my experience, suffering from the iron grip of feminism which is cloaked as a fight for equality and the SNP, which cloaks nationalism as a fight for working people epitomises this deception.

      And for those who want to come on and wipe the floor with me about the SNP please answer this question first….had Scotland gone independent to live as Alex Salmond told us they would on the proceeds of oil revenue…what would be happening now, given the drop in oil revenue…what would they be cutting in order to survive….answers in less than 500 words please. 🙂


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