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.