Darrell Carlin: Weepu strays into ideological minefield

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Piri  Weepu, with his daughter Taylor, is showing the tenderness of being a father, something previous generations were not always able to do. Photo / Supplied
Piri Weepu, with his daughter Taylor, is showing the tenderness of being a father, something previous generations were not always able to do. Photo / Supplied

Piri Weepu has been caught in a breastfeeding storm not of his making. I imagine he thought by feeding his daughter he was just doing what any father would do, helping with caring for and loving his newborn daughter.

The real story is the insidious nature of how ideology-keepers apply pressure to ensure their ideology is perceived as the only one and therefore becomes the accepted reality and any other ideology is wayward and heretic.

While Weepu is a hero in this tale for being a loving father, it is journalist Wendyl Nissen who deserves applause. She rang the bell. She alerted people to the lurking danger of people deciding for us that there is only one pathway.

My concern is for fathers and families. They are enhancing their place and role and making fatherhood more exciting and rewarding than it has ever been. But they face a fierce battle just to love their children.

For women, the 20th century was pivotal. I remember when a woman becoming a pilot was the lead story on the evening news. Women fought to be firefighters against the chants that they didn't have the strength and would be a danger to their male colleagues. I remember working for a company in the early 1980s where all the senior managers had Ford Falcons as company cars and the only woman in that role got a Toyota Starlet.

All that is happening now is that men are saying "that's fine, and now we want full and equal participation in raising our children".

In my father's generation he was only there to work and support his family. At home he got up to children and changed nappies but in the public eye he was apart from the tenderness that is part of fatherhood.

Weepu's generation is free to say "I am male in every sense of the word; I can take on the giants on the rugby field and I can hold my daughter and talk of my love for her in public" and there is no contradiction in that. He is not demonstrating his "feminine side", he is demonstrating another side of masculinity.

The backlash to that audacity of men who might assume a role in caring for children, which for some is for women alone, is being fought as a quiet and vicious cold war. Weepu finds himself in no-man's land.

Martin Luther King jnr said of racial segregation in 1962 that it was dead, but it was unknown how long those opposed to it would make the funeral stretch out. Those opposed to males having equality want a long funeral.

The ideology that only mothers can care for children has seeped deeply into government agencies. In Family Court proceedings, even in 2012, fathers have to justify, against a closed-door, cold-war feminist ideology, why they should be involved in their children's lives. The La Leche League is rife with ideologues who believe there is only one way - their way.

Anyone who reads papers produced by the Ministry of Woman's Affairs can quickly deduce the ministry is an ideological weapon of died-in-the-wool feminists and "women's studies" graduates.

In this sense, breastfeeding is a great weapon as men can't do it. While supporting men in the Family Court I have seen many times how a former wife argues that a child's father can't have time with his child because she is still breastfeeding - when the child is 3 or 4 years old. It would be funny, if judges were not taking this seriously.

The paradox often missed is the knowledge that while women created pressure for political change it was not women who voted to give women the vote.

Those who had the power to vote at that stage had to vote for change. Men voted to give women the vote. While Martin Luther King and African Americans created political pressure for change it was not them who voted to make the changes they wanted, in that case it was largely white males in US Congress and Senate.

In the fight for fathers to have an equal role in their children's lives, what is needed is women, good, clear-thinking, modern women such as Wendyl Nissen who are asking good questions and not being intimidated by the attack of limited ideological thinking. So, to those women: We need you to create political pressure for equal shared custody in the Family Court, we need you to become public in asking why there is a Ministry of Women's Affairs and not a Ministry of Men's Affairs. We need you to ask why a woman can call police to have a man arrested for domestic violence without evidence and why a man walking into a police station with blood coming from a gash in his head from a domestic dispute is told to go away and harden up. Ask universities why there are not departments of men's studies.

Positive changes for fathers will come about when women in numbers start creating a voice for fathers.

Darrell Carlin is fathers' rights advocate for the Union of Fathers

- NZ Herald

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