'Forced Fatherhood'? Yeah, Okay, Whatever


With Father’s Day around the corner (consider this a friendly reminder, go get him a tie or something), baby daddies around the country will be getting a Hallmark card, an Applebee’s gift card, or at least a phone call to recognize all those times they ordered pizzas and let their kids wear pajamas all day when mom was out of town. But the definition of daddyhood is a changing one: With more and more children born out of wedlock, “dad” doesn’t necessarily mean your mom’s husband or boyfriend. He could be a one night stand or a good friend, or, as Laurie Shrage suggests in her Op-Ed in today’s New York Times, he could be something like a forced sperm donor.

Shrage, a professor of philosophy and women’s and gender studies at Florida International University, penned her column titled “Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?” to argue that it’s really unfair the way we treat men when it comes unplanned pregnancies. Say a guy has unprotected sex with a lady, and said lady gets pregnant, as things often go with unprotected sex. The lady weighs her options and finally decides to keep her child. Now this guy, the other half necessary for conceiving a child, is stuck with the results of his seed until that little baby turns 18. And that just ain’t right, according to Shrage.

All the dude has to do with the kid is sperm, right? Wrong. Shrage’s sympathetic view of a man who accidentally conceives a child with a woman can convince you that dude’s have it tough when they knock someone up because it’s just their sperm, after all. You know what? It is unfair. It’s unfair that guys are burdened with paying for diapers and text books for 18 years just for getting it on without a condom. But guess what? Unplanned pregnancies are always unfair for everyone involved.

“Forced fatherhood” is a hell of a lot easier than “forced motherhood.” But here’s how Shrage sees it:

“If a man accidentally conceives a child with a woman, and does not want to raise the child with her, what are his choices?… He can urge her to seek an abortion, but ultimately the decision is hers to make. Should she decide to continue the pregnancy and raise the child, and should are government attempt to establish him as the legal father, he can be stuck with years of child support payments.”

There’s a whole lot of WTF that needs to be unpackaged in that statement, so let’s unwrap Shrage’s little gift together, shall we?

A Forced Father can “urge” a Forced Mother to seek an abortion, but IDK if Shrage is aware, the decision to get an abortion is not necessarily the woman’s to make. If she lives in a state where abortion is virtually illegal/impossible to get, like Idaho, where a woman was arrested for aborting her pregnancy and where there are a total of four abortion providers in the entire state, the decision ultimately lies with backwards politicians and a health system plagued by systemic disregard for a woman’s right to choose. And if she decides to abort the fetus after 20 weeks? Old white dudes are fervently making sure that won’t happen either.

Next comes the unfair burden of being a government-mandated father to a child. The Man is making you be a man, and man, does it suck. You have to pay, like, so much money for that thing! Guess how mom’s pay for their kids: with their money, time, and life goals. 84.1% of the 12.2 million single parent families in 2012 were headed by single mothers. 1 in 3 children are being raised without a father. I wonder if those millions of mothers, half of whom live below the poverty line, felt forced to raise their children alone? It’s not that “chances are” they felt forced into motherhood, they were without a doubt forced into being the sole caretaker for a child

Shrage raises a few points that would solve the issue of “forced fatherhood” altogether:

“Do our policies now aim to punish and shame men for their sexual promiscuity?… Rather than punish men (or women) for their apparent reproductive irresponsibility by coercing legal paternity (or maternity), the government has other options, such as mandatory sex education, family planning counseling, or community service.”

While it’s true that the alarming lack of sexual education results in a policy of forced parenthood as punishment, “(or women) and (or maternity)” is an insulting way to suggest that women aren’t coerced or punished by unwanted children as much as men are. Shrage also mentions that forcing dads to pay child support makes them violent towards their child or the child’s mom. Letting them off the hook from a comparatively smaller responsibility will make all those angry dads so much more at ease, right? They’ve got it so tough.

Boo fucking hoo. At the end of the day, the only thing the government, and society, requires fathers to do is pay money, which is a hell of a lot easier than raising a child alone, as most mothers who have children out of wedlock are forced to do. Yeah, it’s unfair for them, but it’s not nearly as unfair as forced motherhood.

Image via Getty

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