Joan Smith: It's a funny way of showing you want to be a good father

Fathers4Justice are very modern in portraying men as victims

Share
Related Topics

Fathers' rights are a contemporary obsession, with DNA tests seen as the latest weapon to ensure that men are not cheated out of them by former partners. So pervasive is this view that no matter how low Blunkett sinks in public esteem after two cabinet resignations in less than a year, he is still a notch higher than his former lover Kimberly Quinn, who seems to be regarded with universal derision. This is partly due to the success of organisations such as Fathers4Justice, which portrays men as cartoon-character superheroes, struggling against injustice. That's more or less the line Blunkett took after his resignation as Home Secretary in December, when he characterised himself as a man who had risked everything for the love of his little boy.

Where Fathers4Justice are very modern is in portraying themselves as victims, obscuring millennia of history in which men's attitudes to paternal responsibility have been highly selective; just think of all the children conceived outside marriage by men who then took off, leaving mothers and offspring to disgrace and penury. For centuries, acknowledging paternity was regarded as optional, even when a child had been born, a circumstance confirmed by the bizarre practice of allowing men, until very recently, to donate sperm anonymously. Knowing who your parents are is vital to anyone's identity and the law has belatedly been changed, thanks to an acknowledgement of the effect of enforced ignorance on children. Only last week, a teenage boy made headlines - no doubt sending jolts of anxiety through a few middle-aged men - when he tracked down his biological father using a saliva swab and genealogical information from the internet.

It always amazes me that fathering a child could ever have been taken so lightly, which isn't to say that I welcome the noisy assertion of paternal rights in all cases. I have come across a number of men who have pursued former partners, demanding access to their children, while reluctant to pay a penny in maintenance; while some women have good reason to distrust men who have been verbally or physically abusive. In that sense, DNA tests are a blunt tool, establishing paternity but useless in terms of signalling what kind of father a man might be or how he is likely to behave to his ex-partner. Blunkett's conduct towards Quinn while she was vulnerable - in the public eye and pregnant with her second child - was that of a bully. No one should be surprised by this, given that sentimentality towards oneself and ruthlessness to others are unchanging characteristics of patriarchy, and Blunkett's blunt northern masculinity is nothing if not patriarchal. But there's poetic justice in the fact that he's been undone for a second time, technically for failing to follow the rules for ex-ministers, but also because of his astounding decision to invest in a DNA-testing company. Did it really never occur to him that, in doing so, his family stood to make a substantial profit from people going through similar forms of misery to the one he imposed on Kimberly Quinn?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'