Do you take this woman? No Way!
Alberta Report, Jan 18, 1999, page 32 - 35
Do you take this woman?
After two decades of persecution in family courts, men
are rebelling against marriage
By Candis McLean
Imagine a sequel to the popular
romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle. It turns out that Meg Ryan was a
rapacious barracuda who tracked Tom Hanks down only to take him for everything he
had. That is the scenario many men today are living; the result, they say, is a
growing male mutiny against marriageindeed against romantic involvement of any kind.
"Men have always said they go to the bar to get lucky. But
today it means that he goes to the bar, meets a woman, and comes home alone," states
Greg Kershaw, founder of Fathers Are Capable Too (FACT), a seven-year-old Toronto-based
support group for divorced men denied access to their children. "It's a whole
general feeling. Men are divorcing earlier than they used to, so they have the
ability to form second families, but they don't. They deliberately date women who
have no marriage potential. At singles' dances for 30- to 40-year-olds, it's always
two to three women to every man, with the women in hot pursuit. The guys feel like
there are predators everywhere. But considering the potential problemssexually
transmitted diseases, women looking to get pregnant, and men having qlready lost contact
with their childrenwhy go out and have more kids you can't see?"
Male resistance to marriage, which was once nothing more than bachelor
bravado, has in recent years become a political statement and an article of faith within
the so-called "men's movement." The Internet is awash in men's rights
websites, many of which urge males not to marry or have children. Bookstore shelves
are filling up with books that deliver the "Don't marry. Don't have
children" message to young men. The admonition springs from the assumption that
men are victims of what political science professor Stephen Baskerville of Howard
University in Washington, D.C., terms "the most massive civil rights abuse of our
Book titles include Lost Fathers: The Politics of Fatherlessness in
America and The Father's Emergency Guide to Divorce-Custody Battle. The
latter is billed as a "militant exposé" that goes well beyond the usual
allegations of anti-male discrimination in the courts to charge that family courts are
operating a profit-making racket in children, at men's expense.
With that kind of rhetoric moving beyond the fringe and into the main-stream,
it is not surprising that men are becoming gun-shy of marriage. Monsignor Marshal
LeBlanc, a Catholic priest conducting a street ministry in Prince Albert, Sask., says the
phenomenon is real and growing. "Men are feeling, "I won't get
involved," he says. "The judicial system seems to favour women, and once
justice is not served well, there are endless consequences. I've seen women
purposefully get hold of a man just for what he had. Just a few [such cases] can
create waves, because once it hits the common knowledge of people, they're just not sure
they're entering a relationship on valid human terms-that people are getting married for
each other rather than what they have. There's a real breakdown in trust between men
and women," he concludes. "It's scary."
Statistics map the rebellion's quickening march. Statistics Canada
reports that the number of marriages per year dropped 18% between 1989 and 1996. If
the trend continues, the marriage rate in English Canada will soon match Quebec's, where
only one person in three is expected to marry. The nationwide divorce rate,
meanwhile, is one for every 2.4 marriages, and the rate of remarriage is in decline.
Men still remarry at more than twice the rate of women45 out of 1,000 compared to 19
out of 1,000but this is changing rapidly. The rate of remarriage for men
plummeted 28% in the five years ending in 1996, while the rate of remarriage for women
The end result is more people living alone because, although the number of
common-law relationships increased by 28% between 1991 and 1996, it does not offset the
decrease in the number of marriages and remarriages. In the same five-year period,
the number of individuals of marriageable age who were not living in a union increased by
10.7%. There are four factors for the soaring numbers living solo, ccording to
Statscan: first unions are being postponed, marriages are less durable than in the past,
common-law relationships are even less durable than marriages, and remarriages are
[My note: see also Marriage and Divorce Rates in
Canada, from a collection of family statistics by Justice Canada at http://canada.justice.gc.ca/Orientations/Pensions/stat_en.htm
Many observers charge that the courts are largely to blame for the mutiny
against marriage. The marriage rate began its dramatic plunge in the mid 1980s,
coincident with "the invasion of the feminist ideology in family law," according
to Liberal Senator Anne Cools. "You can see the turnaround as you read, the
judgments," says the woman who has become the unofficial leader of the men's rights
movement in Canada. "Family law is no place for ideology."
A COMPAS poll commissioned by Southam News and the National Foundation for
Family Research and Education (NFFRE) in Calgary conducted in October found that 62% of
Canadian men and women believe that the rights of fathers are neglected in divorce
courts. Pollster Conrad Winn told the Ottawa Citizen, "I can't find an
adjective to describe the intensity of public dismay over family issues and the
unfulfilled rights of fathers and children. I'm surprised because these issues
haven't been on the agenda of Canadian politics for a very long time. The most
astonishing thing is the absolute consensus among men and women about how the rights
and obligations of fathers and children are being ignored."
Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver reached similar
conclusions while researching his new book, "Divorced Dads: Shattering the
Myths." "Not a single father thought that the [court] system favoured them
in the slightest, and three times as many mothers thought it favoured mothers as thought
it favoured fathers." Explains Prof. Braver: "Women feel more satisfied
with their divorce for two reasons: because they are more likely to get the deal they want
than men. are, and because they feel they have greater influence over the settlement
While men's groups, along with a surprising number of women, have been trying
for years to signal these dangers to the unsuspecting legal and political system, most
will not join the mutiny,against marriage until personally traumatized by its
breakdown. "Men are more cautious about marriage for internal reasons, like
their own parents having divorced," states Mark Genuis, executive director of
NFFRE. "Outside cautions are not going to stop someone getting married. I
have yet to have a client who got married thinking they were going to get
divorced." His point is exemplified by Prince Edward who last week announced
his engagement to Sophie Rhys-Jones. Asked if he faced extra pressure as a result of
all three of his siblings' first marriages ending in divorce, Prince Edward replied,
"I think if anybody's going to get married, I hope they think that they are going to
get it right.' As for internal reasons making men more cautious, an Angus Reid poll
in 1994 found that those whose parents have divorced or separated are "most likely to
be content to be single."
"In excess of 50% of men today do not see marriage in their
future, and of those who do see it in their future, they don't see it forever; just
temporary,' says FACT founder Kershaw. "There's no empirical evidence yet, but
lots of anecdotal evidence as to why they feel it's not in their best interest to get
married. The problem is men have no protection: they can marry a lovely person and
then something changes and with a snap of her fingers, they're financially wiped
out. I wish we had a national study on [men's plans regarding marriage], but there's
no political will because people in government don't want to know this; they might feel
action must be taken."
Second families, too, suffer the effects of an unbalanced settlement.
When I first became involved with Greg six years ago, he was completely devastated
emotionally and financially by the divorce and the loss of his daughter," says
Nardina Grande, Mr. Kershaw's common-law wife. "His home had been evaluated at
$310,000 with equity of $170,000. When it sold, he got a cheque for $2,100; the
lawyer and his ex-wife got the rest. And this is after a marriage that lasted one
year, one month and 14 days. She was very charming; he dated her for three years but
didn't see her that often. She told terrible stories about her first marriage and he
believed the victimology, but she was actually the victimizer." Ms. Grande
wonders now what she would tell her son if he came to her for advice about marriage.
"It's a risk for the male because he could lose everything. I'm hoping things
will change for the better if the silent majority is made aware of how things are.
Divorce is selling your child, putting dollars on her head; a lot of people make money off
Ms. Grande testified before the joint Commons-Senate committee which last
month tabled proposed changes to the Divorce Act. "As radical as it sounds, I
said, "Get rid of child support; the child should be paid for by whomever the child
is with. The government shouldn't be involved in divorce. It creates a hostile
environment that makes everyone else rich and drains the family. So many people I
know have died following divorce: people get cancer, commit suicide. It's a scary
legacy we're leaving our children. I hope by the time our son gets to college,
divorce will be looked at with blind justice and
Ms. Grande agrees with her husband that men today avoid marriage because they
no longer benefit. "Thirty years ago men had a stable relationship,
companionship, sex, and children they could see till they reached old age. Now there
is divorce, marital rape, sexual abuse of childrenit's just really ugly. Men
do want to commit but they're not sure if they can keep their kids or even influence
them. If I were a man today, I don't know if I'd have the courage to get into
another relationship. I'd be too afraid."
For instance, Jean Colisimo, 44, has lost his home and family and is now back
living in his parents' basement in Toronto. He has spent $80,000 in legal fees over
the past seven years trying to see his now eight-year-old daughter. "I wasn't
made to go through life without my little girl," he mourns. "I recall one
time when I drove her home; she grabbed my face with her hands and said, 'I love
Marriage, monogamy and democracy
In her book, Farewell to the Family? British sociologist
Patricia Morgan points out that although daughters of sincle parents are statistically
predisposed to single motherhood, poverty and dependence on state support, the effects on
young boys are even worse. "We have reproduced the historic conditions for a
warrior class: separation of economic activity from family maintenance, children reared
apart from fathers, wealth subject to predation and male status determined by combat and
sexual conquest, with young men dealing in drugs and guns," Ms. Morgan writes.
University of Calgary political scientist Tom Flanagan suggests the Morgan thesis explains
the increasing prevalence and violence of youth crime in Canada and he believes there is
only one prescription to the problemthe restoration of monogamy and the traditional
family as cultural norms. Without them, he asserts, social conditions are likely to
Under the Neo-Darwinian interpretation of human behaviour, he explains,
reproduction is the most important determinant of human activities; it shapes the social
order. The monogamous heterosexual couple is the essential underpinning of a
co-operative social order where people voluntarily pursue collective aims in a law-abiding
way. "The opportunity to marry is the cornerstone of the democratic political
order and civil society," Prof. Flanagan continues. "Historically,
democratic governments have only existed where society is monogamous. All Third
World countries which have successfully adopted democracy, like Japan, have switched to
monogamy." The reason, he speculates, is that democracy as a political system
requires a rough equality of respect for individuals. Polygamous societies are
always non-egalitarian because the cost of maintaining haremsthe seizure of
reproductive opportunitiesrequires an accumulation of resources, severe social
stratification and enormously wealthy families.
Canada, he explains, is moving away from monogamy to serial monogamy (one
partner at a time for a period of time) and promiscuity (no exclusivity of partner).
"This destructuring of the family throws individuals on their own resources and makes
them rely on the state instead of one another," Prof. Flanagan says.
"As the state gets bigger, it becomes less controllable by citizens and more
controlled by bureaucrats and judges. My concern is, how long can we have a
democratic state as we move away from monogamy?" n
you daddy, but don't tell mommy.' I haven't seen her since she was 3½.
It's unthinkable not to be able to see your child." Mr. Colisimo is a loud part
of the mutiny against marriage; his poetry has been published in the [Toronto] Globe
& Mail and recited before the Cools commission. "I'd like to go to
schools and tell people that not only does AIDS kill, but marriage can kill. It's
made me emotionally and psychologically sick. I used to travel to Australia with
airmiles earned on the job [as a beverage distributor for western Canada]. Now I'm
broken. I find myself sitting and rocking a lot. I can't work, I'm on welfare,
I don't want a relationshipwhat for? I don't trust women."
Mr. Colisimo says unbalanced divorce settlements have "shifted the parameters"
[A picture was shown here in the article. The caption was: FACT's Kershaw (left) with Nardina and children: 'Why go out
and have more kids you can't see?']
for relationships. "Because there was no benefit to marriage,
men didn't want to get married, so we shacked up. Then the government said if we
shacked up for six months or a year, we were as good as married. So we had to back
off farther, keep our residence and just stay overnight. You don't want to be
considered a father to her children or you're on the hook for support. Men are
coming and going out of women's lives because we reward people for not being in
relationships. The 'Me Generation' is becoming just that: totally isolated with
occasional hookups for sex but no emotional involvement. I can't think of a single
reason to get married unless women are going to hold tough and say they're not going to
put out unless they're married." His "crusade," he says, is to
"touch every person one by one and let them know, that women 'own' children.
And be careful. Don't ever fall in love with your own kid."
© Alberta Report.
The Jan. 18, 1999 issue of the Alberta Report carried a related article
"DEAD IN NAME ONLY: The term 'feminism' may be out of fashion, but it's attitudes are
still alive and kicking," by Carla Yu, page 24 - 26. Unfortunately, the article
reflected only interviews with women and presented only women's views of feminism.
In that way it ignored that feminism doesn't exist in isolation in our society and that it
has appropriated a disproportionate portion of social benefits, entitlements and
recognition for women, while relegating an ever-increasing proportion of social
responsibilities to the somewhat less than half of the population that is male.
Posted with permission by the Alberta Report,
provided source and author are stated. The article may not be used for commercial or
fund-raising purposes, unless permission is expressively granted by the Alberta Report.
Back to Divorce Issues:
Originally posted 1999 05 10
2000 02 18 to insert link to bookreview of Farewell to the Family
2001 02 07 (format changes)
2001 04 23 (added link to The Fix Is In)
2002 03 05 (added link to Table of Contents)
2003 04 20 (added entry for child-support and alimony case-law
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College