MR. DRISCOLL: There’s astonishing quote early on in your book by Carnell Smith, advocate for male paternity fraud victims, who says, “Enslavement used to be based on race, now it’s based on gender.” Helen, could you talk a bit about the history of how we got to this point? If you watch TV’s Mad Men, you get the impression that prior to, I guess, 1968, men were brutish beasts who treated women like dirt on the job, cheated like sailors on their wives, and then feminism arrived in the 1970s and men and women become equals. That’s not exactly what happened though, is it?
DR. SMITH: That’s not really exactly what happened. In the old days, we had, in the nineteenth century, something called coverture, and it meant that the woman’s rights were sort of subsumed by that of a man in a marriage. But in today’s world, according to — I interviewed different people, experts in the field; and one of them was Michael Higdon, who’s a law professor at the University of Tennessee, and he explained to me that coverture now is held in the hands of women.
Coverture means that those rights are sort of subsumed by the woman, and men’s rights only go as far as women — as women allow them to go. For example, there are just many aspects — if — when it comes to things like children, if a man gets divorced, only ten percent of the time does he get the custody of the kids. Who pays most of the alimony in the United States? About ninety-seven percent of it is paid by men. And there are even fights now over permanent alimony and that type of thing, were a woman can literally, if she’s married a particular length of time, can get permanent — or not even that long — can get permanent alimony from a man.
And I think that what’s happened is we’ve gone from a man-centric society, maybe like you were talking about with Mad Men — although my sense is it’s probably somewhat of an exaggeration. What I want to point out is during coverture, that men were somewhat held responsible. Of course there were atrocities committed towards women, and there were legal damages and things like that. But now we’re turning them around; and when they happen to men in our society, people think that’s okay.
And during coverture, if women did something that society — like did something illegal, a man was held responsible, and he might have to go to jail. But now it’s turned around to where if men do anything, for example, if a woman says he committed domestic violence, he can go to jail, often without any due process rights or anything. Men are put in jail for owing child support. In fact, Fathers and Families who — I think it’s changed their name now to the National Shared Parent Organization — they did a study and they — in Massachusetts, and they found that ninety — something like ninety-six percent of those people going to jail for child support arrears, were men. And they found that men were eight times more likely to be put in jail if they owed child support, than women.
And so something about that is wrong when the majority of people are go — you know, are male. And going back to the quote that you talked about in the beginning by Carnell Smith, I think it’s just popular in our culture, it’s accepted in our culture, that we can be biased against men, because they’re the last group, pretty much, it’s okay to be biased against, without a whole lot of repercussions.