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Equality For Men And Fathers - What A Concept!
June 1, 2005
by Carey Roberts

Bill May didn't get into synchronized swimming to make a political statement. "When I first joined," he once explained, "I thought, 'This is a great sport and it's fun.'" But as things turned out, his greatest barrier would not be a lack of talent.

Joining the sport at age 10, May endured ridicule and strange looks for over 15 years. Synchronized swimming, after all, is for girls. But he succeeded in shrugging off the stereotypes and eventually became recognized as one of the elite synch swimmers in the country. In 2001 he swept the first-place spots in the solo, duo, and team categories at the Nationals in Texas.

But his career suffered a painful set-back when the estrogen barrier slapped him down. Last summer the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Federation decided to not allow him to participate in the August Olympics. Come and cheer the girls on to victory, they said, but don't dare jump into that pool.

The reason for the Federation's Olympic-sized refusal - unstated but widely believed to be true - is the belief that discrimination against men is simply a non-issue. "Since men have all the power," persons glibly ask, "How is it possible for a male to be the victim of discrimination by another man?"

This simplistic analysis ignores the fact that power appears in many forms and guises.

Social commentator David Shackleton once made this observation: "Men's power has been overt, and has lain primarily in the physical, economic, and political realms, while women's power, fully the equal of men's, has been covert and has operated in the moral, emotional, and sexual realms."

So men, traditionally viewed as the head of the family, tend to be physically stronger and to be the primary wage-earners of the family.

But women are no shrinking violets. Women command the power to establish social norms ("Who left the toilet seat up?"), to set hubby's weekend schedule ("Here's the honey-do list, dear"), and on occasion, to shame their partner ("I'm sending you to the doghouse!")

And dare we forget to mention sexual allure? Truth be told, some women intentionally cultivate their sexual power to tantalize and influence men. One of these days pick up a copy of Cosmo, a how-to manual for wordly women who know what they want, and know how to get it.

So David Shackleton would argue that whatever power that women may lack in the corporate boardrooms and in the halls of Congress, they more than make up for at home.

Over the past 40 years our society has undergone an extreme make-over in order to promote political and economical equality for women. That's fine. But as Bill May found out, equality still eludes men. And we're not talking about just synchronized swimming.

If men had equal rights, what would that look like? Here are just a few examples, for starters.

First, our society will begin to value and respect fatherhood -- and I'm not talking about a Wal-Mart tie on Father's Day. We will realize that solving many of our most vexing social problems - delinquency, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and others -- will require recognition of the essential role of fathers in promoting safe and stable families. And in case of divorce, a fit father shouldn't have to fight a biased legal system so he can stay involved in the lives of his kids.

Second, men will have equal say in matters of reproduction. Currently men are at the mercy of their partners because there is no effective male birth control pill, and because men have no say in decisions about keeping their unborn children.

Third, we will promote equality in health. Currently men die five years sooner than women, and that's not because of biology. Despite that disparity in life expectancy, the federal government has five offices of women's health -- but no office for men's health.

For years the notion of gender equality was seen as a one-way street, intended to benefit women, but turning a blind eye to the social disparities of men. Mere mention of the words "men's rights" was a sure-fire strategy to attract amused expressions and derisive remarks.

But for those who believe in fairness, as I believe most Americans are, we need to ask this simple question: Equal rights for men and fathers - who could possibly be against that?

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