Who Gets Custody?
My students read an article by the famous Spanish writer Rosa Montero where the writer argues that giving the custody of the children to the mother automatically in the majority of cases is sexist. Montero suggests that we reevaluate our sexist prejudices and begin to accept that mothers and fathers have equal value.
I asked my students to express their own opinions about Montero’s suggestion, and here are some of the responses:
[I will mark the responses with F and M to mark the gender of the students.]
F: “No, it isn’t sexist to give custody to the mothers in all cases because women are by nature better adapted to bring up children.”
F: “It is very sad that many fathers still have to fight to be with their kids. The writer is right, this is definitely sexist.”
F: “This shouldn’t be about gender at all. The parent who makes more money and has better career prospects should get the custody because this is the parent who will set a better example to the kids.”
F: “I think that fathers should get a shot at custody as long as they are better than my father. But it isn’t that hard to be better than him because all he ever does is yell.”
M: “I don’t think the courts should get involved in the custody decisions at all. Parents can sort it out among themselves.” (This is our resident Libertarian, as you might have guessed.)
F: “If men cared about custody, they would have fought for it. Men normally have no problem setting up laws to favor them. Most men simply don’t need the trouble of caring about kids.”
F: “Women are biologically better at childcare, which is why they should always get custody.” (What is really shocking is that this was written by a black student.)
M: “Granting full custody to mothers in most cases is a way of imposing social control and preserving traditional gender roles. Women end up not growing professionally as well as men do and making less money. Then it is easier to control women.”
M: “What people often forget is that men suffer from sexism, too, and custody laws are an example of that.”
M: “Women are better prepared to take care of children, so giving them custody is logical.”
P.S. I only grade the writing on this assignments, not the opinions, so don’t worry about the students.