This year, a judge in Oklahoma found a convicted child sex offender a "good enough" father to award him sole custody of his six-year-old daughter. In Australia, a man who pleaded guilty to repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting his young daughter from the age of five was let out on a "good behaviour" bond. In Ireland, a 52-year-old man was given a suspended sentence after being convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl. The judge ruled that jailing a convicted child rapist would cause serious hardship to his current family.
Andrew Parsons was labelled a "good father". Parsons was convicted of the brutal murder of his ex-wife Janee at Oxford Crown Court. He stalked Janee and then stabbed her to death in front of their young son but, somehow, he is still a "good father". Parsons' "jealous rage" as his ex-wife ended their marriage does not prevent him from being a labelled a "good" father by a judge. Parson's QC went so far as to suggest that Parsons' "loved his wife, perhaps too much" as if it is normal to murder someone you love.
These are four cases where violent men have been considered "good enough" fathers by the courts. Labelling these cases as aberrations is to wilfully ignore both structural misogyny and the pattern of male violence in our culture. It serves only to normalise male violence.
So, when did we change the definition of 'good father' to include men who murder the mother of their children? When did it begin to include men who commit murder in front of their children? When did it begin to include men who are convicted of child sexual abuse? When did we extend the term "good" to fathers who have no contact with their children?
When did being a 'good father' limit criminal responsibility?
I wrote an article for Father's Day asking exactly what makes a 'good father'. I claimed that men who are violent or who refuse to financially or emotionally support their children aren't "good" fathers. Unsurprisingly, I have received a lot of sexist abuse about my article, particularly from men angry at my suggestion that the current definition of a 'good father' is so low as to be completely pointless. When the definition of a "good father" includes a man who refuses to financially support his children to men who commit domestic violence, I have to wonder what the definition of a bad father is?
What does a man have to do to be labelled a bad father? If a conviction for child rape isn't enough, what is?
More importantly, why aren't more men angry about this? Why aren't more fathers writing complaint letters every time the media claims that a child rapist is a good enough father?
Why aren't men challenging this patriarchal theory, which claims that a man is "good enough" as long as he sends a birthday card once a year? There are millions of good fathers across the world, so where are they? Why aren't they angry?
Why was the list that I wrote defining "good fathers" so controversial? What are we doing to our children when we consider both our children and their mothers possessions? A woman has a right to end a relationship when she chooses to without being murdered. A child has the right to be raised by adults who are not violent; adults that will not harm them or their mother.
What are we doing to our children when the following isn't sufficient reason to deny access:
Domestic violence makes you a bad father.
Abusing your partner in front of your children is child abuse.
Good fathers do not kill the mother of their children.
Violent men who assault or murder their partners do not deserve contact with their children.
Good fathers do not murder their children to punish the children's mother.
If the definition of a "good father" includes men who murder the mother of their children, what is the definition of a bad father?