Fatherhood funds neglect moms?

NOW argues fatherhood initiative amounts to sex discrimination.

Published March 30, 2007 11:39PM (EDT)

Should federal dollars -- to the tune of $50 million a year -- fund a program aimed at promoting responsible fatherhood? Well, the National Organization for Women doesn't think so. In fact, along with rights group Legal Momentum, they're taking their complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services, arguing that the program amounts to sex discrimination.

"What we're asking them to do is to make sure that the grantees provide equal services to women and men," Kathy Rodgers, president of Legal Momentum, told the Washington Post. "It should be a parenthood initiative." Technically, both women and men are allowed access to programs falling under the Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Initiative. But, NOW President Kim Gandy said, "The proposals they received and funded clearly indicate that they only intend to serve fathers."

Ideally, of course, funds should be directed to fatherhood, motherhood and parenthood initiatives. It seems responsible motherhood and fatherhood should be considered of equal importance, so it's a little sketchy to allot a disproportionate amount of funds for fatherhood initiatives in particular. On the other hand, I'd hate to live in a society where we're so concerned with the superficial appearance of evenhandedness that we abandon rational responses to a very uneven and shifting social landscape. The truth is, on average mothers spend more time with their kids than dads do.

There's a whole 'nother argument to be made about the amount of funds set aside and which fatherhood programs receive federal funding -- as we've mentioned before, many of these programs seem more concerned with promoting marriage. But, as for whether father-focused (or mother-focused for that matter) programs should be allowed -- why not? Consider that indiscriminately leveling all federal programs might eliminate gender-specific programs feminists hold very near and dear. (For example, there is no male counterpart to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.)

Ultimately, I have a hard time arguing that, one way or another, federal funds shouldn't be directed to heart-melting ads like this one, which are popping up nationwide.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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