(Real) Fathers 4 Justice have had a major part to play in making the politics of fatherhood and fathers’ rights highly visible in the UK this decade. The campaign group set up by activist Matt O’Connor in 2002 to champion fathers’ rights is famous for acts of civil disobedience
The Gendered Politics of the (Real) Fathers 4 Justice Campaign
Most prominently, in September 2004, ‘Batman’ climbed onto the balcony at Buckingham Palace and unfurled a banner reading, ‘Super Dads of Fathers 4 Justice, Fighting for your Right to see your Kids’.
The group have become particularly well known for the recurrent use of this superhero motif – Batman, Robin, Spiderman and Superman have all played a part in their publicity stunts.
Fathers’ rights groups have been characterised by some feminist academics as part of an anti-feminist ‘backlash’, responding to a perceived crisis of masculinity through a problematic politics of fatherhood aimed at (re)asserting control over women and children.
The main focus of the research was on analysing the construction of power-laden gender identity/ies within (Real) Fathers 4 Justice in order to critically interrogate the (gender) politics of fathers’ rights. The project involved qualitative, in-depth interviews with members of the group to explore their perspectives on 'fathers' rights' and on fatherhood.
Although some interviewees expressed a desire to assume joint responsibility for childcare, this was ultimately limited by the fathers’ rights paradigm which emphasises entitlement to ‘access’ to children rather than a more substantial reimagining of a more involved model of fatherhood. Fathers’ rights groups often draw strategically on a caring, sharing image, without this necessarily translating into the expectation of a shift in the unequal gendered division of caring labour.