Attack of the 50-Foot Feminist Agenda
Angry, radical men’s groups believe males are being victimized by out-of-control judges and politicians. They’re wrong and they’re dangerous and they need to be stopped.
Illustration by Chris Kasch
Every Wednesday at noon, the Governor’s Council gathers at the Massachusetts State House. The eight-member council is an elected but little-known body that serves as the governor’s advisory board; oversees things such as pardons; and approves or rejects appointments for state judgeships. That means it has a lot of influence on how state laws wind up getting interpreted and carried out.
Amid the smattering of lobbyists and state officials at council meetings, there is always a member of the Fatherhood Coalition, a Massachusetts-based organization that was founded in 1993 to steer state laws in a direction more favorable to fathers. Sometimes it’s Joe Ureneck, the group’s chairman, who attends. He’s a small-business owner who, while going through a divorce, became concerned with the system’s “sexist bias.” Other times it’s Patrick McCabe, a soft-spoken part-time accountant from Hyde Park whose divorce left him similarly disturbed. McCabe, in fact, is running for a seat on the council this November.
Ureneck and McCabe aren’t exactly shy and retiring at the meetings. Along with the rest of the Fatherhood Coalition, they do their best to shut down judicial nominees they view as insufficiently sympathetic to their agenda. A nominee, for instance, like David Aptaker, who in 2010 was up for a position as a Middlesex probate judge. As a bit of background, one thing the Fatherhood Council is particularly concerned about is restraining orders, which it insists are used in a way that’s biased against men. In fact, the group has been pushing legislation to change the system. That’s why the coalition was alarmed by Aptaker’s nomination—according to a post on its website, Aptaker’s “lack of understanding of the restraining order laws made it clear he was not fit for the bench.” So after discovering that the nominee had failed to disclose donations he’d made to two disgraced politicians, the Fatherhood Coalition showed up at a public hearing, registering complaints that he couldn’t be trusted because of his donations. Under pressure, Aptaker eventually withdrew his application. “Whether you agree with them or not, their point of view has become the elephant in the room,” says Mary-Ellen Manning, a council member from Salem. Watertown’s Marilyn Petitto Devaney, who’s been on the council for 14 years, says the presence of the Fatherhood Coalition has “changed the way we do business here.”
Aptaker’s story underscores a disturbing trend: Men’s rights groups, convinced that men are the biggest victims of modern society, have been busy attacking, defunding, and repealing laws that have been very effective at protecting women and lowering rates of domestic violence. And rather than just ranting and raving on the Internet, these men have been pulling political levers to change both state and federal laws. That they’ve done so with remarkable success ought to make everyone very, very scared.