Brief Presentation to the Parliamentary Committee on Custody and Access

Vancouver, B.C. April 27th, 1998
by Dr. Tana Dineen

Over 30 years ago, I was drawn to the discipline of Psychology by a fascination with the complex questions being asked and by a respect for science. There was an insistence then that conclusions, answers, ideas and theories be cautiously examined and carefully scrutinized. But today, the social and psychological sciences are no longer cautious. They are, in fact, quite reckless, tending to give the impression that they have all the answers. And some of those unfounded "answers" are seriously harming people of both sexes and of all ages.

For over 15 years, I have been particularly concerned about the influence of the highly suspect conclusions drawn from gender research. One of the first papers I wrote on this topic was entitled: "Blaming the Boys: A Feminist Fallacy." What I was seeing then was the abuse of science and professional status to promote the stereotyping of women as nurturers and peacemakers and of men as batterers and warriors. What I found then and what I find now in much of this gender research is a mixture of political ideologies, militant, paternalistic feminism and a naive therapeutic, "do-good" mentality. I am frankly outraged to see these opinions & agendas presented in the brown paper wrapper of science. Under the pretence that the notions contained are factual, accurate portrayls of reality, these factions of our society are influencing the thinking of everyone, including parents, lawyers, judges and even law makers.

What they tend to present as scientific studies/research/evidence are actually biased surveys designed to lead to the conclusions that fit with their preconceived notions. Using poor methodology, shoddy sampling, leading questions, and generating questionnaire data which can be manipulated to fit the desired conclusions, this new breed of researcher is distorting reality so as to promote its political agendas.

The much publicized "Violence Against Women Study's Women's Safety Project" is a case in point:
    Since when does science have a bias such as a "feminist lens" that distorts its results?
    Since when did 420 well educated Toronto women represent women across the country?
    Since when did women over sixty-four years of age cease to count?
Since when can a question that asks "Was there ever a time in your life when you had trouble sleeping, or staying asleep at night, because you were nervous about or afraid for your personal safety?" be so destructively transformed into a measure of "women experiencing difficulty sleeping due to fear?" Who, as a child, hasn't at some time been afraid to fall asleep?

The conclusions drawn from this survey and from many other equally flawed studies are basically that men are violent and women are vulnerable and in need of protection.

I am here today, basically, because I am terrified of what will happen in Canada if this Committee is swayed by political and ideological arguments presented as if they are facts, as if they are true, as if they are accurate. If this Committee accepts such fraudulent notions; then, it will construct legislation which supports and concretizes this bias. The effect will be to divide our nation along gender lines and to create an unequal, unbalanced justice system. For women who want to influence the Courts, it will provide a script. It will tell them how to influence judges by acting vulnerable and abused and by pointing the finger of blame at men.

There are violent men, there are abusive husbands and fathers. But there are, also, violent women, there are abusive wives and mothers. Justice, as a system, is meant to enter into matters with an open mind. Yes, it is reasonable to ask who, if either, in a custody dispute is violent or abusive or negligent. And it is in the best interest of the child involved to be with the better parent though often who is better is virtually impossible to determine. But it is not in the interest of the child, the parents or our society generally to make this decision and place a child on the basis of faulty, gender-biased policies.

To portray men as violent and women as victims is to stereotype both sexes and harm both. There is already an ideological bias in this direction. False accusations of spousal abuse and child abuse are already a problem in custody cases. Too many therapists are already caught up in theories which cast women in these roles and cast suspicion on men. What I ask of this committee is that you assume, despite emotional coercion and the pressures of political correctness, a responsiblity to ensure that this bias does not further contaminate our Courts by becoming the basis for any new laws regarding custody and access.


Copyrigh t© 1998-2007 Tana Dineen,