Sexism in the Law

Many readers of this blog appreciate that OnlyDads spends a lot of time dealing with men who, in one way or another, feel that their children have been let down by the family justice system.

Readers will also know that I do not see things changing very much as a result of the Family Justice Review that’s been ongoing. No, for me the issues for far more fundamental! I have stated before (and will state again) that I think the core of the problem is not the Children Act itself – but in its interpretation. To cut to the chase – I maintain that children are suffering at the hands of an industry (and indeed a wider society) that is inherently sexist.


Sexism is taken to mean “prejudice or discrimination based on sex; or behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.” Taking this definition as broadly accurate, leads me to ask the question why, after divorce/separation, 3.8 million children end up living with Mum as their primary carer?

When I ask that question – the majority of answers I get back are, to put it plainly,  sexist.

A Bit of Background

It was reading @seeyouatthebar’s article on Milly B’s blog – you can read it here that I was reminded, yet again, just what an archaic profession the law is. It’s as if feminism has yet to get through the door!

Some parts of this post jumped out at me: Women being scared to tell their employers that they are pregnant. In the twenty-first century. What on earth is this about!?

It’s a Personal View

I think it’s my professional background that makes me suspicious of men who dress-up. The Church of England is full of it. Such dressing-up is also accompanied by name calling. In the CofE you get Revd, Rt Revd, Venerable…. it’s all a bit like Freemasonry where you find grown men calling themselves such things as Grand Master and Chief of the Tabernacle!

 In the legal profession too, we get Registrars and Recorders and Masters and District Judges and High Court Judges, ending up with Lord Justices. Here too, you will find all these different levels have their own dress code and ways of addressing one another.

I maintain that by adopting such a hierarchical and patriarchal organisational structure two things happen:

  1. Women rarely get to the top
  2. Those with intellectual flair will find themselves not wanting to “play the game”. They won’t reach the top either.

Take a look at the academic and career paths of those at the pinnacle of their career and now sit in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. It really is worth a glance!  I bet you would have seen a similar educational and career path in the days of Pitt the Younger.

There is a serious point here. These men (yes men) who rise up the career path (like the president of the Golf Club or Grand Master of your local Lodge) will have put the hours in! They will have attended all the Dinners at their Inns of Court, worked incredibly long hours, done all the necessary networking, and proved themselves as thoroughly reliable. These are not the same men who cook tea for their children most evenings and find themselves in ballet classes and clinging onto zip-wires with screaming kids on the weekend!

In 2012 it seems to me that to reach the top of the legal profession in the UK you need to be male, public school educated, attend Oxbridge, and then remain a bachelor or marry mrs-super-stay-at-home-mum to raise your family while you spend all the hours God sent, working.

And the consequences of running such a rigid, dated, and patriarchal system like this – well you end up with “Group think”. In the cases of Courts deciding on contact issues for children, you find the whole apparatus working on the assumption that children live with Mum, and Dad better get some “contact”. Just take a look at this case from the Court of Appeal as one of many examples of such blatant sexism.

The role of fatherhood has changed rapidly in the last few decades. Men are far more engaged in the lives and upbringing of their children. I have not found one scrap of evidence that suggests Dads can’t raise a family as well as Mum.

But I am not holding my breath for the legal profession to catch up any time soon!

About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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2 Responses to Sexism in the Law

  1. Really interesting blog and an interesting legal case. The result would have been quite different if the gender roles reversed, I’m sure.

  2. onlydads says:

    You are right. That particular case would, without doubt, have been different with the gender roles reversed! Bob

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