Barry Goldstein on the Mother’s Movement & Abusers

ATW has recently been in contact with Barry Goldstein, when we sent him and other professionals, a link introducing the blog, and inviting comments.

Barry has been very candid in sharing his thoughts about the Mother’s Movement and how it should proceed. One of the things Barry mentioned was creating a Protective Mothers Manifesto, to offer guidelines on ethical behavior for those within the Mother’s Movement.

ATW has received Barry’s permission to post his e-mail in full, as long as we agree not to edit, take out of context, or change the content in any way. In the interest of truth and accuracy, we also ask our readers to respect Barry’s wishes. We welcome reader’s comments please keep in mind ATW’s policy keeping all comments respectful.

Thank-you for Barry for your valuable feedback, and contributions.

— Among the Wolves

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Barry Goldstein:

My interest in creating a protective mother manifesto is to express our beliefs, help to unite those working to reform the broken custody court system and to avoid the kind of personal attacks you reference. I certainly agree that some of my friends who are protective mothers have acted improperly. I hope that we can stop this so that it will be safer for all protective mothers as they already face too many dangers and obstacles.

From my perspective context is extremely important in understanding these issues. Too often we create a false equivalency between people and groups that do not have equal privileges and opportunities. We live in a sexist society in which men receive substantial unearned privileges even if we are not always aware of this. There is a lot of bad research that suggests women abuse men about as often as men abuse women. This is based on deeply flawed practices and one of the things they miss is that women are often so afraid of their partners, afraid they will kill or seriously harm them that they will do whatever they think he wants and let him make the decisions just so he will not hurt them. The reverse is rarely true. This means that many actions that seem the same on the surface are really very different because of the inherent power that men have. This is one of the reasons I believe the behavior and threats by Bill Windsor are so much worse and of more concern.

There is a fundamental difference when something is done by someone in a position of privilege and power in our society then when it is done by someone who lacks these privileges. In this context, I believe women can be assaultive, disrespectful and totally inappropriate but I would not use a term like abuser or domestic violence for what they do because they do not have the same power that men have. I believe we need to keep the context in mind.

I am particularly concerned that protective mothers who are on both sides of this present dispute have gone through horrific experiences and this continues to impact them. This is an important reason why they should be treated with the utmost respect and we must avoid acting in ways that could be frightening. To the extent that the improper behavior was directed at protective mothers it makes it all the more unacceptable. At the same time it is common that victims of domestic violence often act out in inappropriate ways as a result of his abuse. One of the big problems is that court professionals often fail to understand this and severely punish mothers for actions that are normal under the circumstances.

I know enough about some of the cases of the protective mothers who I agree acted improperly to know they are genuine victims of the broken court system and sincerely want to create the reforms we all favor. That is why my goal is to modify the unacceptable behavior and keep them as part of our movement. They have also made many valuable contributions to our work. I still believe we can respond in a way that their involvement can be salvaged in a way that is win-win for our movement.

I am far more concerned about the actions of Bill Windsor. He never seemed to have understood the gendered nature of the problems we are dealing with. When I became a part of this movement and before that the battered women’s movement, I spent a lot of time learning from the women who are the leaders and confronting my unearned privileges and sexist beliefs. I learned the importance of taking leadership from women. Bill Windsor does not seem to have ever gone through this process and instead used his male privilege to engage in completely inappropriate attacks on genuine protective mothers. He raised tremendous hopes in many protective mothers but it appears he does not get it and his reaction to criticism is beyond inappropriate.

I think it is important that we keep our eyes on the ball. Unfortunately this dispute has been a distraction. The important thing is to reform the broken system that hurts so many children. I believe the women who made inappropriate personal attacks can contribute to the goal, but need to stop the attacks. Obviously this is a difficult issue and like most issues involved with domestic violence we are confronted with what is the least harmful response.