Sometimes the only way to help people understand why something matters is to put a human face on it. Today that’s what I’m going to do.
In a world with clearly delineated sides in gender debate it is unusual to have someone who believes in standing the middle ground. My Mondays are normally a war in which I am both outnumbered and surrounded. Both sides of gender debate have a vocal angry portion that view me as the enemy, though also a gracious vocal minority that recognise me as the friend that I am.
People ask me why I do this. Why put myself in the line of emotional fire? So I’m going to explain how gender role has impacted my family and why that experience makes me feel there needs to be more than just a male and female side to gender equality debate. I apologise for the length of this article, it covers several decades of my family’s life but I have done what I can to keep it succinct.
The story starts here:
Gender role, the legal enforcement thereof, as well as the governmental failure to meaningfully address issues raised by feminism, tore my family apart.
|My father, Eberhard Kroker. Born 13th June, 1933|
My father had five sons across three marriages of which I am the youngest. As my father explained it, the first two times he got married, he did so ‘to do the right thing’—in short he got women pregnant then felt obligated by the societal enforcement of the male gender role of protector/provider to marry those women. Unfortunately, marriages based on obligation rarely turn out well. Regardless, he did very much love all of his children.
During the 1950s and 60s the norm in Germany was ‘at-fault’ divorce, but even then divorce law was heavily weighted towards reinforcing traditional gender role. During each of my father’s divorces multiple witnesses came forward during the at-fault divorce proceedings and testified that they had had sexual relations with his wife during the course of their marriage. This led to each case being awarded in his favour. Despite each case being considered a win, the win only meant a reduction in the amount of alimony he was required to pay—the judge still ruled for full custody of all children in each case to be given to his wives. Why? Because traditional gender role stipulates that women are mother/nurturers and men are protector/providers and our laws were (and in many places still are) set up to reflect this—women are awarded children as per their gender role and men are forced to continue to be providers as per their gender role, even though the relationship has ended.
|My father with his firstborn son, Rainer Kroker.|
|Rainer like his father, became a musician.|
Despite the court awarding his first wife full custody of their son named Rainer, she wasn’t interested in it. At three years of age Rainer’s mother left, leaving sole care of him to my father (though she returned when he turned twelve and sought out a relationship with him, then left again when he was seventeen, never to be heard from again). She explained that as long as the alimony cheques kept coming, my father could retain all custody and he agreed. My father as a result continued to have a positive relationship with Rainer and when my father left Germany my brother was eighteen and opted to stay behind. As I was born here in Australia I have only been able to spend time with my brother on the few occasions that I’ve been to Germany.
The conclusion to my father’s second marriage did not end as well. In my father’s version of events, my father’s second wife was an alcoholic, less interested in fulfilling her mother/nurturer gender role and more interested in finding the end of a bottle. As a result, despite being awarded full custody, the sons he bore with her—Armin and Andreas—only stayed at her house when he was at work. This meant in most instances, his three sons often lived with him. For a time, this worked well for all involved…
First wave feminism however incidentally changed all of that.