It begins thus,
It’s a wise child, they say, that knows its own father.
The subject being pondered is DNA paternity testing and its consequences. Given what follows, you may want to bear that opening sentence in mind.
For the entire course of human history, men have nursed profound, troubling doubts about the fundamental question of whether or not they were fathers to their own children; women, by contrast, usually enjoyed a reasonable level of certainty about the matter. Now, a cotton-wool swab with a bit of saliva, plus a small fee, less than £200, can settle the matter. At a stroke, the one thing that women had going for them has been taken away,
The one thing?
the one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers.
I hadn’t realised parenthood was about having the last laugh. Clearly, I need to brush up on the etiquette of modern mating. But surely paternity tests merely level the playing field in a matter of some gravity? What mama knows (and doesn’t say), papa can now find out. In terms of paternity, is that really such a crushing injustice?
DNA tests are an anti-feminist appliance of science, a change in the balance of power between the sexes that we’ve hardly come to terms with. And that holds true even though many women have the economic potential to provide for their children themselves… In making paternity conditional on a test rather than the say-so of the mother, it has removed from women a powerful instrument of choice.
Choice that may include deception and extortion.
Uncertainty allows mothers to select for their children the father who would be best for them.
Suckering former lovers? Not a problem. Mama wants a selection box. Depriving a child and its actual father of a chance to know each other is also apparently fine. Because uncertainty allows it. Feminism, so conceived, seems to entail the right to a little moral sleight of hand. But hey, choice!
The old situation, in which women presented men with a child, and the man either did the decent thing and offered support, or made a run for it, allowed women a certain leeway… Paternity was ambiguous and it was effectively up to the mother to name her child’s father, or not… Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?
Answers on a postcard please.