Niche Literature
Friday Ephemera

An Instrument of Choice

Dicentra steers us to the musings of Melanie McDonagh and a feminist rationale for fraud, dishonesty and extortion.

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.



The world as described by Melanie McDonagh sounds more like the cultural set-up of certain South-Seas islands or other primitive societies, where polyandry is the rule and matriarchs have the discretionary power to allocate paternity roles to whichever of the various males they mate with. In Europe, on the other hand, monogamous marriage was (at least up until recently) always the rule, while adultery, and thence questions of paternity, was very much the exception. It is not as if throughout (western) history women have gone around having children with as many men as they liked, freely distributing the role of father as they saw fit, and now, as part of some materialist-patriarchal conspiracy, science has come along to spoil it all for them. Up until recently, the only women this would have fallen into such a category were prostitutes and "fallen" women (picture the gin-soaked crone dropping her baby in the Hogarth etching). Melanie McDonagh is projecting present social decay backwards through history and holding it up as some kind of utopia now threatened by male science


As you might predict Polly McFilla provided a somewhat contradictory view earlier this year (from the Evening Standard in May):

"What about the doctor who lies to a patient for the patient's own good, which Plato thought was allowable? The Victorians used to agonise endlessly about whether it was right to tell lies or suppress the truth to preserve life; they took the question of truth and untruth far more seriously than we do.

Truth, Rowe [a psychologist] says, is subjective, which is itself a subjective view. The older generation of men, she says, “still fear women because the threat is that women always see things differently from men. This is not to say that a woman's point of view is closer to the truth but simply that a woman's point of view is always different from a man's.”

Coming from a male psychologist this would be hair-raising sexism; what do we call it coming from liberal Dorothy Rowe? I can think, off the top of my head, of about 100 issues, matters of fact and opinion, on which I would take the contrary view to many women and side instead with men on the other side."

'Hair-raising sexism', it seems, is all a matter of perspective. Or deadlines. Isn't journalism great?


HTML didn't work: second, third and fourth paras are quotations from her article.


"Up until recently, the only women this would have fallen into such a category were prostitutes and "fallen" women."

Indeed -- exactly the class of women that would most benefit from paternity testing; for which of the gin-lady's lovers would, if merely 'nominated' as father, have done the decent thing and gone out to provide for mother and child? It reminds me of poor Annie the waitress in A Town Like Alice, who gets pregnant by one of the town's hundred ringers, and has no way of getting any of them to marry her. 'I don't know how you'd tell which one it was. They'd all say it was one of the others, wouldn't they?'


I wonder if Melanie McDonagh has a son. What would he make of his mother's article?


"Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?"

In other words, men 'are all the same', a lumpen, non-individuated mass, useful economically (as long as they don't start getting all uppity and patriarchal), but otherwise an impediment to women's amoral exercise of 'choice'. How dare they object to being duped into raising a child not their own! After all, a child's paternity is the business of no one but the mother.

Patrick Brown

I'm seeing this more and more. Feminists have been so indulged, got so used to not being challenged, and grown so unasssailably self-righteous that they're not even bothering to couch their demands in terms of "equality" or "oppression" any more. It's now just rampant, and open, entitlement. Women want, therefore they must have, and who cares who gets hurt.

My main hope is that, if they keep it up, everybody will come to see them for what they are, won't fall for any more of their guilt-trips, and realise their rhetoric about "patriarchy" and "objectification" and "chattel" and "control" was sheer projection all along.

Mr Eugenides

Just when I think nothing can surprise me, I am surprised. What an extraordinary argument.


"Uncertainty allows mothers to select for their children the father who would be best for them."

Unlike exercising control over when and with whom you have sex.

Damn those godbothering Christers who advise women not to sleep around, and to not reproduce until they have first secured a good father through well-considered marriage.



Any time you see someone privileging Power over Truth, you know you're dealing with someone whose moral compass has no needle.

Sociopathy is bliss, I guess.


"DNA tests are an anti-feminist appliance of science,"

Because... it's a woman's right to defraud...? Wow. Is the Spectator channeling the Guardian now?

Darleen Click

Thanks, David, for finding the whole article. It lived up (down?) to the snippet I had earlier read.

What Ms. Melanie fails to note is that while many men are raising children who are not genetically linked to them, many of them do so voluntarily because the woman in question was honest with them from the start. While relationships can survive all manner of calamities, including adultery, no relationship can survive such dishonesty.


“Is the Spectator channeling the Guardian now?”

“Guardian-worthy” could be a fitting insult, denoting a particular kind of nastiness, arrogance and moral dislocation. (See also, “Did Amanda Marcotte write this?”)

I quite like this from the Spectator comments:

“…if the whole genetic aspects of parenthood are so insignificant, it seems like the NHS could save some desperately needed cash by scrapping all those wristbands, footprints and the like in maternity wards. The kids could all be put in cots on an airport-style baggage carousel and [mothers could] just take whichever one comes up next when they’re leaving. Sauce for the goose, eh, Mel?”

Patrick Brown

Turns out Melanie wrote pretty much the exact same article last year in The Times. She obviously feels strongly about the issue.

She's also responsible for this gem in the Telegraph about immigration in which she suggested the last government let so many brown people in because David Blunkett was blind and couldn't see them.

Patrick Brown

Oops, links didn't work. Here's the Times piece:

And the Telegraph one:

Another one in the Telegraph bemoaning the fact that IVF allows infertile men to have children, when their very infertility is proof they don't deserve to:

A Bandocker

"...and the man either did the decent thing and offered support, or made a run for it"

Two things:

1. So now the feminist is interested in traditional gender roles where the "decent thing" is that the man support the woman/child? That attitude would have played well in 'Leave it to Beaver' America... and in fact did, as men would marry women as the "decent thing" if the woman became pregnant. Yet that is somehow evidence of patriarchy, until it works in the favor of fraud (against both the man and the child, as neither knows the truth).

2. I'm pretty sure some men still make a run for it, even with DNA testing or when the paternity is relatively certain. What DNA does is forces both men and women to be accountable for their actions, rather than the shell game this feminist would prefer, and that accountability can be enforced in court.


I can only assume that Ms. McDonagh works and lives in academia, where such utterly removed from reality thinking is the norm. Even the faintest whiff of common sense would cause the whole house of cards to collapse, so naturally it is not allowed within the sealed academic bowl.

Melissa R.

So, the only thing I glean about Ms. McDonagh from her article is that she must have gotten pregnant at some point and tried to trick the wrong father into accepting the kid because Wrong!Father had money and she was sick of having to pay her own rent, while the real father was a panhandling bum with trackmarks and a meth habit who she happened to sleep with during a low moment after she got blitzed out of her mind at a bar and thought he was Brad Pitt in "Benjamin Button." But then Wrong!Father demanded a paternity test -- "I remember the night you came to see me smelling of hobo and tequila!" -- so she threw a hissy fit and called him a chauvinistic pig who was trying to undermine her matriarchal role as final arbiter of her child's legitimate paternity, and DNA be d@mned.

Then when he didn't bite she had an abortion and went back to paying her own rent.

No? Not at all, you say? I'm trying to paint her with a broad, jaded brush because I think her ideas about paternity are abhorrent? I don't know her personally and therefore I can't draw conclusions about her motivations or rationale for holding such immoral beliefs?

Fine, I'll give you that. As soon as Ms. McDonagh apologizes for treating all men like clones of one another with no individuality, amorphous morality, and -- most importantly -- no rights in regard to the rearing of their own children. Let her give us that apology, and then I'll apologize for labeling her a gold-digging tramp.

Just Me

There is of course a logical male solution to this problem: lock up the women. Confine them to the harem, and don't let them out in public without a male relative as escort. Many "traditional" societies practice this, even to this day.

I wonder if Ms. McD would approve this "rebalancing of power"

Steve Skubinna

"Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?"

Good Lord. That is the money quote right there, and tells us all we need know about this McDonagh person. There's a person worthy of trust and respect.

Oh, sorry, I was using the medium of sarcasm to actually express the negative. Ha ha.


"Uncertainty allows mothers to select for their children the father who would be best for them."

When she says 'uncertainty' what she means is conning two men and a kid.


Read the first 5 letters for a clue to the identity.


... Do men even count as people in this analysis?

I'm deadly serious. She talks about men like we're either a natural disaster ("Women need all the power they can possibly get") or a consumer good ("choice!").


"Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?"

The thinking behind this statement conjures up the vision of a communist dystopia in which the male sex are collectively cast in the role of the disenfranchised and expropriated former "exploiters", the "enemies of the people", and the female sex in the role of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." In the end, the Two Ronnies ("The Worm that Turned") were visionaries.


"Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?"

Of course it matters. A good number of the children thus raised will be males, who will go on (perhaps) to father children themselves one day. So it is okay that they are raised deceitfully in order to one day also conduct their lives under the shadow of an easily practiced deceit? These one-day-to-be-men clearly don't need to understand that honesty matters: you will be deceived as others have been, so if you young man think being deceitful is okay just remember where it is encouraged.

In which case, what this woman is saying in her desperate bid to fill column inches in order to be given a cheque, is that developing trust in young people doesn't matter. If you can keep people ignorant then you cannot blame them if they perpetuate the ignorance.


Melanie McDonagh argues that since good women have been deceived by bad men, bad women should be allowed to deceive good men.

How vile.


So biologically, she (the mother) wants to be able to choose the best genetic partner she can lure into bed AND choose the best resource provider she can trick into acknowledging responsibility for 18 years of child support. That trick is based on her spreading her legs for her mark at least once.

Good deal if you're the alpha male sperm donor but the net result will be men refusing to marry and/or provide for children unless so ordered by the state. The authoress would have court-ordered paternity tests outlawed. Expect the likes of John Edwards and Teddy Kennedy to support that banning.

Sure, it extort money from some men fraudulantly, which is an injustice.

But the tragedy is on the children.

Chris S.

Tack on this line of reasoning and this:
And you end up in an odd odd place. I think I need a diagram to figure out who is allowed to know paternity, But I'm pretty sure it'll end up just being everyone but the father.


Only the children matter, save the chil'un!

Fatherhood is irrelevent, and besides it's equal to Patriarchy, and therefore Evil. Didn't David do a post on female privilege somewhere...?


"Women are directly adapted to act as the nurses and educators of our early childhood, for the simple reason that they themselves are childish, foolish, and short-sighted—in a word, are big children all their lives, something intermediate between the child and the man, who is a man in the strict sense of the word. Consider how a young girl will toy day after day with a child, dance with it and sing to it; and then consider what a man, with the very best intentions in the world, could do in her place."

- Schopenhauer, a philosopher so I am told, and one that begins with an "S".


Two thoughts:

1. If paternity doesn't matter, then surely those baby mix-ups in the hospital in which mom gets the wrong kid don't matter either. I doubt the author would agree with this idea.

2. In the long run, a child surely has an in interest in knowing what inherited medical issues he or she may have gotten from their biological father (a family history of heart disease, cancer, etc) So the author here has essentially dismissed the health of the child as not as important as women's prerogative to lie about her sex life.

It's as if she didn't even try to think about this issues.


"Behind this extreme statement of the providential foundations of the double standard of sexual morality lay the experience of abuses under the old bastardy laws. Under these, if a single woman declared herself pregnant and charged a man with being responsible, the overseers of the poor or any substantial householder could apply to any justice of the peace for a committal warrant…. The Commissioners thought that poor men were at the mercy of blackmail and perjury by unscrupulous women…. The bastardy clauses of the Act of 1834 were in line with the opinions of the Poor Law Commissioners. The laws which had enabled a mother to charge a putative father before the magistrates were repealed".


"...but really, does it matter?"

No, because when everything is a "social construct", nothing matters.


"Paternity was ambiguous..."

Paternity is ambiguous only in the case in which the mother happens to be a prostitute or is promiscuous (what used to be called being a "slut"). By making such a generalising statement, is Melanie McDonagh suggesting that all women are prostitutes and sluts?

namae nanka

and I think the sailer's law of female journalism can be modified to accommodate for socially accepted behavior as well.


There can be no doubt that Feminism and science are at war, and that truth is the enemy of Feminism.


"It's as if she didn't even try to think about this issues."

She didn't.

"There can be no doubt that Feminism and science are at war, and that truth is the enemy of Feminism."

if ($feminism == TRUE){
echo "Black is white, war is peace, freedom is slavery...";

Feminism is not a science, it's an ideology. With Marx at it's heart. (Karl, not Groucho.)

Jonathan Levy

Melissa R:

I think you got it almost right, but not quite. I'll bet she got pregnant by the bum, but managed to fool her lover into thinking the child was his. Now she's terrified that a swab of saliva and 200 pounds will unravel her life.


"I'll bet she got pregnant by the bum"

Shurely that's impossible, isn't it?


LOL@ ftumch


The Conspiracy Against Cuckolds

"There appears to be a consensus among medical professionals that husbands should not be told when they are not their wife’s child’s father."

Since that's an "ethics" decision there's no law to repeal, no court case to overturn. It's not a government act, so it can propagate around the world unchecked. It's a silent failure so almost will ever no about the conspiracy of lies.

McDonagh's column merely reinforces a cultural battle the feminists have already won.


Here's the link that was automatically removed from my previous post.

In case it gets removed again, the I've put it into the URL box of this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.