Of the advent of the modern paternity test, Melanie McDonagh of the Times of London writes, "It was astonishing, when the technology became available, that feminists didn't make more of a fuss about it." O rly?
McDonagh mentions the paternity test that confirmed Jude Law was indeed the father of model Samantha Burke's kid, and a "millionaire who is trying to get £300,000 compensation for raising two children of his former wife who turned out not to be his own." These cases, she argues, reveal how far we've come since a time when only the mother (and maybe not even her) knew who a baby's father was. But McDonagh's not sure this is progress. She writes,
The woman's prerogative of knowing who is a child's father was, when you think about it, the trump card of the sex. It accounted for the vice of jealousy in men; it made a mockery of the laws of inheritance; it made male claims to omnipotence absurd.
"Naturally," she continues, "one deplores adultery and deception - at least, I hope we do. But undeniably, the ability to pass a child off on a man was a potent female weapon." "Passing off" kids on unsuspecting men is pretty distasteful — after all, what kid who wants to be a "weapon?" And the ability to lie about your children's parentage isn't exactly the most enviable female power. I'd rather "make male claims to omnipotence absurd" by, say, being economically and politically equal to men — not by making them raise babies that aren't theirs. I bet a lot of those feminists who didn't make a fuss about paternity testing would agree with me.
But McDonagh seems to think paternity testing is bad, not just for women, but for men and children as well. She writes,
Imagine, in the case of the wronged millionaire, that he was still raising his two children under the illusion that they were his. Would he be better off? Almost certainly. Would they? Of course. With DNA testing, scientific certainty has replaced psychic insecurity and we're all the worse for it.
Testing here is kind of a red herring. The children of this millionaire are suffering, not because of a test, but because of their mom's deception. Would their home life have been totally awesome in a pre-testing world, given that their mother chose to hide their true parentage from everyone? Can she possibly have had a very good relationship with the man they believed was their dad? The "psychic insecurity" this family might have faced without a paternity test would likely have taken its toll.
While paternity testing doesn't by any means eliminate child-support avoidance, it does give women and children one more tool for holding fathers to account. And a world where a man could always accuse a woman of bearing another man's kids, and she had no way to exonerate herself, isn't a world I'm eager to go back to. Paternity tests certainly don't solve all family disputes — the millionaire's kids are evidence of that. But given that their mom is reportedly preventing the kids from seeing the man they called Dad for the first 10 years of their lives, and that this dad is now suing her for "making" him raise them, it seems like the biggest problem for these kids is bad parenting. And, sadly, there's still no test for that.
Paternity Tests Rob Women Of Their Hold Over Men [TimesOnline]