Germaine Greer attacks Elton and David as parents 293



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There’s nothing to start a debate like Germaine Greer letting fly. This time it was about Elton John’s family:

“Sometimes I think that really the problem is the concept of motherhood, which we can’t give any real structure to. Sir Elton John and his “wife” David Furnish have entered on the birth certificate of their two sons that David Furnish is the mother. I’m sorry. That will give you an idea of how the concept of motherhood has emptied out. It’s gone. It’s been deconstructed”.

It’s none of our business what these kids’ birth certificates actually say.

But Greer’s assertion that Furnish is listed as “mother” is somewhat misleading. In California, where the children were born, it has been possible since 1999 for two men to be listed on a child’s birth certificate. There are two spaces for parents’ names: “name of father/parent” and “name of mother/parent”, which is where the confusion may have arisen.

As far as UK law is concerned, once a parenting order is made both parents are the children’s legal parents, whatever their gender, and can be listed as “parent”.

Birth certificate details aside, Greer is voicing a common complaint about the uncertainty about parentage created by recent developments in reproductive technologies and the law’s recognition of families created by them.

There is a grain of truth here: structural definitions of “mother” and “parent” are breaking down. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify one structure (such as giving birth or marriage) which conclusively defines motherhood (or indeed parenthood).

Part of this is due to increasing use of reproductive technologies (Greer’s current bugbear) but part of it is due to increasing legal recognition of the diversity of families.

The bigger furphy which Greer is peddling is that this deconstruction of motherhood means that motherhood is now “emptied out” of meaning.

Rather, this deconstruction is an opportunity for us to think seriously about what being a mother or parent really means and to check that the law is operating in a progressive and protective way. If we can’t rely on structural or biological facts to determine legal parentage, what can we look to?

The standard which defines Australian Family Law, at least when it comes to parenting orders, is the best interests of the child.

The Australian Family Law Council recently recommended that parentage laws be harmonised between the Commonwealth and states and territories and amended to create a much more inclusive definition of “parent”. This would allow for better recognition of Indigenous family practices, and “where that supports the child’s best interests”, recognition of more than two legal parents.

If Australia followed that advice, it would join jurisdictions such as British Colombia, California and Argentina in allowing three or more legal parents. (The UK recently legislated to allow for three person IVF, but it is unclear whether this would be reflected on the child’s birth certificate.)

For legal parentage to reflect the best interests of the child, we need to acknowledge the social science data that indicates it is the quality of parent-child relationships, rather than family structure or genetic relatedness that most affects children’s well-being.

Susan Golombok’s work evaluating empirical data on children’s well-being across non-traditional family forms (such as same-sex parented families and those created via donor conception and surrogacy) shows children’s well-being does not depend on structural factors such as the gender of parents and whether parents are biologically related to children.

The final furphy was Greer’s speculation that abortion was legalised in the UK to allow the fertility industry to “manipulate the process of conception”. Greer herself admits this is just “a suspicion”, so I’ll defer any comment until she substantiates the claim.

But in regard to IVF, she queries egg donation and its impact on women, asking Did we talk about this? Did we sit down and talk about what eggs mean to women?

Like Elton John and David Furnish, I have relied on IVF and donor gametes to form my family.

Nonetheless, I think it is vital that we are willing to question the role of the fertility industry. This is particularly important because reproductive technologies have the potential to separate some of the risk inherent in pregnancy, birth and egg-harvesting (through surrogacy and egg donation) from the joys of parenting, and to make a profit from doing so.

This makes it all the more vital that law’s response to the deconstruction of parentage prioritises the well-being of the child, healthy parent-child relationships and the human rights of all people who contribute to the reproductive process.The Conversation

Hannah Robert is Lecturer in Law at La Trobe University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Do you agree with Germaine Greer’s opinions about the deconstruction of parenthood? In an age of so many options, whose names do you think should appear on a child’s birth certificate?

Hannah Robert

Hannah Roberts is a Law Lecturer, La Trobe University. She is currently researching a PhD at Sydney University Law School on legal parentage and misattributed paternity, supervised by Professor Reg Graycar, and Professor Jenni Millbank at UTS. Prior to joining La Trobe, Hannah taught in the Law School at the University of Newcastle, and worked as a solicitor in two commercial firms in Sydney, practicing primarily in commercial litigation and dispute resolution. Her Masters thesis was in legal history and concerned the notions of property and indigenous rights in land used by colonisers in Victoria and South Australia in the early 19th century.

  1. Greer had her moment in the sun decades ago. Since then she has struggled to find relevance by making usually outrageous statements, instead of quietly retreating into obscurity.

  2. I don’t agree with gay couples adopting babies but I’m sure in some cases they are betta parents than a lot of “normal” couples. There are more important issues in the world today that Need attention than this.

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  3. Go away Germaine Greer. Mind your own business.

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  4. If I was a little child and I would be asked, I would say I want a real Mummy and a real Daddy.

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    • Karin two mums or two dads that are happy and good parents are wonderful. I see it with friends. Well adjusted happy kids who are lived and cared for.

    • What about looking at it from the child’s perspective? Going to school and taking his “mother” … Not everybody’s “wife” has a famous celebrity husband! Think about school bullying.

    • Not in our experience! These days there are many families with two mums or two dads or any other combination you can think of. Schools teach about the many different families that exist these days as well. The young parents and their children and teenagers are very accepting and really don’t care … As it should be! I know a little friend of my granddaughter’s (who has two mums) who wanted to have two mums too!!! What does matter is that these children are so loved and wanted as they are so hard to come by. So many heterosexual families have single parents due to divorce or separation etc.

    • But you are not a “little child” Karin Wider so you have no idea what a child would say . Children today are far more mature and worldly wise – also more accepting. Better 2 loving parents of the same sex than the high moral ground and bitchiness that was around 50 odd years ago.

    • Yeah, I must be very “old fashioned” Sorry I spoke!

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      • What is normal anyway? we are living in such a mixed up crazy world where no body seems to be asking what Gods laws are….God ordained marrage between a man and a woman so they can procreate and be the childs parents….homosexuality is against Gods laws and is sin, its called to lust after the flesh, and its an abomimation…So pray for salvation for Elton and David that they will see the error of their ways, and to know the truth that sets them free…

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        • I a

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          • IPad playing up or maybe the user! Wanted to say that I agree with you Christine. God will have the last word! One day.

          • Umm this talk about god? But which one there are so many to choose from and according to their adherents the are all thecright one

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