Not long after Gonze publicly inveighed against the plight of wealthy divorced dads, the law was changed in his favor.
In 2007, Gonze and David Standridge formed a nonprofit lobbying group, Families Against Confiscatory Child Support, to oppose “excessive awards.” The same year, Gonze signed a letter to the New Mexican attacking the state’s “insane child support guidelines.” Months prior, he and Standridge had published an op-ed in that paper calling on state lawmakers to fix child support “inequities.” The piece argued that wealthy men were treated unfairly by a system that set no limit to child support for those earning more than $8,300 a month—forcing fathers to pay more than the cost of child rearing. “The excess money could then be used by the mother on luxuries for herself,” Gonze and Standridge wrote.
In 2008, state Rep. Al Park, D-Bernalillo, sponsored and passed a bill that did just as Gonze and Standridge requested: It placed, for the first time, a ceiling on child support payments. (Park did not return messages asking why he sponsored the change.)
Under the new guidelines, the lowest-earning parents (those whose combined income totals $800 a month) must pay 12.5 percent to support one child. The highest earners pay only 9.9 percent on $30,000 a month in income.
In the 2006 petition Gonze filed against his first wife’s boyfriend, he gave his side of a dispute regarding a portion of his $2,054 monthly child support payment. “As the evidence shows,” he wrote, “I am not at all angry about paying child support.”
But by his second wife’s account, Gonze continued to hold a grudge.
“He collects news articles from wire services that report on specific cases of men on the verge of divorce who hurt or killed their children or soon-to-be-exes because they were furious at the prospect of paying child support,” she wrote in her
Aug. 19 protection order petition. “[H]e believes that the men in the news stories were justified…He has told me many times, ‘That’s what happens when you divorce a man and demand too much child support.’”
Being part of a movement, Gonze has his supporters. The loudest may be Glenn Sacks, a radio talker turned web publisher and executive director of Fathers & Families, who in 2001 published an article called, “Why I Didn’t Marry a Jewish Woman.”
“The reason I lost interest in many Jewish women was the generally contemptuous, belittling, and bigoted attitude that so many of them have towards men,” Sacks explains.
On Sacks’ site, the same attitudes are attributed toward women of all creeds. In 2007, in the midst of Joshua Gonze’s alleged campaign to have Margaret Kegel fired, Sacks called Gonze “one of my most articulate readers.”
Gonze’s short published letter to Sacks prompted a reader to argue for “mandatory Paternal custody…such as what prevailed in most of Christendom until the twentieth century, (when so much else went wrong!!).”
Indeed, there is a throwback religious current running through the movement.
It is exemplified by Gonze’s attorney, David Standridge.
Standridge explains his philosophy of “warrior life” in a magazine published by New Mexico’s Body of Christ in Albuquerque. “Many men today are abdicating their responsibility to be the Godly leader of their families,” Standridge begins. “As a result, many women have taken over the role as the Godly leader of their homes, churches and society as a whole.”
The attorney goes on to praise the virtues of violent men. “Warrior Life is not some touchy feely click [sic], club or organization,” Standridge writes. “Warrior Life is best defined by violent men who take the kingdom of God by force…It is about men who are tired of the perversion, rudeness and slothfulness of [sic] as dictated by today’s culture.”
Standridge did not return a message.
Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, says such rhetoric fits right in with male-dominated Evangelical sects she has studied. This movement’s leaders “make suggestions that women should probably limit how much they speak in mixed company. Most of them emphasize…that wives need to learn how not to push their husband’s buttons,” Joyce tells SFR.
“They won’t come out and defend domestic violence—they’ll say it’s a sin—but they’ll also put equal blame on the wife.”
The fathers’ rights movement doesn’t come out and defend domestic violence either. But its members push back at anyone who calls attention to violence against women and has the statistics to back it up.
Ben Atherton-Zeman, the 43-year-old Massachusetts advocate, joined the feminist movement after learning of a college girlfriend’s history with “a controlling ex.” He later began running into the “abusers’ lobby” at conferences and while lobbying at various statehouses.
Ever since, he has compiled a list of pejoratives the DV deniers have thrown his way, including: hypocrite, liar, bigot, eunuch-type male, man-whore, lemming and “Atherton-Semen.”
Who are these DV deniers?
“I wouldn’t say they are all wife-beaters, but I would guess they’re at least 75 percent of the membership,” Molly Dragiewicz, a Canadian criminologist who studies violence, gender and anti-feminist groups, says. She bases the figure on a Rutgers University professor’s book-length study of the fathers’ rights movement, in which three-quarters of the members interviewed reported being “falsely accused” of violence.
“The other 25 percent,” Dragiewicz says, “are making money off of the wife-beaters or are sympathetic to them.”
Atherton-Zeman once believed the best way to combat misogynist groups was to ignore them. For a while, it seemed to work. “Unfortunately, they’ve gotten better,” he says. “Now they have slick bullet points that sound quite reasonable to your average legislator.”
Indeed, DV deniers share some rhetoric with well-intentioned efforts to encourage non-violent masculinity. They can be hard to tell apart.