Who do you think owns MensRights.com? Is it Paul Elam; the troglodyte who turned being a deadbeat dad into a political cause and currently runs the anti-feminist publication A Voice for Men? Or is it Stefan Molyneux; the racist, pro-eugenics vlogger and rumored cult leader who hates single moms and is extremely skeptical about letting women vote? Could it be Jordan Peterson, a croaky lobster enthusiast who, in the mistaken belief that “low-status” men are being ignored by women, has proposed the “redistribution of sex”? Mike Cernovich hasn’t been in the news lately, is it him? Wrong on all counts. MensRights.com, along with DadsDivorce.com, MensDivorce.com, and the less sensational CordellCordell.com, is owned by Cordell and Cordell, a St. Louis-based law firm dedicated to advocating for men during all stages of divorce.
According to the “About Men’s Rights” section of MensRights.com, “Men have been set back with an increasing amount of unfair rulings in the areas of child custody, alimony, child support, paternity, and abuse.” The site offers scant statistical evidence to support these broad claims, in part because what constitutes an “increasing amount of unfair rulings” is nebulous — particularly when the claim is coming from a firm which operates in 37 states. The pursuit of academic, impartial study isn’t the point, or tone, of MensRights.com or Dads/MensDivorce.com(s), though. The websites, which are “presented” by Cordell and Cordell — which, to be clear, is one of the largest men’s divorce law firms in the country — borrow the language of an atavistic, often violent anti-women movement while presumably implying that any sad dad who’s got it bad can hire Cordell and Cordell and be awarded a ruling that will make him extremely glad.
MensRights.com visitors curious about “Issues Facing Men” are given a few options: “Fatherhood” (fatherhood means turning down Breaking Benjamin when you pick up Brayden from kindergarten), “Financial” (child support payments are apparently NOT tax deductible, which is sexism), “Laws” (I hate to face laws!), “Paternity” (helpfully animated by a stock photograph of pregnant belly), and “Abuse.” Under the “Abuse” subheading is a post purportedly written by an anonymous former employee of a domestic violence shelter which asserts that shelters are “a business only concerned with numbers, statistics, and money” which “also make it extremely tempting to people to lie about abuse in order to present themselves as a victim of domestic violence so they would qualify for shelter care.” Even if that were true, the amount of women cynically taking advantage of domestic violence shelters would be statistically negligible — there is a wealth of research showing that false abuse allegations are no more prevalent than those of other crimes, with one study from London Metropolitan University noting that there exists “strong evidence that the extent of false allegations is over-estimated by professionals, leading to a culture of skepticism.” Of course, if you dare Google “false allegations of domestic violence,” you’ll get a miasma of mens’ and fathers’ rights law firms peddling their services — as well as articles from MensRights.com and MensDivorce.com, both of which funnel visitors to Cordell and Cordell. (It’s worth noting that there’s not the same robust industry for the rights of women and mothers — in a country where women earn about 80 percent of what men do, it seems that skeezy firms like Cordell and Cordell tend to follow the money.)
Similarly, Mensrights.com contains an entire section on “paternity fraud,” a phrase which clangs like a bull goring a red drum set. In “What To Do When You Are A Victim of Paternity Fraud,” Matt Allen — website editor, Cordell and Cordell’s Senior Director of Marketing, and apparent extraterrestrial — writes, “Hearing the words ‘I am pregnant,’ can ignite a wide variety of feelings in a man. He may be overjoyed, terrified, or a combination of the two. For the woman looking to commit paternity fraud, she is hoping that he is filled with the overwhelming sense of responsibility to do the right thing.” Again, the incidence of paternity fraud is infinitesimal, with about 1-4 percent of men discovering through DNA testing that — all together now — they are not the father. But preying on insecurities is part of the men’s rights lawyering grift.
Cordell and Cordell’s mission, to advocate on behalf of men, is an inherently conservative, rear-facing one. It’s also deeply ironic. If women benefit unduly in heterosexual divorce proceedings, it’s the logical result of patriarchal hokum which steadfastly maintains that men are less adept parents than their female partners. Like most forms of law, divorce law reflects the values of those with power. And, in the United States, those with power have historically been white, Christ-worshipping men. Men like Joseph Cordell.
Cordell and Cordell didn’t respond to my request for comment. Because Joseph Cordell told me nothing, I took to the internet, which told me everything: From his diet (1,900 calories per day) to he and wife Yvonne’s political contributions ($16,500 to former Senator Todd “Guy Who Coined the Phrase ‘Legitimate Rape’” Akin, per the FEC). Currently, Cordell sits on the board of directors at Faith Ascent Ministries, an organization which aims to, as they put it, “reduce the number of young Christians abandoning their beliefs in college and disengaging from the church.” In 2013, in the name of “adding a diverse voice to legal education,” the Cordells donated $1 million to Washington University Law School — with the caveat that the professor “represents a conservative and/or Libertarian viewpoint.” His contribution to law doesn’t appear to be a historically perspicacious mind, or an irresistible style of oration, but instead coming up with “Cordell College,” a three-year program by which associates learn his firm's style of litigation. His great innovation wasn’t an innovation at all — he just reengineered Henry Ford’s assembly line to spit out mid-grade divorce attorneys.
As I write this in anticipation of our most hallowed Hallmark Holiday, Father’s Day, I can’t help but feel there’s something ineluctably American about Cordell and Cordell. In a country run by aggrieved suburban authoritarians, they’re less a cause of the disease than a symptom. Viewed from a wide, historic lense, Cordell and Cordell’s co-option of the Men’s Rights movement is an aberration, but in 2018, getting rich by scaring desperate guys into believing that paternity fraud is real is standard country club conservative bullshit. Joseph Cordell has become a millionaire by representing other men in divorce cases and has used his wealth to perpetuate the cycle of systemic misogyny. It’s tragic in its rote, chintzy mundanity. He probably drives a Buick.