Yesterday Maclean’s Magazine broke a story about a woman claiming to be Senator Mike Duffy’s unacknowledged daughter. Other media outlets are – predictably – referring to this woman as his “love child” and Duffy himself is saying that the story is inaccurate and is a 30 year old story.
First off, let me say that I think “love child” while it is used as a pejorative term is a term that we really should be applying to all children. Who wouldn’t want to be a child of love?
Secondly, I don’t care if the story is true. It is a personal story between two individuals. We already know that Duffy is of questionable character as a result of his playing with the rules related to his living expenses as a senator. This situation in and of itself doesn’t speak to his character. As is mentioned in the original story, this is a pretty simple matter to resolve. He can take a DNA test and everyone involved can learn the truth and decide how they want to behave as a result.
It is possible that it is a false story told by the woman’s mother to her child because she didn’t know or didn’t want to say who the real father is. It is also possible that Duffy is the father and that he doesn’t believe or want it to be true. In Canada the media want it to be true because, in spite of this being 2014, babies born outside of marriage are still considered to be the subject of a morality play.
Morality, especially when it comes to all things sex, is subjective. So what if they had a romantic relationship or even just occasional sex for fun. That is none of our business. If they did in fact conceive a child together that is also their business. It is unlikely that the legal process and accompanying publicity will ever result in a quality father-daughter relationship if it proves to be true. A factual resolution would however provide some certainty to the woman who has lived without a father for her whole life. It would return a piece of her identity to her. We want to read about the story because it reinforces our idea of Duffy as a bad guy and furthers his fall from grace.
Certainly the refusal to acknowledge paternity if it is true or potentially true does speak to his character since it demonstrates an unwillingness to step up and take responsibility for his actions. The refusals also speak to the fear and judgement that comes with fathering a child out of wedlock and the desire to hold on to secrets from the past.
As a society we are very judgemental about people who have kids outside of marriage. I’d like to believe that things are better now. Historically people were very unkind to unwed mothers and to their children. Shame was the name of the game. The girls/women were sent away and in many cases babies taken from them and adopted out. Even when the adoptions were no longer forced or coerced, the expectation was very strong that the pregnant woman would go into hiding and the child would disappear. The fathers either fled the scene or were threatened to stay away from the mother of their child. As such they carried their secret with them and lived in fear of their closet door being opened and the skeleton being exposed.
It is time for all of us to move on from this effort to shame people who experience unplanned pregnancies and instead support them in their decisions. Mike Duffy may or may not be the father of this Peruvian woman and if he is I hope that for his sake he is able to acknowledge his past and the fact that he has another child. It is a healthy thing to release the fear and shame. By acknowledging his past he can also reclaim the relationship – short-lived though it was – that produced a love child.