GIVEN AMERICA'S baby daddy epidemic, it's hard to imagine that anyone would have the nerve to raise an objection to anything being done to get deadbeat dads to step up and do the right thing.

But some feminists are crying foul over some federally funded programs that do just that, on grounds that they offer job training to men but not to women. Last week, the National Organization for Women and another feminist organization, Legal Momentum, filed a complaint against 34 federally funded grassroots groups that promote fatherhood, of all things. As in, "Mister, we're going to teach you what you need to know to be a responsible parent instead of a loser dad who's not there for his kids."

What's ironic about what the feminists groups are doing is that the programs they've targeted help females almost as much as they help males. Not only are the programs designed to give deadbeat dads job skills but they also teach absentee fathers, who may have been fatherless themselves, the importance of staying connected to their offspring.

That's a message you can't repeat often enough. With so many children being born out of wedlock - the number is roughly 70 percent for African-American children - there's clearly a need for some type of government intervention. Study after study has shown that children who grow up without a father are more likely to get involved in drugs and crime and suffer other problems.

Meanwhile, there's this idea that children don't need fathers. Being a baby mama, or having a child without the benefit of marriage, has become the thing to do. One of the few good things the Bush administration did last year was to set aside $50 million for the express purpose of promoting fatherhood.

But when you're dealing with the federal piggy bank, it's not always easy to dole out to Daddy, what you don't also give to Mommy. The feminist organizations point out that under Title IX, the law that bars discrimination in government-funded educational programs, the pro-fatherhood programs are discriminatory because they don't also offer their services to women.

"Our organizations strongly support appropriate job-training programs but only those that are nondiscriminatory and serve both men and women," said Legal Momentum President Kathy Rodgers.

It's hard to argue with that. But did they really have to take this on? This is one issue that it seems would have been better served if the feminist groups had turned a blind eye, as the saying goes. Mothers and children benefit when men take an active as well as financial role in parenting. Programs such as these help men become better fathers if for no other reason than by helping them make their child support payments.

And it's not as if there aren't government programs that benefit more women than men, such as funding set aside for breast cancer research. So, why quibble over this particular effort, especially since the cause is so noble? Besides, it just plays into stereotypes and makes feminists sound like haters when they go up against programs that promote responsible parenting by males.

That's an important cause and one that shouldn't be nitpicked for the sake of principle. *

Have you peeped a hot trend that hasn't been reported? E-ma*l heyjen@ph* and let me know what you know.