Looking at Fatherhood Differently

Have you ever noticed how many organizations, groups, websites and social media accounts are devoted to helping men become better husbands and fathers?

Quite a few. It’s a noble effort to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

On the flip side, you see far less devoted to helping women become better wives and mothers.

Why is that? And why is there a fatherhood.gov, whose goal is to provide, facilitate, and disseminate current research and proven and innovative… Why does it have a “Take Time to Be a Dad Today” slogan?

All of this is nice and well-intentioned. But there a motherhood.gov with a slogan, “Take Time to Be a Mom Today.”

Don’t these organizations at least provide the possibility they could be making dads feel inadequate, deficient and lessening their worth in the eyes of others? Moms bear no more instinctual ability to parent than dads.

There is no gender equality for dads in the parenting world. If a working mom requests time off for maternity leave or to care for a family member, companies oblige. The reaction is different when a dad requests the same.

Dads make huge sacrifices to provide for their families. While they’re at work providing for their families – sometimes gone days or weeks due to demanding jobs – they’re unable to spend time with their children through no fault of theirs. Oftentimes unfortunate economic circumstances have them living in poverty. The things dads do for their wives and children is commendable.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve got fatherhood all wrong. Maybe dads aren’t broken. Maybe dads don’t need fixed.

Maybe we just need to look at things differently.

Is This Really a ‘Parents’ Magazine?

Parents Magazine has provided much inspiration for our recent social media posts. For a magazine that purports to be for “parents,” its readers and the parenting community might insist otherwise. But don’t take our or others’ words for it. Check out Parents Magazine’s very own content and you be the judge.

Dads love making and serving their kids healthy snacks, too. Why does Parents Magazine insist on making mom look like the only one who cares about nutrition?

This is another example of a headline that makes mom out to be the lead parent.

Don’t dad-tested discipline tricks work? “Parent-tested” would have been much more appropriate.

Here’s a way to increase male readership — mention them, involve them, ask them, survey them, talk about them. There’s no better way to engage someone with your mission than to make them feel like they matter.

What Do These Photos Say About Dads?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we’re all wasting a lot of time writing.

Take a look at the print ad copy around you. That’s right – go ahead, pick up a magazine.

Companies spend millions with ad agencies to promote something in order to sell, but the images arguably do more than the writing.

And that leads us to the curious use of dads in marketing. Fathers aren’t used very often to sell parenting products, but when they are, it’s not always in a glamorous light.

Check out this TV news story photo (right) which tried to use lighthearted humor while an expectant dad shopped for baby items, but instead made him look inept and clueless as if he didn’t know how to operate a baby wrap.

Look at this parenting story from a lunch meat maker, where a young child cowers and hides from a father that comes across as overpowering and cruel.

Here’s another of a dad-to-be that’s seen admonishing his expectant wife.

Or check out this one accompanied by a headline that questions dad’s ability to be left alone with the child. One can only assume the dad here is indulging in TV first while tending to his child second.

Each story was well-intentioned, but what does this type of imagery do for the institution of fatherhood? What messages are these sending to our children? To spouses? To teachers? To neighbors?

Marketing has a duty to sell, but how is it shaping society-at-large with images like these? At best, it’s motivating only half of the parenting duo and distancing everyone else from men, making them to be less appealing as consumers and legitimate parents.

The next time you see advertising directed to the parenting community, don’t look at the words – look at the photos and ask yourself if they’re showing dad’s best side.

‘Twas the Night Before Shopping

‘Twas the night before shopping, as Christmas was coming,
Dad got the list ready, his fingers were humming.
He had to get set, he led the charge,
He scoured the ‘net, finding deals that were large.

The children were snoozing asleep undercover,
Also dreaming of Black Friday deals they’d discover.
With mama beside him, they both went a-clicking,
Shopping online takes a lot of nitpicking.

When they got to homepages, they saw some odd chatter,
Which insisted that dads didn’t all that much matter.
Site after site excluded dear dad,
Using wording for moms, which left them both sad.

It was hard to believe how dads were excluded,
“moms ran the home,” some companies alluded.
Wherever you looked no matter the price,
The omission of dad didn’t seem very nice.

When out on social media things got rather viral.
Other parents complained of this bad downward spiral.
So away to the car dad flew in a dash,
To confirm dads shopped and used hard-earned cash.

The tune as you’d guess on the mall speakers,
Was Bing Crosby singing to dads in their sneakers.
Across the food court and wide galleria,
Dads shopped and hunted for their next idea.

Not vapid but lively dads moved all about,
Wives and kids tagged along as dads started to shout:
“I know where we’ll save, I saw deals on my phone.
Just follow my plan, I’m so in the zone.
I worked hard for our money, so let’s stretch our dollar.
Finding deals is my game,” the dads seemed to hollar.

So up to each level, dads and families flew,
Finding specials, discounts and markdowns anew.
And then, I noticed and heard just for proof,
Dads tending to kids, they weren’t aloof.

They were dressed in their best, their entire outfit,
And some dads were stained with yellow baby spit.
A big diaper bag they’d flung on their backs,
They sure looked like parents, they even carried snacks.

Their guise wasn’t wrinkled, their beards were so hairy,
For months they were sleepy yet still acted merry.
‘Cause nothing did stop them with kids all in tow,
with presents to buy, they couldn’t move slow.

Their teeth how they shined, not the least bit of faint,
A halo encircled their heads like a saint.
They had broad faces, some were fit, some were not.
And they always stooped down to wipe faces with snot.

Called hubby and dad, those men never stopped,
And I nodded in favor and as they heroically shopped.
Those marketers who think that dads don’t shop,
Should have seen these guys their children call pop.

Mentioning dad by word may not seem like a lot,
But it gets them involved, makes them feel like they ought.
Dads sense that they matter when included by name,
It strengthens the family, it treats them the same.

Then you’ll hear them exclaim, above Christmas décor,
“I am daddy – hear me roar!”

Why Do Breakfast Foods Ignore Dads?

Cereal makers can’t seem to wrap their heads around the notion that dads provide breakfast for their kids.

For years we’ve been pointing out the problems of Cheerios, Kix, Quaker and others who continue to disregard dads as part of their customer base.

The latest offender is General Mills, who not only excludes dads from its latest campaign, but uses a possessive pronoun that contributes to the problem.

If you have children, do you refer to them as “my kids” or “our kids” when speaking with others?

The former connotes a more possessive or singular approach, whereas the latter sends a meaning of togetherness and unity. While “my” may seem harmless and unintentional, it conveys a certain message – whether you believe it or not – to others, but also to your partner.

It’s not uncommon to find stories, comments, or blog posts from women who complain that they’re stuck with the majority of the household and parental duties (that’s no fault of the dad – he’s typically working outside the home, but we’ll save this topic for another day). However, wouldn’t the action of calling the baby “ours” drive home a greater spirit of togetherness when tackling daily familial duties? These women might not feel so alone in their work by calling the children ours.

Companies like General Mills furthers this perception, too. It inconspicuously calls the children “your squad.” That makes dad out to be the lesser parent at best, completely irrelevant at worst. General Mills would do families and society a much better service by speaking in terms of “us.”

Using the word “parent” instead of “mom” won’t make or break the marketing business model, and it won’t make a female look away in disgust. Rather, it will make a dad feel like an included member of the family and feel like a valued customer.

It’s time for change. Words matter.™

Something’s Fishy Here

One could easily argue that Goldfish is the Disney of snack crackers.

Starting from a single idea, the company has widely diversified, established itself as an industry leader, expanded into larger markets around the globe, spanned generations, segmented into other areas and created the world’s most recognizable cracker – which serves as the company’s official mascot.

The Goldfish cracker is simple, tiny and lovable – not to mention tasty, which is more than you can say for Disney’s official mascot. It’s the perfect go-to snack for youth sports everywhere, solidly paired with its thirst-quenching counterpart, the juice box.

The Goldfish cracker has had different shapes, colors, flavors, branded tie-ins and spinoffs. As consumers, we eat them for snacks, at meals and as desserts.

(Now, if they could only figure out a breakfast-style cracker.)

Quite simply, there is nothing the Goldfish cracker can’t do.

Except champion equality.

Its latest ad disregards fathers – an unfortunate tactic from a company with a decent track record.

Just two years ago we thanked Goldfish for its inclusive message right on the package. Today, its latest magazine ad tosses dads back into the water for no apparent reason.

Words matter – something Goldfish, Pepperidge Farm and its creative team apparently has yet to learn. It had better change its ways soon before mainstream media, social media and society’s disapproving stare reminds them that stereotypes are wrong.

Everyone’s watching.

Marginalized Even During a Pandemic

We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and – believe it or not – Clorox has an ad that markets disinfecting wipes only to moms. It’s a strange scenario for a major global manufacturer with one of its corporate responsibility goals as inclusion.

Granted, the ad first appeared in late 2019 but the image remains alive and well on the Internet.

You can learn a lot from Clorox’s Corporate Responsibility page. There it not only touts inclusion but other admirable objectives:

“We’re proud of our efforts to…strengthen our communities.”
“It’s about achieving success the right way…guided by our values.”

Sadly these examples are another example of corp speak – flowery language seen as an asset in the workplace, but lost by the time it reaches the consumer. Ignoring fathers strengthens communities? Achieving success the right way? Guided by values?

All of it seems a bit hollow.

The company has yet to learn from its mistakes, having endured several allegations of sexist marketing over the past two decades. Its most recent in 2009, featured during the TV show, “Mad Men,” showed a man’s white, lipstick-stained shirt with the caption, “Clorox. Getting ad guys out of hot water for generations.”

COVID-19, like laundry stains, knows no gender. It’s time for Clorox to back up its mission with advertisements that strengthen communities, families and parents who have supported it for over 100 years.

It’s a Start, But planDisney Still Needs Work

Following years of supplication and sometimes derision, the Walt Disney Company finally gave fathers, families and a nation what they have been asking for since its inception – a new name.

planDisney is the label for the retooled Disney Parks Moms Panel, an online resource for Disney vacation planning. Though once comprised of moms and – awkwardly – dads, the name reflects a shift in tone after Disney admitted moms weren’t the only ones planning Disney vacations.

Its previously narrow approach raised the ire of fathers, grandparents, uncles – and not surprisingly – people without children across social media who felt their value as a guest didn’t matter.

With its new, more inclusive term, it doesn’t pretend to cater toward one gender or family class. It now offers an improved approach that concludes vacation planning is conducted by everyone.

Though beyond overdue, Disney still deserves credit for making the switch, even if it was America’s critical eye toward stereotypes that forced its hand.

However, planDisney still needs a lot of work.

plandisney1

Panel diversity

If the panel is a true reflection of Disney Parks guests, the panel is sorely missing the mark. Among its 35 panelists, only four of them are men and all four men are middle-aged. It’s difficult for vacation planners to benefit from expertise from both genders when the balance is that lopsided. Surely males have plenty to lend about the best time of year to visit, how to save money and the best hotels.

What’s more, 28 of the 35 panelists appear to be white. This can’t be representative of America. Movie audiences know that whitewashing is bad, and it’s being done in similar fashion here. Greater diversity would mean different angles from a wider expanse; greater diversity would mean more people would get an opportunity to serve as a panelist and enjoy the incredible perks it brings.

And where are the grandparents? The college-aged young adults? The children? Everyone could gain from their perspective when it comes to planning the vacation of a lifetime. Their viewpoints would be equally valuable for what should be the ultimate trip-planning resource.

It wasn’t ready

One of planDisney’s largest followings resides not on Facebook, but Twitter, where 26,000 people track @DisneyMoms. But planDisney hasn’t transitioned to its new name on Twitter yet.

Working during a pandemic has its shortcomings, but that’s little excuse for a program that should have had every nuance worked out before going live. Besides, social media is where most fans were vocal about the sexist vibe Disney Moms generated.

It not only needs to fix its old name on Twitter, but also graphics and hashtags, along with news of the name change – which would amount to its first tweet in months.

A weird history

Have you read the history on its about us page? It makes no explicit mention of its all-female past – or why it was justified in the first place – until it admits that “the panel also grew to include dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and more.”

It then strangely concedes, “We know planning a Disney vacation includes everyone…”

Sure, planDisney has a strange evolution, but here’s a tip: there’s no need to rehash it for anyone. Drop the clumsy justification for a sexist past as if it’s a point of pride. planDisney has a clean slate, and it’s time to move on. All is forgiven.

It needs to rewrite this section pronto.

Driven By Discrimination

It must be a strange situation if you’re a dad and you choose this driving school in the Houston area.

From the outset, it’s labeling you a secondary parent and already making you feel less important.

momapproveddrivingschool

But it gets even more bizarre if you’re looking for adult courses. Imagine being a grown man and attending a driving school that your mom — er, wife? — has approved.

It’s disappointing to see professional drivers’ education offering an inclusive program with such an exclusionary name. After all, its website states that teens must complete a “mandatory 30 hours of parent-supervised in-car driving.”

If a dad is good enough to offer that parent supervision while driving, isn’t he good enough to be mentioned by name?

In a world that won’t stand for inequality and unfairness, shouldn’t this company be driven by principles that don’t ignore parents on the basis of gender?

It’s time for change.

Enough is Enough, Disney

These days Americans won’t put up with stereotypes and ignorance. We’ve reached a boiling point – and with good reason.

Just ask the Washington Redskins, where the almighty dollar finally pushed owner Daniel Snyder over the edge, forcing him to confront years of repudiation regarding his team’s controversial name.

Stereotypes are ugly because they’re overgeneralized and oversimplified ideas about people. They force an identity on someone or something that isn’t true.

disneymoms48

With the rest of the America turning a critical eye toward all forms of ethnic and racial stereotypes, it’s hard to imagine brands still ignoring miscalculations in other areas.

For years we’ve written about Disney Moms and its refusal to retitle an outwardly discriminatory and exclusionary name. Overall, it’s a fantastic, well-intentioned program which offers Disney vacation advice from seasoned travelers.

However, the explicitly mom-only branding works to create an unknowing, needless divide in the parenting community. Not only does it refuse to acknowledge dads by name, it awkwardly inserts dads into a moms’ program and uncomfortably makes them a gender they’re not.

In 2019, Disney Moms quietly removed “moms” from its long-standing #SMMC hashtag and event name – Social Media Moms Celebration – but it was hardly enough.

The time has come to deal head-on with a program that should know better in today’s equality-focused world.

Yet somehow, someway it has spurned addressing the elephant in the room. Check out its April 27 post (also pictured above) where it continues to treat dads like secondary parents to the unfortunate extreme of ignoring their gender, identity and status in today’s modern family.

Families have noticed the omission on social media lately – perhaps a reflection of the pandemic’s stay-at-home nature which has affected our perception and awakened our senses.

Corporate America is being given little choice.

Just as it’s pressured by millions of people who know that Black Lives Matter, perhaps Disney will get with the program before its PR team is forced into spending unnecessary time playing catch-up with families who have had enough.