Where are the dads in the Disney galaxy?

For all the positive mojo Disney cranks out on a regular basis, it appears to have a genuine problem with finding – how shall we say it – balance.

Last week a story circulated on the Internet titled, “Where Are the Moms in the Star Wars Galaxy?”  The writer argued that while mothers do play a role in the Star Wars universe, they don’t receive as much thematic prominence as father-son/child relationships.  It’s a thought-provoking piece with strong merit – highly recommended.

Then, just two days later, Disney Parks revealed the members of its 10th annual Moms Panel – an online forum for everyday people to share helpful tips and vacation planning advice.disneymoms6.png

The problem is, the panel isn’t a representative sample of everyday peopleit’s overwhelmingly comprised of only moms.  Of course, this is not a bad thing, but the imbalance is; it’s important to remember that dads are part of families, and vacation planning involves them, because they too have plenty to share with potential travelers about the topic.

But Disney awkwardly placed a lone dad on this year’s Moms Panel, thereby disrespecting and ignoring his parental title and thus cutting last year’s dad total – if you can believe it – in half.

Its actions disregard fathers as fully competent, equal parents, much in the same vein that Jif Peanut Butter’s long-standing catchphrase excludes dads as dedicated customers.disneymoms1

We wrote about the Disney Parks Moms Panel last fall and received positive feedback from readers who also implored Disney to catch up with the modern world and to better represent what families mean today.

We realize that equality takes time, so we didn’t expect Disney to instantly even out the number of women and men on the panel, although doing so would rightfully provide a true representation of all parenting travel issues.  However, we thoughtfully anticipated a name change in the spirit of authentic, modern parenting.

Unfortunately, Disney let us all down, because it’s not just dads that end up on the short end of the stick.  It’s the kids and the spouses who deserve a vacation planned at least partly through a fatherly perspective.  But they’ll hardly get that, because instead, dads are being treated like second-class parents who simply don’t matter.

Hilton also operates a similar travel panel with a comparable name – Hilton Mom Voyage – and it has a mere three dads among 30 panelists.

Echoidisneymoms4ng the words of the Star Wars column, dads deserve better.

The members of next year’s Disney panel will be announced soon enough, but why wait that long to properly rename the panel?

Disney, let’s make things right, because families are stronger – and vacations are more magical – when we’re united as parents.

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Why is Disney making dads out to be moms?

Sometimes it appears as if Disney can do no wrong.

Most of its movies are hits.  Disney TV is generally squeaky clean and safe.  Media acquisitions seem to be financial steals.  Its merchandising knows no bounds.  And a visit to one of its theme parks has become a consensus family destination of a lifetime for many.

But at least one part of it is a major letdown.

That’s because Disney Parks, a subsidiary responsible for the conception, building and managing of its theme parks and vacation resorts, offers a rather dad exclusionary feature on its website, disneyparks.com.

Click on the Vacation Planning menu tab, and you’ll find a section offering a Moms Panel, an inexcusable practice that leaves dads out in name, and in other unfortunate ways.disneymoms1.png

First, Disney Parks offers no Dads Panel counterpart, thus ignoring a father’s contribution and unique perspective for vacation planning.  By presenting no voice for dads and the viewpoints they might lend while families prepare for a dream destination, it directly ignores the indispensable influence of fathers.  Disney is also clearly saying that dads don’t handle this vacation planning facet of family life, and that dads don’t matter.

But wait – you say – there are some dads on the panel.

And therein lies problem number two, where it uses the term “mom” as an equal synonym for “parent” – a faulty, exclusionary approach when marketing to families, families which include dads.  There are very few products exclusively intended for one gender as parents, and vacation planning certainly is not one of them.

Alas, the term gender bias comes to mind.

Disney makes matters worse by trying to rationalize its practice of replacing the word parent with mom:

We understand that the role of “mom” is met differently from family to family, so we made sure to fill our panel with enthusiastic, dedicated and diverse individuals—moms, dads and other in the know family members—to help guide you with your vacation planning.

Note how the word mom is placed in quotes.  Here, at least in Disney’s world, all dads are no longer equal parents, they’re moms!

Let that sink in for a moment:  Disney is calling dads, moms.

Don’t dads matter to Disney more than this?  Must dads’ presence as equal parents be demeaned, it not outright ignored?  It’s wrong.  Dads matter every bit as moms.

Now take a look at those actual dads serving as Moms Panelists:  don’t these dads have a problem with this concept?  If one was called a mom at a public function, wouldn’t he correct the speaker?  Let’s hope so.  So why let it persist online, in print, for the entire world to see?  disneymoms2.jpg

This whole discomfiture is not just literally inaccurate – it’s gauche, inappropriate and disrespectful.

And ignoring the contribution of a father by way of exclusion in its name – Moms Panel – doesn’t exactly feel welcoming to fathers seeking information.  It leaves them out of the discussion, and makes them feel like outsiders – that is, if they even bother to find and examine the site in the first place.

What’s more, among its entire 27 panelists only two are dads?  That’s hardly representative of the population, nor its customer base.disneymoms3.jpg

Third, it’s beyond disappointing that the Moms Panel was unveiled in 2008, during these politically correct times.  It’s not like we excuse Jif for prolonging use of its old fashioned motto, but at least it was born during a time where its slogan was representative of a bygone era.  That slogan, too, is inappropriate and Jif is taking steps to minimize (perhaps eliminate) its use.

But 2008?  That’s a mere eight years ago.  In this so-called modern, gender sensitive, all-inclusive, equality-seeking world, doesn’t Disney have some high level PR officer who would’ve screened this before it even happened?

This entire Moms Panel endeavor reflects a huge lapse in judgement for a global mass media and entertainment conglomerate that considers its parks “the Happiest Place on Earth.”

Dads can’t be happy with this kind of treatment.disneymoms4.jpg

Whether or not you’ve made it to Disneyland or Disney World before, at least we can all say we’ve enjoyed its movies over the years, and we continue to be enthralled with its new Star Wars handiwork and future plans.

But that’s what makes the rub hurt even more, because with Disney, we expect more.  We don’t just want our expectations met, we want them to be exceeded.  Sure, that’s a lofty desire, and maybe a bit unfair, but that’s the standard Disney has set.  We expect greatness.  Perfection.  Happiness.

All of it makes Disney’s use of the Moms Panel name indefensible.

Not long ago, Amazon – the largest Internet-based retailer in the United States – finally responded to the PR nightmare known as Amazon Mom by quietly and suddenly changing its name to reflect dads’ contributions as parents.

Let’s hope Disney can make a swift change, too, and thereby stake its claim as the Happiest Panel on Earth.