Parenting.com‘s Shawn Bean wanted to know why as the only dad-blogger on the site, his blog was dead last on the list. His editor fixed it for him – bumped him up the list. Since then, another dad has started blogging for Parenting.com as well - Matt Villano - and he’s ceremoniously taken on the last place spot.
Bean wonders if this is an act of parentism – that is, in Bean’s words, “the societal belief that one type of parent (i.e. a mother or a father) possesses skills, characteristics and abilities that are superior to the other.”
With a whole crap-ton of dads that still feel as if there’s a bias against them (and of course, moms that then answer “you? YOU? What about me?!”), maybe Bean’s onto something.
Bean got an e-mail from a reader who ultimately said, “In the business world, we’ve been saying for years that a woman has to work twice as hard to be thought half as good. Men suffer the same bias when they run the home.” This is something us 8Btrs argue time and time again. When brands make dads look like fools, they’re being parentist (to use the adjective of Bean’s word). A brand would never show a room full of women at their computers with a voiceover saying “we decided to give our computers the ULTIMATE test – women.” Yet, that’s what brands do all the time to men.
In the continuation with our love-and-less-than-love-affair with Shawn Bean, he notes at the end of his post that “we can and should cry foul when we’re being insulted, but let’s not act oppressed.” There’s a great conversation in there for a room full of us bloggers to have in a meaningful way. I won’t be able to do it justice here, but here’s a short-cut to my point…
Bean’s got a point in saying that the modern, involved father is still a new thing – a welcome replacement for the invisible-working-father of yesteryear – maybe it’s not a bad thing to investigate the oppression angle. True, the men’s and fathers’ movement right now is different than the women’s movement (and it should be!); no one’s stopped fathers from voting or working in particular jobs. But what Bean’s not taking into account is that as the advertising industry continues to perpetuate an image of fathers as uncaring oafs (as fathers become more and more involved), and the family court system continues to take that irresponsible image of dads to heart, awarding custody to mothers (custody stats are very hard to find…the last I found from the government was from 1995 and said that over 75% of divorce cases end in mom getting full custody over the kids).
We can’t know a lot of stats having to do with fathers because my guess (and this is just a guess) is that a lot of single fathers and primary-caregiver fathers just don’t answer the door when the U.S. Census shows up. It might have to do with shame, or it might be something else, I don’t know. There was a good number of fathers on the internet that sounded off after the Census assumed fathers to be babysitters that it’s easy to believe dads might be conflicted about what to tell Uncle Sam when he comes knocking.
In any event, I think something important to remember (while we have a conversation about dads looking dumb in commercials), is that advertising isn’t in a vacuum. Us bloggers tend to be more advertising-image-sensitive than the average person on the street, and at times, the average overburdened-and-underfunded family court system. But the point is: this is bigger than us. We’ve got to fight because out there is some dad who’s lighting himself on fire because he doesn’t get to see his kids.
Have dads been the victim of parentism? Sure. Oppressed? Hard to say, but let’s not write it off until we get complete stats on it. Thanks to Shawn Bean for opening up a can of worms – let’s not close it until each worm has been addressed, used, eaten or whatever it is you’re supposed to do with a can of worms.