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Have You Been The Victim of Parentism?

Courtesy of Weldon Owen

In the fall of 2010, Parenting’s web team asked me to start documenting my parenting mistakes, marital mishaps, diet and laundry habits, otherwise known as a blog. In the interest of gratuitous self-promotion, I consented. But over time, more and more mom blogs were added to, and Pop Culture was unceremoniously pushed to the very bottom of our homepage. My blog had sunk so low that James Cameron made a dramatic, Oscar-winning movie about it.

One day, I’d had enough. I contacted the head of our digital team in New York—a mom—and told her I didn’t deserve to be dead last. “Dude, no insult was intended,” she wrote in an email (yes, she used the word “dude”). “We’ll take care of it today.”

Interestingly, the web team—all moms—simply saw a list of blogs. But what I saw was mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom and dad. In my opinion, I was the victim of parentism.

There is an -ism for every prejudice: Racism, sexism, ageism, chauvinism, culturalism, et al. Should parentism be added to that list?

Parentism: 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. This is a real problem, and it’s getting worse: 82 percent of fathers whose oldest child is 0 to 2 believe there is an anti-dad bias in our society, according to Parenting’s “Meet the Modern Dad” survey. Compare that with 66 percent of dads whose oldest child is 9 to 12 years old.

I recently received an email from a reader—a mom—sharing her thoughts on the subject. "I was in a rush to get to work and put my toddler's shirt on backwards," she writes. "My husband, a stay-at-home dad, stopped and fixed the shirt, despite my obvious impatience to get out the door. He explained that a woman seeing that would assume that the father was the one who couldn't dress her properly. It hit me: 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."

So it was only a matter of time before this mounting tension led to a big messy blowout. A few months ago, it finally happened. Poetically enough, it started with a diaper.

In March, stay-at-home dad Chris Routly started a petition asking Huggies to drop a new ad campaign he believed painted fathers as bumbling fools. (The petition’s name: “We’re Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies.”) It gained a modest number of signatures (approximately 1,300), but more important to the cause, it garnered national media coverage. Diane Sawyer—a mom—covered it. So did CNN. And NBC. And Headline News. As a result, Huggies nixed the commercials, and began consulting dads on the brand’s messaging.

“We have listened and learned,” said Huggies spokesperson Joey Mooring.

The day that Huggies announced its retraction of the TV ads, I was at the Dad 2.0 summit in Austin, TX. There were fertile, procreating dudes everywhere. The place was abuzz with empowerment. There were fist bumps. You would have thought we just marched from Selma to Montgomery.

The storyline had been cemented: The dads cried poo, and Huggies broke out the baby wipes. Here’s the problem: The ads weren’t that offensive, and dads are too sensitive.

Fathers are doing a lot these days: 54 percent say they evenly split childcare duties with their partner, according to the Parenting survey. However, for the entirety of human history up until about 40 years ago, we pretty much left the kids to the mother’s care. We handed off the baby with the dirty diaper. We fell asleep in the Barcalounger after dinner while everyone else washed the dishes. "Ask your mother" was our "Where's the beef?" We can and should cry foul when we’re being insulted, but let’s not act oppressed. The active, involved, modern dad has arrived, but make no mistake: The ink on his ticket is still wet.