I haven’t had a rant in a while, so I thought it was about time to buck that trend. Today, I’m going to talk about marketing to dads, with an example from my local Children’s Centre. The target of my annoyance is a particular poster seen on Facebook promoting a weekend playgroup for dads (or other male role models) and their children.
If I’m honest, I don’t particularly like segregation of dads vs mums, but that’s not my issue here. As a stay-at-home dad, I understand that I’m in a privileged position where I can spend all of my time with my daughter. Other dads don’t have that opportunity, so a weekend group which focuses on building the bond between dads and kids make sense.
Somewhere for dads to get together, have a chat and play with their kids. Somewhere as an alternative to the mum-dominated groups that take place during the week. If we’re truly focusing on equality, then this should be a parenting group. However, it could be argued that this could soon become just another mum group if it was open to all. As such, a dad only group does have a certain appeal and ensures there’s a designated place for dads to go with their kids at a time which would suit the majority.
Anyway, that’s not the point I want to make. Let’s get back to this offending poster. The yellow highlighted text below shows my issue:
Seriously? How demeaning is that line. It insinuates that the only reason a dad would want to be with their kid is to give the mum some alone time. It reinforces an utterly ridiculous stereotype that dads aren’t interested in their kids unless they’re forced or persuaded. As someone who is the main childrearer in my house – and owns a penis – this is just insulting and totally unnecessary.
It’s unnecessary because of the deliberate inclusion of “…and give mum some time off”. Someone has physically created this. They’ve sat down at a computer and chosen to write those words and then make them bold. I can only assume that their intention wasn’t to offend, so they deemed this an important message to include. Nothing about bonding with the kids. Nothing about having fun with your children. No – the only reason any dad would go along would be to give the mum some time off. Ridiculous.
For me, its inclusion is referencing something that shouldn’t be referenced in 2017. It’s along the same lines as saying dads are babysitting their kids, which I’ve written about previously. Come on, seriously. It’s just a dad doing their parenting duty – whether it’s taking the kids to a playgroup or looking after them on a weekend. Dads don’t need to be put on a pedestal for doing what should be expected of them. Yeah, some dads are dicks, but some mums are dicks too.
Maybe I was being a little sensitive though. Perhaps the fact that I’m doing a ‘woman’s job’ has made me a bit too in touch with my feelings…So I took to Twitter so see what other people thought.
“Bring the kids and give mum some time off” – fair to say that I’m not a fan of how a local dad and toddler group is being marketed.
— The DADventurer (@The_dadventurer) January 10, 2017
Judging by the interaction the tweet had, my feelings appeared justified. So what did I do about this? Well, I became a keyboard warrior. I wrote a comment on the Facebook post which said, “Give mums some time off? Wow – is this the 1960s?”. I know, proper bad ass. Having not received a notification of any reply, I checked back on the Facebook page a few days later. To my horror – or amusement – I’d seen that my message had been deleted.
It always makes me laugh when someone takes this approach. Deleting doesn’t make the issue go away. If anything, it just adds fuel to the fire. So I left another comment with a bit more context – this time I said, “As you seem to have deleted my comment, I’ll leave it again. Give mums some time off? Wow – is this the 1960s? As a stay-at-home dad, I actually find statements like this quite offensive.”.
Again, I received no notification so returned to the Facebook page a few days later. This time the entire post had been removed. It appeared that they still didn’t want to have a conversation about this. Later that night though, something happened. The missus was perusing Facebook and a post appeared in her timeline – one which included an updated poster:
The poster had been changed. The line about giving mum some time off had been replaced. I had started a revolution – I felt like Che Guevara of the parenting world. OK, maybe that’s a little strong considering no-one else had interacted with the original posts, but still, my voice had been heard and positive action had ensued.
Why the hell couldn’t this be the marketing message right from the start? “Bring the children and join the fun” – it does exactly what it says on the tin with no joke, dig or snide remark at anyone. For me, the replacement of those five words changes the purpose of the poster entirely. It’s now a positive message which puts the emphasis on dads wanting to be involved rather than dads being forced. It’s how marketing to dads should be.
Although this is one specific, ill-advised example of marketing to dads, it is indicative of how many companies still view dads. I’ve seen change over the least few years, but more still needs to be done to move away from this out-dated stereotype of dads.