As a parent blogger, I receive a lot of press releases about kids’ books. One that arrived recently really stood out. At first for good reasons and then quite the opposite.
The book in question features rhyming verse and colourful illustrations about fathers looking after their kids. “Brilliant!” I thought. “A title that celebrates hands-on dads!” But then I read some of the extracts.
Of the five double-page spreads I found both in the press release and via Google, three contained backhanded compliments.
For the record, these were that dads don’t care about their kids’ appearances, are a soft touch when it comes to giving sugary snacks and can’t read to them without nodding off.
So near yet so far. While it’s great to see dads being acknowledged as caring for their kids, the insinuation is that we’re not as good as mums. And I think that communicating this to children sends out a bad message.
It may seem innocuous to some, but I’ve become finely attuned to it since becoming a dad. However mild and affectionate they may appear to be, portrayals like this perpetuate the ridiculous myth that dads are second-class parents. Let’s call it what it is: everyday sexism.
In the same way that children shouldn’t be taught that women can’t do certain jobs, they shouldn’t grow up thinking that men make poor parents.
This book is just one example. Like a great many others that we’ve read, it has honourable intentions but ultimately fails to achieve its own raison d’être.
It’s not just in books, of course. From Daddy Pig to Homer Simpson, there are numerous dads on TV shows and adverts who exist solely as feckless figures of fun.
They teach children that, however well-meaning father figures are, they’re either not quite the finished product or nowhere near it.
This carries over to the real world. It’s apparently okay for complete strangers to ask dads whether it’s mum’s day off. Would we say things like this to a mum we don’t know? Of course we wouldn’t!
Similarly, I know of many dads – myself included – who haven’t been allowed to stay overnight in hospital after the birth of their children as they were merely considered to be visitors.
Dad bashing has become so normal and engrained in our culture that it seems to have become acceptable. And it has to stop. Is it any wonder that men still don’t get the same parental leave choices as women when society views us this way?
Father’s Day is on the horizon. Let’s take this as an opportunity to celebrate all the great things about dads. Just the good stuff. No backhanded compliments or pointing out incorrect yet stereotypical male traits.
Why not start by sharing something great about your dad, father figure or partner via the comments below?