In my eight years of writing this blog, I’ve published regular rants about the media’s representation of dads. And while I genuinely think that we’re in the early stages of a cultural shift in thinking, it’s agonisingly slow.
Two news stories about dads caught my eye this week. They were opposite viewpoints of something very similar – namely famous fathers spotted out and about with their babies – but both monumentally failed to get dads right.
The first, shared by Fran at Whinge Whinge Wine centred on new dad Declan Donnelly. Closer magazine heaped praise on him for, wait for it… successfully pushing a pram.
Yes, that’s right. According to the article, doing so was conclusive evidence that he’s a natural father. Man alive.
Now I don’t doubt that he’s a good dad. He seems like a nice bloke who cares about others. It follows logic that he’s likely to be an attentive parent.
But the magazine’s evidence for backing up its speculative claims was simply the act of pushing something on wheels.
This is insulting to both genders. It suggests that it’s somehow incredible for men to complete the most basic of tasks.
Tasks which are perceived as being ‘women’s work’. It’s a slap in the face all round.
The media needs to stop congratulating dads for doing what they should be doing as a matter of course. Mums do so without being singled out for praise, so why should we be lauded?
The second story was the one that everyone is still talking about. The one concerning the views of the Trump-sympathising TV presenter who just loves attention.
I won’t mention him by name. That’ll show him. Anyway, this time he took a pop at Daniel Craig for carrying his little one in a sling.
Apparently, taking care of your own child is emasculating. Particularly if you play a fictional spy.
Again, man alive. He’s so obviously wrong that I’m not going to dignify his ludicrous claims with an explanation as to why.
But toxic masculinity like this is damaging and dangerously so. While we shouldn’t be praising dads for doing the basics, we shouldn’t be persecuting them either.
There are numerous reasons for this. Mental health immediately springs to mind.
Then there’s the fact that workplace culture needs to change for dads to be treated as equal parents. Very public assertions to the contrary don’t help.
And, as John at Dad Blog UK points out in this post, there are a great many impressionable future parents among this TV presenter’s audience.
It’s also an abuse of privilege and power. He has a massive global following and should use the position this affords him responsibly.
These two stories are sadly pretty typical. The alarming thing is that there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Dads are either bashed or put on a pedestal.
Would it be that difficult to simply say that parenting is equally challenging and rewarding, and that most mums and dads are doing a good enough job?
Of course, it wouldn’t. But I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
Will the media ever get dads right? I think this depends on whether it wants to.