I was at the Royal College of Midwives Conference last week, discussing with midwives my work with DaddyNatal and how through midwifery practice we need to be empowering dads more. How do we do this, well firstly we need to empower fathers to know what to do at birth, but secondly we need to stop stereotyping them.
It is with absolute frustration that I then turn on the TV to be bombarded by Christmas adverts which in the main, depict dad as stereotypically a bit useless, either doing nothing, or sitting in the corner while mum sorts everything out. ASDA, Morrisons, Very, these are just a few of the companies who have gone down this stereotype this year. In fact, one of the few adverts which seems to suggest us men are not all entirely useless, is the John Lewis advert – but then of course ‘he’ is a snowman.
In many households, men take a very active role in family life. There are many families where dad is the sole parent, or families like mine, where I am equally involved both in day-to-day life AND at this special time of year. I hugely enjoy cooking Christmas dinner for the family each year, and like many modern families, Steph and I take on different responsibilities for different elements.
The people behind these kinds of adverts say ‘it’s just a bit of fun’. Last time I checked sexism was not just a bit of fun, and that is what negatively gender stereotyping is. One the one hand, society wants dads to be more hands-on and involved (which is fantastic, so they should be, and so many are) SO WHY is it acceptable to continually poke fun at dads, their contribution and abilities?
The lesson is simple, if you want to engage dads and get them more involved STOP CONTINUALLY PUTTING THEM DOWN. I am sure many, many mums do a fantastic job at Christmas, and there is no reason that cannot be celebrated, but seriously…
Dean Beaumont is co-founder of The Natal Company and its associated programmes, DaddyNatal and BabyNatal.
Dean is also the author of The Expectant Dad’s Handbook, which is available for preorder from Amazon here.