The more I have been around the ‘Babywearing community’ and parenting in general, the more I have seen a strange dichotomy unfold. I have seen and been a part of many conversations about feminism and gender roles. I’ve seen the growth of the Pink Stinks campaign, the growth of A Mighty Girl books and movies, the arrival of Goldieblox engineering toys for girls and lots of other similar things. And if I’m honest I’m starting to get a bit fed up of it all. Allow me the indulgence of explaining why.
Now, just to be on the safe side, so we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, according to Wikipedia, this is the definition of Feminism:
Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
That all sounds good, women should be treated with equal respect and rights as men. For a large part of history, and in many parts of the world this hasn’t been the case. Some would argue in the UK it still isn’t, but I don’t want to get into that.
So what has this to do with parenting I hear you ask?
In my experience and in what I see day after day online, the role of fathers is regularly misrepresented, mistreated, played down or ignored. And its not good, for kids or for fathers. Feminism has levelled a lot of playing fields but it has left one very significant one unscathed.
Log onto a babywearing group and see how many times you’ll see a ‘Can I ask you a question Mama’s…’ type post. Log on to a natural parenting group and see how many anti-doll or anti-princess type posts you can find. Heck, go to your local retail park and see if you can spot a large retail outlet that caters to parents with young children whose name reinforces that Parent equals Mother.
These things are nothing new, said parenting retailer has been around for generations after all. I have no real problem with Mothercare either, after all a Mother does need different clothes during and after pregnancy, there are certain things that a Mother will need after birthing a child and to have them all accessible under one roof makes huge amounts of sense.
My problem is that this puts up barriers, and that this mindset is pretty pervasive. A UK based wrap manufacturer recently advertised a job, with the advert stating:
Would suit a work at home mum with relevant marketing skills and an obvious passion and experience of all manners of babwearing.
What about a work at home Dad? Or one with a part time job looking for extra work? I know loads of Dads with that knowledge and those skills, but the advert says it would suit a Mum. I’m not even sure that’s a legally allowable statement under UK law, yet there it is. I know that the company in question had no intention of excluding Dads, I asked, but there was no consideration of us either
How about another example?
Boy tights. I’ve seen several requests for these over recent weeks as the weather has been cold and wet. My question is this: What’s the difference between normal tights and boy tights? Do they come with a special attachment for a boys genitals or something? No, they’re just blue, or have cars or trains on them. But my daughter likes cars, and trains, and blue. And my son likes wearing stripy pink tights. So again, what’s the difference? Gender equality and the right to wear blue or pink, trains or my little ponies need to work for boys and for girls.
Then we have this one. A high end, handwoven wrap manufacturer decides to release a wrap targeted for Dads. So its blue, with pinstripes. I like blue, and I own a very nice pinstripe suit, but then again so does my wife. So nothing really Dad specific there then. Then they release a video advert for this wrap which shows a Dad coming home from work then mucking in with cooking, putting kids to bed etc while Mum has a bath. Apart from the blue thing, its all good so far. Fathers should be a part of bed time and child care. We should make sure Mum gets time for herself, especially if she’s been home alone with the kids all day. But then it goes wrong.
Apparently, if you carry your child in one of these wraps, and manage to put them in bed, you’re gonna get lucky. Sign me up yo, best $500 dollars I ever spent, a piece of cloth that guarantees me intimacy with my wife! Oh, hang on, wait, is that right?
As you can see in the image the company in question decided that it would be a great opportunity to play on the phrase ‘Man up.’ A phrase that puts down both genders by implying that being masculinity is better than femininity. I commented on this in the facebook group after reading through the tonnes of ‘OMG he’s hot’ type posts from excited ladies and was told to get a life, get a sense of humour and worse by fellow commentators. I didn’t even mention the blatant objectification of the guy, largely because if it was me in the video I’d love to have comments saying I look good 😉
The owner of the company soon stepped in with the following statement:
We are sorry if you didn’t love our latest video. We really just want to keep normalizing babywearing, and having babywearing seen in many different settings and as a part of everyday life. Not everyone has to like or agree with everything we put out there and we love your feedback on our work. Our true intention with using a play on the term “Man-Up” was to tip it on the edge and show being a gentle loving man. We want to make wraps for everyone. We love the gender neutral nature of this wrap and hope that lots of moms and dads love wearing it.
Click the ‘ManUppy’ image to watch the video and see what you think of the advert.
The truth is that ‘Boy tights,’ ‘Man friendly carriers,’ ‘Male colours,’ don’t exist. Its a societal perception, we have as much right to wear pink as you do blue. We have as much right to wear flowers as you do. We can be the primary care giver, we can go out to work, we can cook and clean, some of us can even put the toilet seat down after we pee. Please, help us end this silly gender division, we want to be feminist too.