I know that many people complain that people are too offended nowadays, but that doesn’t mean we should stop calling out things that we think are unjust. The Daily Mail may believe that we are all snowflakes who are triggered by the tiniest perceived injustices, but that’s a bit rich from a paper that clutches its pearls and suffers palpitations any time Jeremy Corbyn wears a slightly wonky tie.
Social Media Outrage
One of the problems we have is that we feel like we have to form our opinion on issues straight away. Social media means that not only can we post about something in the heat of the moment without considering the repercussions, but also that we can read a post and feel like we must post our instant reaction before it disappears from our timelines, without taking time to deconstruct what it really means.
But recently I really tried my hardest to look deeper into a parenting-related post I read on Twitter before I made any comment. The tweeter, who happens to be my brother, went to change his daughter’s nappy on an Easyjet flight and was met with this sight:
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Is This an Anti-Dad Image?
Dave clearly thinks that this is an example of a company dismissing dads from the parenting equation. At first sight, I had to agree. This looks like Easyjet (and the other airlines who use this stock image, which seems to be most of them) have fallen into that trap of associating baby care solely with the mum.
Usually, at this point, I’d have retweeted and gone on my way. My finger hovered over the RT button, but I paused. I really wanted to question that decision in my head. Was I thinking independently and rationally about the image, or was I blindly following the suggestion in the tweet? Bearing in mind I’m the elder brother and it would never do to be seen to be doing what my younger sibling told me to.
My brain started playing Devil’s Advocate. Is it an anti-dad image? Does showing a mum changing a baby mean that dad’s can’t? If it showed someone who was obviously a dad (or at least male) mean that only men could deal with dirty nappies?
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It’s not like it’s under a sign that says ‘Mums and Babies Changing Area (No Dads Allowed)’. I started questioning whether I had indeed initially been an over-sensitive snowflake. It’s just a person changing a baby’s nappy after all.
Anti-Dad Image Conclusion
But then I suddenly veered back in the direction of supporting the anti-dad hypothesis (this was a fun 20 minutes, I’m sure you will agree). It’s the addition of the skirt that tips the balance.
Now, for me to explain why the skirt is problematic, I need you to also hold off from furiously forming an instant opinion and thumping out an email demanding that The Dadsnet instantly severs all ties with me. I am going to use a couple of broad brushstrokes during my explanation, but please don’t confuse a couple of generalisations that I am about to make with me having a dig at or spitefully excluding any particular groups.
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The reason the skirt on the adult figure in that icon points to this indeed being an anti-dad image is that it has been purposefully sexed (note how I avoid the very tricky concept of being ‘gendered’). IN GENERAL dads tend to usually wear trousers, whereas mums wear an array of different leg coverings including trousers, skirts, dresses and so on. If you were a plane toilet changing room icon designer who truly believed that both sexes played an equal part in looking after a baby, surely you would create your masterpiece using the one part of the VERY GENERALISED Venn diagram that overlapped, ie. trousers. Good old neutral trousers.
But they didn’t. Presumably because they believe that all mums look after babies and all dads drink beer and hit things with hammers. And that is that.
And before you start writing a hilarious comment about Scottish people and kilts, take a look at the replies to the original tweet. You have been well and truly beaten to it.
Reaction to the Tweet
As with any tweet of this manner, many agreed with Dave’s suggestion, whilst some disagreed on similar grounds to those that I had wrestled with. Cool, we all have opinions and they are (mainly) all valid. Some asked him if he didn’t have more important things to do with his time, apparently completely missing the irony of the fact they were using their high-flying executive diary window to read and comment on other people’s tweets that they weren’t even interested in in the first place.
But there was also a reply that came through that really annoyed me. One that totally missed the point. It’s now been deleted, but went along the lines of “It’s just a sign, it’s not the most important issue in the battle for recognition for dads”.
I could not disagree more. The signs that we use to guide us matter. The words we use matter. These are things that make a subconscious difference to how we think. That’s much more important than battering people over the head and ordering them to think in a certain way.
In fact, I am a great believer that it is the so-called minor points, the phrases that subtly undermine a group of people, the broad stereotypes that continue to be used as easy punchlines for the hackneyed jokes of pub bores – these are the most key areas to tackle if we are going to bring up a generation of kids free from homophobia, racism, misogyny, or as close to free as possible.
If we stop using ‘gay’ as a slur, stop telling jokes where the ‘humour’ relies on everybody thinking that all Irish people are stupid, stop instantly sexualising and demeaning women, then our children will not grow up with these ingrained prejudices.
And the same works for dads and their children. If we still use phrases like ‘mother and baby group’ and ‘mother and child parking spaces’ it keeps the pretence going that only mums look after children. Similarly, if we only ever show figures that many people instantly identify as a mum changing a baby’s nappy, people will continue to believe that it is a job for mums only. And this is one reason that sometimes dads struggle to find baby change facilities.
The subconscious is so important when it comes to forming our instant opinions, and very easily we can positively change the way our kids look at the world.