3 Lessons We Can Learn from Chris Routly

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You've seen it before: commercials for things like diapers and detergent that not only suggest that women are the sole caregivers in a family, but also imply that when dads are in charge we're in for trouble. For example, Kimberly Clark's HUGGIES has a new campaign promoting its diapers and wipes trumpeting "Dad" as "The Ultimate Test" for their products. 

In one commercial, for example, the voiceover says: “To prove Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days, while we gave moms some well deserved time off. How did Huggies products hold up to daddyhood?"
Some of the promotional materials even implied that dads would neglect changing a soiled diaper to finish watching the game. 

After reading something like this on a feminist blog you may think "How sexist?" but when watching the commercial at home you probably didn't give it a second thought because ads like these are all too common. 

But one man did notice, and he decided to do something about it. 

Fed up, illustrator and blogger Chris Routly, who is a a stay-at-home dad, decided to speak out and started a petition calling for an end to "Ultimate Test: Dad" element of the company's advertising. And it worked. 

After getting media attention and collecting over 1,000 signatures, Routly announced Friday on his blog, The Daddy Doctrine, that Huggies/Kimberly Clark reached out to him and outlined a list of changes the company plans to make to its campaign including airing a new TV spot featuring real dads out and about with their babies to test the diaper. 

Even though I'm not a parent, Routly's story really struck me because I believes it teaches us three valuable lessons:

1. Dads aren't dumb. And dads are caregivers too. In fact, as Routly mentions in his petition, even though full-time at-home dads are still statistically few in number, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately one in three dads regularly acts as their child's primary caregiver, while their spouse works, in a two-parent household. 

2. Sexism hurts men too. So often when I have a conversation with someone about feminism I get questions like "Well, women have rights now. What's the point?" or "Isn't feminism unfair to men?" But gender stereotypes are alive and well and women aren't the only ones affected by them. When we say that caring for the home and for children is woman's work, we're not only implying that women who work outside the home are sub-par parents, but we're also suggesting that stay-at-home dads are somehow not real men. Or we make assumptions that men simply can't be good caregivers, period. That's not OK and these are exactly the kinds of  things feminism exists to challenge. 

3. You can make a difference. Chris Routly could have just sat home and complained about these commercials to his family and friends. But he did more. He wrote about it on his blog and filed a petition through Change.org. And his efforts paid off, showing we don't have to be politicians or policy makers to effect social change.

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