Editor's note: Andy Hinds is a stay-at-home dad to twin girls born in June of 2009. Before the kids were born, he made a living as a freelance carpenter and adjunct English professor. While watching his kids, he writes at his personal blog, Beta Dad, as well as DadCentric, Aiming Low, and several local print publications in his current hometown of San Diego. He also wastes time on Facebook and Twitter.
After our twin daughters were born, almost exactly three years ago, issues of Parenting Magazine started arriving in our mailbox unbidden and with no demands for payment attached. I guess their baby-sensing equipment tells them where to send the exact number of free issues calculated to send you down the slippery slope to occasionally buying the magazine at the grocery store checkout, and then finally into full-blown subscription.
I thumbed through a couple issues before I realized something that struck me as peculiar: Although the magazine title was gender-neutral, the content was directed 100% toward moms. The only article about dads was one that offered advice to moms about how to whip us recalcitrant layabouts into shape. There were a handful of images of males; but instead of parenting, they were shown watching TV, being pediatricians, or preparing to service Mommy in one of the salacious sex-after-children articles.
I smile now, thinking about how outraged I was when I first figured out this gender inequity. I was so innocent back then. I hammered out an angry post on the blog I had just started shortly after becoming a stay-at-home dad, and vowed to never look at that rag again.
I found it easy to avoid not only that magazine, but really all print parenting media once I realized that everything I ever needed to read about my new occupation was online in the form of parenting blogs. Although they too skewed heavily towards moms, basic internet navigation skills could easily get me to a place where I didn’t feel marginalized for being a parent with a Y chromosome.
Take a look: Even Super Dads can't save Frazzled Moms
When I first started reading and writing dad blogs, I had expected the issue of the utter absence of men from print parenting media to be a popular topic. But it seems that other dads, like me, had simply given up on the old-fashioned glossy paper format and focused their efforts on making the internet a more dad-friendly space. Based on the changes I’ve noticed since I started parenting and blogging, it seems to be working, if only in small increments.
And as dads gain traction in the DIY frontier of social media and online discourse, they have managed to make some impact on traditional media as well, perhaps most notably in the world of advertising. The following is an oversimplification, but the way this influence spreads can be seen in what has become known as the Great Huggies Debacle.
In the first step, independent bloggers -- usually working with no budget and little time -- get on their soapboxes. Then more popular and profitable websites pick up the story, sometimes placing it in a larger context. And before you know it, mainstream media outlets have incorporated the issue into “bigger-picture” stories, using their considerable resources to flesh them out with research. So what began as a bunch of bent-out-of-shape dad bloggers complaining about a tone-deaf diaper ad evolves into a writer on CNN.com declaring “No more dumb old dad: Changing the bumbling father stereotype.”
Enter the dadosphere: Dad blogging: Is that really a thing?
With Father’s Day virtually upon us, dads are being trotted out for their big annual media appearance. The two main thrusts of this foray into the spotlight are “What You Must Buy for the Dads in Your Life Right this Second,” and “Why Fatherhood Should Make You Weep Poignant Tears of Emotional Feelings.” Of course there will be those who use the occasion as an opportunity to take broadsides at dads and initiate a whole new cycle of outrage and ad revenue. And a few news outlets will write about recent research regarding the roles and behaviors of dads. But mostly, it will be about spending money and getting sentimental.
So in writing this post, I fudged on my pledge to never read Parenting Magazine again by checking their website to see what they were doing for Fathers’ Day. I assumed there would be some sappy stories and a lot of shilling. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that the current issue is their first ever devoted exclusively to dads, and it’s guest-edited by their resident dad blogger, Shawn Bean. This is definitely worth picking up on my next trip to the grocery store. Or at least thumbing through while I stand in the checkout line.
Since I haven’t read the “Dads” issue of Parenting yet, I’ll refrain from declaring victory over motherly hegemony in the institution of parenting (a.k.a The Matriarchy). But the mere idea that a mainstream parenting magazine is featuring dad-centered content, curated by an actual dad, is a hopeful sign to me. It’s the kind of incremental change toward the perception of parenting as an endeavor shared by both sexes that is all I want for Father’s Day this year. Well, that and a nice bottle of bourbon.