Sun, 22 Sep 2019

Dad bloggers want social change for Father's Day

The Conversation
11 Jun 2019, 08:30 GMT+10

You have probably heard of "mommy bloggers" or read parenting articles on a website like Scary Mommy or Babble. "Mommy blogs" have been on the internet for nearly 20 years now. Only recently have fathers begun to develop their own online parenting sites and networks. Today, a growing number of "dad bloggers" are using social media to provide a window into their lives as fathers.

Building from the research of Gillian Ranson (professor emerita of sociology at University of Calgary) and May Friedman of the department of social work at Ryerson University, I find that dad bloggers are collectively pushing back against patriarchal views of family and gender. To these fathers, blogs are not only spaces for personal writing, they are also important platforms for social advocacy.

The changing shape of fatherhood

To understand the emergence of dad bloggers, it's useful to look at some major trends surrounding family life and digital media.

Although women still perform the lion's share of domestic work, we have seen men's involvement in parenting tasks increase throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The amount of time Canadian fathers spend providing child care has nearly doubled since 1986. And Statistics Canada reports the number of stay-at-home fathers has tripled in the last 30 years.

Throughout this same time period, we have witnessed the growth of social media technologies. At present, the majority of Canadians report that they have at least one social media account. Given how pervasive social media have become, many parents are using these online tools regularly to communicate with family members and friends.

I consider dad bloggers to be a product of these two trends of increased father involvement and social media use. Since 2012, dad bloggers and their annual conference - The Dad 2.0 Summit - have received publicity in major periodicals like Time, The New York Times and Esquire.

Fathers in the blogosphere

Based on my research, I find that dad bloggers want to eliminate stereotypes purporting that men are either incapable or unwilling to be nurturing parents.

Many dad blog posts are created to say: "Hey! Dads do not like being portrayed as either detached chauvinists like Don Draper or bumbling idiots like Homer Simpson."

The sharing of this online content has likely contributed to a shift in depicting more "good" dads in mainstream media lately. Doug French - the co-founder of the Dad 2.0 Summit - has claimed that we are seeing less of "the feckless dad" today thanks to dad bloggers and their collaborations with marketers.

Towards social advocacy

Lately, dad bloggers are moving towards broader advocacy work. Some have joined forces with Dove, a brand that worked earlier to associate itself with redefining "real" female beauty, to help develop an online petition demonstrating support for paid parental leave called The Pledge For Paternity Leave.

Dad bloggers are also vocal proponents for mandating diaper-changing tables in men's restrooms, often posting pictures on social media as they try to change a diaper while squatting awkwardly on the floor.

Legal changes to increase the number of changing tables in public spaces have been recently made in the province of Ontario and in the states of New York and California following former president Barack Obama's BABIES Act (an acronym that stands for the Bathrooms Accessible In Every Situation Act).

In 2016, the bloggers who comprise Dads 4 Change - an online group devoted to charity and advocacy - were even invited to the White House. There, they took part in a panel discussion about problematic gender stereotyping in children's media and toys.

On a smaller scale, blogs are used to spread awareness of a variety of issues that affect parents and children everyday. There are posts calling for better sex education, access to birth control and protection for LGBTQ individuals and families.

'I'd love to know my kids will be alright'

With Father's Day 2019 on the horizon, I decided to ask some Canadian dad bloggers what they want for Father's Day this year. I was not surprised to receive answers that refer directly to social and legislative concerns.

Mike Reynolds (@EverydayGirlDad), who focuses on changing norms of masculinity, tells me:

Chris Farley-Ratcliffe (@DadGoesRound) takes aim at policy initiatives in stating:

Finally, Casey Palmer (@CaseP) admits:

When I asked him what he means by this, he explains that it seems difficult for children today to "feel free to express themselves and be honest about what's going on in their worlds." He hopes that parents will work towards developing more "safe spaces" for children in the future.

Mike, Chris, and Casey realize, of course, that they are unlikely to receive what they are asking for immediately this Father's Day. As they continue to write and talk about these issues, however, they help move our society closer towards the implementation of progressive social changes to benefit families in Canada - one blog post at a time.

Author: Casey Scheibling - PhD candiate, Department of Sociology, McMaster University The Conversation

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