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Dads to Huggies: “We’re no dummies”.

Huggies Diapers stepped in it bigtime recently, by pulling the same stereotyped crap about single dads you get from every sitcom and movie involving single parent fathers. Dads protested, and Huggies pulled the odious ads.

The “Dad Test” campaign, posted on Facebook and geared towards men, was meant to be funny. The idea behind the campaign, according to Huggies, was to prove that Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything. As the ad’s narrator explains, “We put them to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, along with their babies, in one house, for five days.” They showed hopeless, overwhelmed dads in cliched scenarios (i.e., watching sports, neglecting their babies) as their wives get their nails done and sip tea (how original).

Well, let’s just say that viewers were not amused (and I don’t blame them one bit). They flocked to Facebook with claims they’ll never buy Huggies again, and even created a petition – called “We’re Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies,” at Change. org (so far, around 1300 people have signed it). Huggies quickly responded by apologizing, pulling the ads and replacing them with new ones that show dads sitting in gliders and rocking happy babies in their laps.

So now the ads include confident, capable men, and all it took was a campaign to tell Huggies that the “only mothers are parents” bullshit won’t fly. Yet another way traditional gender roles screw things up for men. I’m earmarking this for some hypothetical future sequel to the Disadvantages of Being a Man post.

Yeah, I’m not terribly amused by this either. This is stuff Huggies should be getting right the first time around. Surely they do product surveys, surely they know that men are often buying their products, and surely they know that many of those men are the primary child caregivers. We men are not sports-watchers and beer-swillers by default; we are not incapable of emotions or imbued with toxic masculinity except where we are molded by the same societal gender roles that do so much damage to women. It is in all of our best interests to disassemble these societally enforced ideas, and a diaper company reinforcing them to be “funny” just shows how difficult a proposition it will be.

Comments

  1. Nepenthe says

    Funny coincidence that most of the things men are suppose to be incapable of involve cleaning up other people’s shit, literally and figuratively.

  2. jamessweet says

    Tangentially related: At our local YMCA, my wife and I discovered that in one set of bathrooms, the women’s room has a changing table but not the men’s. (I discovered this under, er, rather pressing circumstances… wasn’t much fun) We submitted a comment card, and I got a reply via e-mail saying that it was an oversight, they had no idea how the mistake had been made, and they installed a new one within a couple of weeks. Woo hoo!

  3. says

    Ergh, I can only stand so much of the concentrated MRA nonsense Futrelle highlights there. Futrelle himself is awesome, but for all my stamina for nonsense, somehow that site depletes it far too rapidly.

  4. John Horstman says

    If only we’d see this much push-back on every ad campaign that relied on stereotyped women’s roles (almost every ad for cosmetics, childcare products, or domestic labor products) or sexual objectification and commodification (many, varied, and especially jewelry ads, car ads, and liquor ads), I could maybe stand to watch broadcast TV again. As it stands, I can’t get through a single commercial break without becoming furious.

  5. says

    Jamessweet,
    It seems to me that at most businesses the “women only” change table is the rule as opposed to the exception. I have had some not so pleasant conversations with managers over that (and even had a very nice employee commandeer a womens washroom so I could use the change table).

    Jason,
    This is not unique to Huggies, or even advertising. They are riffing on a characature of the “dumb, incompetant man” stereotype popularized in sitcoms. It’s kind of funny, when I tell people that we have 5 kids the stock response is “Your poor wife!” like my wife does all the work and I do nothing. My wife proudly tells everyone that she has barely changed a diaper on any of our kids. My wife and I are a team, and with the amount of kids we have, that is a necessity.

    Anyhow, Huggies are actually worse than generic brand diapers- we haven’t bought them since #2 was an infant. They do not last overnight.

  6. prtsimmons says

    John Horstman: I am exactly the same way. I occasionally get the urge to watch TV, but I can’t do it. I wonder if TV advertisers realize how many people they have alienated from the medium entirely? I haven’t had cable/satellite TV for most of the last 15 years, and I know I am not alone.

    The “men can’t do housework / women love to shop” trope was old when I was a child. Any ad writer who can’t do better should quit the business – they are both sexist and unoriginal.

  7. says

    Gah, my wife and I (and for that matter, most of our friends) figured we were pioneers of equal-parenting. Which means it should be a done deal, right?

    EXCEPT THAT WAS LIKE 25 FREAKING YEARS AGO AND OUR KIDS ARE NOW HAVING KIDS OF THEIR OWN SO HOW COME WE’RE STILL FIGHTING THIS SAME BLOODY STUPID FIGHT?!?!?!? [slams head on desk]

  8. Aliasalpha says

    Eamon, don’t fall for the temptation. This level of stupid is obviously part of the insidious ‘big desk’conspiracy, they’re TRYING to make you headbutt your desk in half on a regular basis so you have to go & buy new ones!

  9. says

    Surely they do product surveys, surely they know that men are often buying their products, and surely they know that many of those men are the primary child caregivers.

    Let me estimate: My husband is the primary nappy-changer for the 48h a week he is actually at home.
    We’ve been changing approximately 5 nappies a day for about 5 years now (short overlap between #1 and #2).
    That’s an astounding number of 9125 nappies changed, with about 2607 of them changed by a dad who actually works and lives out of town.
    He’s also the parent who can be persuaded to buy Huggies because if the Winnie-Pooh pictures.
    Dear Johnson and Johnson, that’s a lot of money. You’re losing it.

    I also recommend this episode of Target Women on the subject…

  10. Art says

    I don’t know, I would tend to lean toward a diapering product that advertised itself as being easier to use and dead, perhaps even ‘dad’ simple. I’m male and childcare impaired.

    Yes, it is a bit sexist for men to be stereotyped as bumbling idiots. I’ve met women who were almost as inept at childcare as I am so, perhaps, they might be better off advertising a brand of diapers as being easier and simpler to use generally. But as sexist errors and stereotypes go this is not the most egregious.

    Funny thing is I’m pretty good with my hands. I work in the building trades, repair my own truck, do my own plumbing, I trained as a welder, and used to do woodworking and build electronics for fun. I do a passable job cooking, cleaning, and sewing. When times were tough I worked as a janitor and cleaning toilets did bother me. In a pinch I’ve changed a few diapers but it wasn’t pretty and neither of us enjoyed it. Kids rattle me.

  11. says

    I admit to laughing at the commercial, but yeah, it’s sexist.

    Heh, and no, parenting isn’t an inherently female thing. I’m female, and I have the parenting instinct of a Pet Rock. Cats? Great, they come housebroken, and are fairly self-sufficient. Babies? Scare the ever-living shit out of me.

  12. says

    I’m male and childcare impaired.

    I’m just going to assume that those two items are unconnected information about you, like, I’m female and I like my coffee with milk.
    ‘Cause, against all common notion, women aren’t born with a deep knowledge of how to change diapers. They just have to learn it. We also don’t know how to give birth any more than you know how to sneeze (and there’s a reason why there are 30% C-sections and it’s not Big Hospital). Apart from “put A to B” we actually also don’t know instinctively how to breastfeed. Believe me, cracked nipples are very painfull.
    So, in short, apart from a few basic instincts that are the same in men and women, and the ability to produce milk, there seems to be no difference in men’s and women’s abilities to raise children.
    There’s a huge difference in society’s views on this topic. This time it hurts men.
    (Just imagine the spot with reversed roles. Would it still be funny or would people be upset about that useless inable woman who reads a magazine instead of caring for her child?)

  13. Tony says

    Giliell:

    (Just imagine the spot with reversed roles. Would it still be funny or would people be upset about that useless inable woman who reads a magazine instead of caring for her child?)

    -I know I’d be quite upset. As I’ve been defining (and refining) some of my beliefs, I’ve found that I notice sexist, misogynist crap a lot more. Likewise, I’m starting to be more aware of the subtle ways that male privilege affects our society (which has the effect from time to time of being a downer that our society is like this).
    GAH!!! Sorry, needed to scream.
    Does anyone know of resources to help learn about the history and effect of misogyny, sexism and patriarchy in the US? Or perhaps any resources that delve into ways of educating others about these harmful memes?

  14. becca says

    “It’s kind of funny, when I tell people that we have 5 kids the stock response is “Your poor wife!” like my wife does all the work and I do nothing. “
    Hmm. I might say something like that. But I’d be thinking of the physical hardships of pregnancy. I know, intellectually, it’s not a terrible thing for all women but… the idea of 5 pregnancies and births is pretty intimidating (though raising 5 kids is not, at least in the same visceral way).
    I’ll try to be more careful about how tactless that comment can be, but if it makes you feel any better some of those folks may be thinking about pregnancy/childbirth.

  15. says

    Art –

    As an only parent that shit not only pisses me off, it reinforces a stigma that is more than a little problematic. I am not going to find a momma replacement for my children, yet there are a lot of people who think this is just terrible on my part. They believe that men cannot possibly do my job – not thinking about the problems my kids have to deal with, already having lost a mom (not dead, just gone – homeless on the west coast, last I knew). I am not going to risk putting them through that shit again – especially my ten year old (four year old is dealing a lot better).

    This stereotype winds it’s way into all sorts of shit, including bullshit like the notion that I *must* be trying to find a new momma, when I take my kids places that other kids – and mommies – congregate. I am essentially another “mommy,” but a lot of the other mommies either are alienated because they think I must be interested in them or they start flirting, assuming the same. That is certainly not all of them, but overall it seems sometimes to be most. I am fucking over that shit. I have seen mommies pack their kids and leave, because like other mommies, I interact with their child, while their child interacts with mine.

    Beyond that, my ten year old really gets upset when fucking morons talk about my finding a partner to care for my children with me. On more than one occasion people have actually addressed him on the issue. He has also been told by children who likely heard from home that families not like their own are broken, that our family is wrong, bad or that his mom is a bad/evil/terrible person and on a couple of occasions, a bitch. He has managed to deal with a lot of his emotional problems – including getting his physical aggression (from back when his mom took him and his brother to TN – from MI for two years) under control. The last time he exhibited significant physical aggression was after another child went off about our family and his mom.

    While I am sure some of that just stems from kids being vile little fucks who like to hurt other kids, a lot of that is shit they get from home. And what they are getting is a whole lot of bullshit about who is capable of caring for children, what families should look like and what roles male and female parents should play. Even when it isn’t coming from their parents, they see that shit on tee vee – such as the commercials that fostered this discussion. This kind of bullshit actively hurts people and I am fucking tired of it, thank you very much.

  16. says

    While I am sure some of that just stems from kids being vile little fucks who like to hurt other kids, a lot of that is shit they get from home.

    Even vile little fucks can only sling the mud they have.
    Meaning it’s not their original idea that there’s something very wrong about a family with a single dad, that a man without a woman can’t raise children etc.
    It’s the adults who teach that shit.

    If I had to die tomorrow, there’s one thing I wouldn’t worry about and that is that my kids wouldn’t have a caregiver.

  17. says

    becca,

    At first, I totally thought that was what most people meant. My wife has my eternal respect and gratitude for the sacrifices and pain she has endured through pregnancy and childbirth.
    But the more I hear it, the more it seems like people congratulate me only on my virility (My sperm would like to interject here and say “thanks for the compliment!”) and assume I’m of little use otherwise.
    Maybe I’m being oversensitive, and perhaps people are innocently acknowledging childbirth without saying anything about raising the children. I have rarely to never heard someone say “Wow! The two of you must be so busy!” (which is in itself not true), but I have heard that said of my wife.

    It is interesting to hear how 20 or so years ago, men were expected to be mostly uninvolved in childrearing outside of discipline. My first thought is “How on earth did they get away with that?” and my second thought is “Why on earth would they want to get away with that?”

    Being a parent- an actual, active, interested, involved parent- is the most fulfilling role that I have. I can’t imagine someone wanting to miss that opportunity.

  18. Aerik says

    This is what you get when you insist one gender is genetically hard-wired to do housework (females) — you will eventually try to convey this message through an image of the non-hardwired party looking stupid when they do it (males).

    Patriarchy is a self-harming system! TA-DA! Just like we feminists have always said.

    But how often do dads actually complain? Not often. Because it still keeps women doing work they don’t want to.

    It’s about time some men decided to stand up against this shit.

    It’s just too bad that many of them don’t get why the stereotype exists.

  19. says

    It’s just too bad that many of them don’t get why the stereotype exists.

    Sad story from real life:
    One of my husband’s colleagues recently became a grandpa for the second time. The older child is still in his diapers.
    Preparing for the arrival of the new baby, his son in law finally learned to change the diaper of the firstborn because they would need changing while his wife is in hospital.
    We’re not talking about Quiverfulls or Dominionists…

  20. greenhome says

    My own brother was so comfortable with dirty diapers that he would change the baby on the sideboard while the rest of us were having our dinner. Our mother (the diaperee’s grandmother) was not amused.

  21. tuibguy says

    I carried a pad around for my kids so that I could lay them down on the floor to change them. Maybe I should have complained instead.

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