Justice

This Dad's Message About Sexist Parenting Stereotypes Is Taking over Reddit

April 25th 2016

By:
Laura Donovan

A shirt confronting the absurdity behind the idea that dads are "babysitting" when they parent their kids is gaining traction on a Reddit thread with more than 2,500 comments.

The shirt, which was posted by user carlinha1289, draws attention to the sexist stereotype that only mothers can handle the bulk of child rearing responsibilities and dads are merely serving as bumbling babysitters when they are alone with their kids.

Dads and babysitting shirt

The post has launched a thoughtful debate about fatherhood stereotypes on Reddit.

One commenter argued that the idea of dads serving as babysitters to give their wives a brief respite from parenting duties downplays the importance of fathers:

"It's a mentality (whether intentional or not) that diminishes the role fathers play in the lives of their kids. They're not seen as an equal in parenting, they're the 'babysitter' who only steps in occasionally when mom needs a break or something."

A commenter by the username crd3635 wrote that the dad babysitter logic is reminiscent of ads in which fathers are unable to perform basic parenting tasks on their own:

"Reminds me of all those ridiculous commercials where they make it seem like dads don't know how to take care of their kids while mom is away. They make a mess, kids go crazy, they don't know how to cook, clean, change a diaper...where's all the outrage?"

There are also negative consequences of lowering the expectations on fathers.

The "babysitter" myth can make it seem like children don't need fathers to work really hard at parenting, and this is harmful to mothers. Writer Ellen Kate highlighted this in a 2014 piece for Everyday Feminism:

"As a society, we continue to have overall lower expectations for fathers than for mothers. The result is that mothers continue to be viewed more critically than fathers, who are often given credit for simply showing up. Speak up when you notice people commenting on how awesome it is that a dad is at a playground on a Sunday morning and not sleeping in! Call people out when they talk about a dad 'babysitting' his own kid. Neither of those things are anything out of the norm. They are just part of parenting."

In 2012, Huggies came under fire for its "Have Dad Put Huggies To The Test" ads, which depict dads as dopes trying to take care of kids while their wives are away.

Huggies went on to pull the ads after facing major backlash over the sexism behind their message:

Moms have also criticized the idea that dads are nothing more than babysitters when they're with their kids.

Several months ago, blogger Rachel Toalson slammed the notion that her husband is "babysitting" when she needs him to watch the kids so she can work. She wrote in a piece published on The Huffington Post:

"[W]hen [my husband is] watching the kids so I can hole up in my room and write a handful of essays that may or may not change lives, it’s not babysitting. When I go out once a month with my book club friends to talk about a book for all of five minutes and then talk about our lives for another three hours, and he’s with the kids, THAT’S NOT BABYSITTING. When he decides to bake some chicken in the oven or organize some out-of-control papers or take the baby for a few hours while I get a little extra sleep, he’s not just 'helping.' He’s PARENTING. Friends and babysitters and full-time nannies help. Dads parent."

Read the full Reddit thread here.

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