While there are no gender requirements to be a successful parent, society has held on to deeply seated gender stereotypes when it comes to child rearing. Though society has moved a long way this regard, there is still a feminine bias. Regardless of societal inclinations, dads know that there are always ways for them to provide exceptional parenting.
For example, breastfeeding is widely known to have health benefits, but a father cannot typically provide this for his child. Though some might take this to mean that mothers are closer to their children and should be the main caretakers, dads know that they can create similarly strong bonds with their babies. Though they might not be able to physically produce milk for them, they can still bond through feeding their child with a bottle.
Still, stereotypes persist and have negative outcomes. One such outcome is the targeting of fathers in advertisements by producing baby products, such as baby carriers, that are “sufficiently” masculine. This brings to light the fact that manufacturers typically design baby products for women, and sometimes even have a separate section for dads.
Though some parental actions have been deemed feminine and others masculine, everyone can define what it means to be a “manly” parent for themselves. The term doesn’t have to be negative or limited to men when it comes to parenting — what mom wouldn’t love going on these epic “dad” adventures with their child?
There are a lot of stay-at-home fathers openly involved in all aspects of their children’s care, but many child care products are still marketed mainly or exclusively to women. It can even be controversial when companies market products for male parents, like the baby carrier designed for dad stirring controversy online.
It claims to be built for men’s bodies, putting the load-bearing weight on the shoulders rather than on the hips. Since there are plenty of baby products that are designed specifically for women and not nearly as many for men, this product helps promote the idea that fathers are equally responsible for the care of their child.
While it’s a positive aspect that this baby carrier is inclusive to dads, marketing it exclusively to them and making it look like a S.W.A.T. item perpetuates gender stereotypes and is problematic.
Perhaps the focus shouldn’t be on this particular baby carrier, but on most baby products being advertised to women. Many diaper bags and baby carriers are produced to look feminine under the assumption that the mother will be the one in charge of taking care of the child.
In addition to being unfair for traditional fathers who do take their fair share of responsibilities, this type of advertising is unfair for nontraditional parenthood. It can ignore single parents as well as same-sex parents.
The idea of a “typical” parent is quickly changing. The number of stay-at-home dads in the US is rising, as is the number of children being raised by same sex couples. According to Lifelong Adoptions, between 6 and 14 million children are currently being raised by same-sex parents.
However, gender is not the most important factor in raising a child. Responsible and caring parents are what really matters, and advertisers should recognize this.
Wider selection and acceptance of different types of baby-carrying accessories for all genders, body types, and lifestyles allows parents to focus on the important things, like raising their kids in a safe environment, providing for their basic needs, and ensuring their emotional well-being.
Carrying a baby is never just about carrying a baby, and it’s definitely not about what it looks like. In order to take a baby on an outing, diapers, wipes, food, toys, and more need to be provided. The benefits of expanding baby products for fathers and including gender neutral designs for a variety of tastes and body styles can lead to more inclusive parenting.
Furthermore, instead of focusing on the aesthetic design of a baby carrier, the conversation should be focused on function over form, including the security and safety of the baby. For instance, is it safe to buy a used car seat? Are there any other unexpected safety hazards you should be on the lookout for? These are far more essential questions. After all, the manliest way to carry a baby is not about looking manly, but about feeling manly and providing safety for your child.