I'm a dad of two young boys, both still in different stages of diapers.
Because I am lucky enough to be a full-time stay-at-home dad, I'm not just the one selecting and purchasing what brand of diapers our family uses, but also the one solely responsible for "diaper duty" between 7AM and 5PM, Monday to Friday, and am on tag-team duty with my wife the rest of the time. Although full-time at-home dads like myself are still statistically few in number, I'm not alone in being so often responsible for the task: according to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately one in three dads regularly acts as their child's primary caregiver, while their spouse works, in a two-parent household.
It is not only the at-home dad who does this. Every day, single and working dads also competently care for their young children. Changing diapers, cleaning, feeding, bathing . . . no aspect of parenting other than actually giving birth and breastfeeding is off-limits to involved 21st Century dads. The days of dad being unwilling or unable to take an active role in even the messiest aspects of parenting young children are past.
So you can imagine my dismay when I learned that Kimberly-Clark's HUGGIES diapers and wipes are being promoted through a new campaign trumpeting "Dad" as "The Ultimate Test" for their products.
One commercial voiceover says: “To prove Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days, while we gave moms some well deserved time off. How did Huggies products hold up to daddyhood?"
How are dads a test?
As a dad, am I simply too dumb to use them properly?
Why is a dad on diaper duty an appropriate or meaningful test of the product in any way a mom using them is not?
Why reduce dads to being little more than test dummy parents, putting diapers and wipes through a "worst-case scenario" crash course of misuse and abuse?
Another commercial even touts the ability of HUGGIES to remain leak-free when dad is too busy watching televised sports to change a soiled diaper until after the game.
Is that what HUGGIES thinks dads do? We leave our children in overflowing diapers because sports is more important to us? Really?
These HUGGIES ads literally use the line “Dads push diapers and wipes to the limit.”
No, HUGGIES, dads don’t do that. Poor manufacturing does that. A large bottle before naptime does that. Feeding your kid too much fiber does that. Babies do that. But dads don’t use diapers and wipes any differently than moms.
To add to the insult, customers are then encouraged on the HUGGIES Facebook page to "Nominate a Dad ... Hand him some diapers & wipes and watch the fun ... Tell us how it went on Facebook!” All this does is serve to make clear that this "test" is more about mocking dads than it is about the product.
Already, HUGGIES has seen a response to this insult, and on their Facebook page attempted to reassure their customers with that they call "background information" on the campaign. They say that the people at HUGGIES "love Dads," recognize that dads "change diapers, wipe messes and are hands-on participants in raising kids," and that this ad campaign is meant to "celebrate" dads.
How does calling dads the "Ultimate Test" of a diaper "celebrate" dads? Such reassurances only highlight the lack of understanding of what is actually so insulting about the commercials. To claim they are done out of "love" for dads only makes the insult worse.
To draw a clear comparison, imagine this: Kimberly-Clark also makes products that are used by doctors during surgical procedures. Would they ever feel that advertising those products based on "The Ultimate Test: Female Surgeons" was in any way appropriate? Would they defend it as actually "celebrating" the important role of women in the medical field? No. Never.
Why not extend dads the same courtesy? Why not find a way to celebrate dads in a way that doesn't minimize, stereotype, and judge us as -- at best -- well-meaning, but second-class parents?
I want to believe that the people at Kimberly-Clark/HUGGIES really mean it when they say that they do see and appreciate the equal and active parenting role of fathers.
But I also believe that they messed this one up, need to acknowledge the mistake, and take action to correct course. If HUGGIES really does "love Dads" and want to "celebrate" their important role in raising kids, they need to end this campaign, or even better, revise it to better reflect and respect dad's equal parenting role and abilities.
Please, join me in asking them to drop the "Ultimate Test: Dad" element entirely, and instead focus on actually celebrating the wonderfully active dads who use HUGGIES every day with the same competence and care as moms.