Clorox, the bleach company, recently posted what they claim was a satirical essay called “6 Mistakes New Dads Make.” That’s right, Clorox apparently sees itself as The Onion of the cleaning product content providers.
Seriously: the company recently partnered with The Onion Labs (the advertising and marketing team of The Onion) to produce commercials showing “the messy side of parenting.” The Internet is such a weird place.
I’d link out to the new dads piece, but Clorox pulled it a day later (though you can see it cached here). It traffics in typical (read: stale) caveman stereotype stuff: new dads can’t dress their kids properly, don’t protect them from the rain, let them eat off the floor, and expose them to reality shows rather than books. The piece puts their disdain for dads right up front:
Saying ‘No-no’ is not just for baby. Like dogs or other house pets, new Dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well. Here are a few dangerous no-nos new Dads might make, and some training tips.
It’s babies watching babies when dad is on duty with the little ones! Unless it’s dogs watching babies. Really, you’d think an editor would get the demeaning insult metaphors to align.
Probably the strangest bit is that “poetry reading” appears on a list of places a dad shouldn’t take their new child, along with a casino and pool hall. The people at Clorox must be attending different poetry readings than the ones I occasionally go to, unless they stumbled on the website for The Poetry Brothel, which is a wonderful, adults-only (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) poetry experience, but hardly representative of poetry readings at large. Though seeing that they described a baby in backwards clothing as being dressed in “hip-hop fashion”—are they thinking of the 90’s rap duo Kriss Kross?—the people at Clorox obviously aren’t up-to-date on culture. The essay reeks of something my bitter, sexist, sixty-something-year-old uncle, the guy who posts old Rodney Dangerfield jokes as Facebook status updates at six in the morning, might find funny. Might.
But let’s put the stupid, mean-spirited attempt at humor at dads’ expense aside for the moment. The real story here is how coordinated and quick the dad blogging community responded to these negative stereotypes, in comments on Clorox’s Facebook page and on the essay page itself, on Twitter, and in a flurry of blog posts. The media took notice, with The Huffington Post and CNN’s Josh Levs covering the gaffe, adding their heft in the condemnation against Clorox.
When CNN asked the company about the post, their response was that they were trying “to make a lighthearted comparison between bachelor lives and new parent lives,” which drags single bachelors into the muck too. What kind of guys do they have working at Clorox? Really, no one, single or parent, male or female, found anything sexist, reductive, demeaning, and terribly offensive about the essay?
Possibly not. In an awesome post on 8BitDad, Zach Rosenberg tracks the company’s history of sexist takes on dads and moms too, so perhaps the only thing that’s changed is the coordinated, vocal attempts by fathers to stand up for themselves as competent caregivers against out-of-touch and thoughtless companies like Clorox. These dads, along with their many readers and social media followers, will boycott Clorox and their related products (Glad bags, Pine Sol, the Green Works line of eco-friendly cleaners), as we should. (I already boycott the majority of these products in favor of less chemical products, out of concern for the environment, my health, and my wallet, but that’s another story entirely.)
Everyone will benefit from more nuanced, realistic depictions of gender in our culture, models for the many ways that moms and dads both play a role in supporting their children financially, nurturing them emotionally, and helping them grow and develop into healthy, functioning human beings. It’s good for the self-esteem to see images that do not show one’s lifestyle choices as aberrant, unusual, or in any way negative, and it’s beneficial for the companies who will pick up new customers. I remain hopeful that things are generally getting better for dads (and moms too) in ads and on television shows. Not because I trust the companies producing the content, but because I know there are smart, engaged dads out there who are going to call out companies like Clorox that don’t keep it real.
Thanks for helping me rest easy, guys.