My friend Jill and her husband took their kids to go shopping a few weeks ago. While she went to the Apple Store to get her new phone polished up, Dad took the kids to look for some much needed new jeans.
Ten minutes later Jill received a text from her husband.
“I wasn’t allowed to go in the fitting room and help him,” it said. Jill’s son has some issues with buttons and zippers, so Dad wanted to go in and help. The fitting room attendant blocked him.
“Excuse me? So now when a dad is helpful and engaged with his kids he’s pegged a pervert? Isn’t that discrimination? Or is it smart of the store?” she writes in a post at her site, Urban Mommies. “How demeaning to a dad. If it were a little girl and a Mom I seriously doubt this gender discrimination would occur. I phoned the store. The manager remarked that there is no formal policy and it’s up to the fitting room attendant.”
This stereotyping of men (and dads) isn’t new.
A community Facebook group in my area actually had to debate as to whether or not they would “allow” dads to participate in the group. The open group was labeled “Moms” but then the admin admitted that some men had gotten in the group and asked if they should be allowed to stay.
“Women only please,” posted the dissenter. “You don’t know these men. Dads can create a Dads group for stay at home Dads if they want it. There are enough of them. Women only is more comfortable to speak on certain topics. If you allow men, they should be referred by a Mom and personally checked out.”
“If it is for men too, then there has to be a system in place to ensure that they are not predators,” she continued. “I’m sorry for sounding unsympathetic to the good Dads out there… these people are men, not women. I know some women can be cows, but most are not stalking children. It’s as simple as that.”
This is a group talking about nannies, how to find help to hang Christmas lights, recommendations for contractors, deals at the grocery store, that sort of really local stuff.
I get that there are bad people out there. I get that there are bad men out there. But until we stop playing to stereotypes and begin to genuinely trust our neighbours, how do we get ahead? How do we create community?
The store responded to my friend Jill’s complaint with a boiler plate policy explanation.
Due to safety regulations, loss prevention and the size of each room; the fitting rooms are only able to accommodate one person at a time. Our customer’s safety and wellbeing are always a top priority for [store name]. If your son required assistance while in the fitting room, the attendant could have suggested our larger accessible fitting room. The only exception would have been if this room was currently occupied.
They danced around it simply enough, but Jill and her husband still sensed that aura of discrimination. Dads were eventually let into the “Moms” group, but it was immediately made a closed group and I was not allowed to join because I had the gall to challenge the opinion of dads, and men, in our community.
So, when will we treat dads as parents? As loving caregivers? As people capable of shopping for kids, and sharing information about the best local coffee shops? When will men be looked upon as parents, not predators?
Image via Kevin Dooley on Flickr