Have I ever had to apologize for a misunderstood satirical comment I’ve made in social media? Yes.
To publish a 400 word blog post 25 times a month puts me in a potentially vulnerable and dangerous situation. So I am trying to be compassionate with the people responsible for the current Clorox fiasco/social media nightmare.
After all, some people are having the worst week ever (!) right now and I would hate to come across as a bully.
So in order to explain what happened, I’ll start with the beginning… no, actually it would make more sense to start with the most recent part of the story. Here’s what Clorox posted on Facebook today:
“As you may have seen we recently removed a website article, ‘New Dads’, that was a part of a series of humor pieces on modern parenting. It was never our intention to diminish the important role of dads. The dad who wrote the piece for us actually was trying to poke fun at the caricature of ‘the hapless dad.’ To some of you it didn’t come across that way and we apologize. We’ve been talking with many of you throughout the day and appreciate the feedback.”
You may be wondering what the removed article said. Well, even though it was “removed,” I still found it, right here.
I do want to point out some of the article’s most offensive/bizarre lines. The most infamous and most quoted one is found in the introduction:
“Like dogs or other house pets, new Dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.”
The article soon warns that new dads may put clothing on their child backwards and that “hip-hop fashions should wait a couple of years.”
Then there’s the weird line about exposing infants to reality TV shows, referring to the “colorful moving yell-box.”
And comparing an infant’s eating habits to “a spastic Harlem Shake dancer.”
Mmm… and then the reference to The Hangover movie… I guess:
“Casino: Some new dads have been inspired by raunchy comedies to bring babies to inappropriate places like casinos, pool halls, and poetry readings. None of these places are healthy for baby. If Dad needs persuading, just tell him that babies are terrible tippers and can never make bank shots.”
(I’m going to pretend I didn’t just see the phrase “poetry readings.”)
This Clorox story is viral right now because so many people see this thing as offensive. Sure, I totally see where they’re coming from. In fact, my friend at 8BitDad, Zach Rosenberg, points at why this “humor piece” is not sitting well with a lot of parents:
“The problem is that these toxic images and jokes at the expense of dads do a couple of things: they continue the ignorant thinking that only mothers can care for babies. These images attempt to widen the divide between moms and dads – where dad is forced to be one of the kids and mom is burdened with all of the housework. These images discourage fathers from being the best that they can be – hey, if Clorox thinks dads shouldn’t touch the baby, maybe we should skip the grueling newborn phase, dump the baby on mom and go hang out with our buddies? Where does that leave us?”
I totally agree!
At the same time, I personally struggle with finding the Clorox article to be offensive; mainly because I’m so distracted at the very bizarre attempt at humor.
Clorox is evidently currently protecting the identify of the freelance writer who wrote it, but I can’t help but get the feeling that the dad doesn’t have much experience blogging in regards to parenting.
I assume it’s common knowledge in the parenting blogging community that it’s beyond taboo to insult either moms or dads, as a group. Sure, you can make fun of yourself, as an individual parent, but not an entire gender; even in satire.
The tone of the Clorox ad is so literally unbelievable and unnatural that I actually wondered if it was an Internet troll that hacked the Clorox website somehow.
In their Facebook apology, Clorox proclaims, “To some of you it didn’t come across that way and we apologize.”
Well, uh… it’s just that usually there’s some kind of hint that something is satire, if it truly is intended to be. However, nothing about the article hints at being satirical… or more importantly, even funny.
I’ve spent the past 24 hours reading related articles (and comments on those articles) and I’ve yet to find one person who thought the article was actually humorous.
Is it offensive? Yes, to many.
Is it funny? No… in fact, it’s so awkward, I’m going to back away now while smiling and nodding my head…
I missed the Dad 2.0 Summit this year; which is basically the official annual conference for daddy bloggers.
Conveniently, The New York Timespublished an article on their website a few days ago, which does a great job of filling me in on the conversations that took place there without me.
While I wish I would have known about Dad 2.0 Summit beforehand, because I totally would have flown out to Houston to been a part of it as I am now marking my calendar for next year, at the same time it sort of sounds like the main takeaway from Dad 2.0 is the same point I have been writing about for years now on The Dadabase:
Dads don’t want to be seen as idiots who make messes and who are sub-par parents.
It’s subtle, yet very present in media. I feel that there are still too many companies getting it wrong. Allow me to critique the Robitussin commercial featured at the top of this post, for example.
Of this 17 second commercial, the first 2 seconds are done right.
We are introduced to a mom and dad who are together putting their baby to sleep. They lovingly look at each other as if to mutually say, “I love you and our new addition to our family.”
But then, from 0:03 to 0:06, the dad coughs, waking the baby and earning a frustrated and disapproving look from his wife. By 0:07, we see the dad give his wife a pat on the back right before he walks away to go grab some Robitussin for his cough, seen from 0:10 to 0:12.
There is some resolve by 0:13, when the dad returns, this time not coughing, as the mom is able to lay down the now sleeping baby in the crib.
Okay, so that commercial wasn’t horrible, but it needs some revisions to earn the respect of dads like me.
If they had to make it to where the dad coughs and wakes up the baby, he could have appeared to be less of a [jerk] if, when he came back from taking the Robitussin, he took the baby from his wife, allowing her to go back to bed, then putting the baby to sleep himself.
When you really consider the role of the dad in this commercial, all he really did besides just stand there, was that he made life harder for his wife.
And seriously, pause this commercial on 0:05. Check out the look on the wife’s face…
No husband ever wants to receive that look from his wife.
But when I see a commercial like this, I am not offended, but I do think, “There’s just another dad-bashing commercial feeding into concept that the housewife desperately needs another product because of the mess her husband made.”
Part of my passion as a daddy blogger is attempting to make it taboo for dads to be portrayed as the classic idiot in ads. I’m not even asking to be seen as the hero. I’ll take neutral at this point.
As predicted by the entire world and any possible life forms living on Earth’s moon, Huggies finally started pulling their “Ultimate Test: Dad” ads after a huge backlash in the sub-universe of social media last week. Today I read a blog article on HuffingtonPost.com by Lisa Belkin, who interviewed Aric Melzl; the brand director for Huggies.
The post ends with this Shark Tank type of warm wisdom from Melzl:
“Huggies is reponding to unhappy men, because those men have the ear of women. All of this, the initial campaign, the full-on response, is targeted at moms… I don’t want there to be any question about who we we’re going after.’”
Even though dads now make up 1/3 of stay at home parents, that doesn’t necessarily equate to men buying at least 33% of the diapers. According to the article, we’re worth about 5% in terms of actually buying them.
As in my case, I don’t buy the diapers because I’m waiting in the car with our son, who is taking his Sunday afternoon nap, while my wife is inside Publix or Harris Teeter doing the shopping.
Okay, I get it; I am commercially worth 5% as a parent.
To be fair, though, Huggies is simply the untimely scapegoat at the crossroads of “Surprise! Dads are more active now than ever in their kids’ lives” and “social media will not let you get away with that kind of stuff anymore…”. Plenty (!) of other companies have been recently dissing husbands and dads in their ads; they just might have been a bit more subtle.
In fact, in my post last week about this whole fiasco, I featured a video clip montage of several recent ads making dads out to be the classic idiot father; including brands such as Lysol, Hasbro, Cheerios, Benadryl, Febreeze, Naturemade, Stanley Steamer, Glade Sense and Spray, Uno Attack, Walmart, Orville Rendenbacher’s, Ortho, and Yellowbook.
Here’s my prophecy on this: Huggies’ faux pas will serve as a bookmark and a warning to any other advertising companies who dare to reach the mom market by poking fun at the dads, even if in the slightest and most innocent of ways.
This event has marked the beginning of the end of “dad jabs” in advertising.
Let’s face it: There’s now officially an army of daddy bloggers ready to out the next unsuspecting dad-basher. But on the flip side, we’re also always on the look-out for paternal praise from advertisers.
I wonder if the blessing of the salvation of positive dad ads is equal to the damnation of the curse of dad-jab ads?
Even if we dads never end up buying the proper percentage of a product to be marketable, we still have the power (via daddy blogging, Twitter, etc.) to take away from a company’s “cool factor.”
Considering how eager businesses are to get people to “like” them on Facebook, it’s pretty clear in this economy, and in this age of social media relevance, that being cool matters more than ever before.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s a fact that dads are now more involved in their kids’ lives than any past generation we know of before us. Therefore, this change in culture effects buying trends and consumer demands. So it’s no surprise that the mini-van is being fazed out, as the “crossover SUV” is taking its place. Accordingly, dads are showing a greater presence in the carpooling lane.
That means something to automakers like General Motors; so much so, that a couple of weeks ago they flew me up to their Detroit headquarters to show me, along with several other “daddy bloggers,” how their Traverse is designed- with dads in mind.
By the end of our 22 hour visit, I thought to myself: “Wow, we are being treated as a valuable demographic here, not a classic stereotype…”.
Zach Rosenberg, co-creator of 8BitDad, said it in a way that made me jealous I didn’t think of it first:
“As the dads, we’re expected to be meat-heads, muscle car enthusiasts, and wallets.”
He’s right. Even at best, typically today when dads are portrayed in commercials for household products (advertisements which are typically geared towards women), men are shown making messes, getting lost, and ultimately being put into place by their thin, intelligent wife who saves them from their buffoonery.
Though it was one of my favorite sitcoms growing up, Tim Allen’s Home Improvement capitalized on this concept. I feel like there remains a subconscious backlash from sitcoms like that which says all men care about are sports, light beer, sex, and cars with big motors.
While I recognize that as a valid stereotype in American history, I am overly aware that I represent a completely different demographic of men.
Obviously, this new and relevant demographic holds a lot of weight, because I later found out that we daddy bloggers (who I assume most easilty represent the “active dad” group) were the only targeted group that GM invited to Detroit to show the designing of the Traverse to.
I’m not rich, famous or hugely influential; but General Motors made me personally feel important, desired, and valuable. Evidently, I serve as a relevant symbol of the modern American dad, who may or not even make as much money as his wife and who has learned to adopt certain roles as a parent that would have previously gone to his wife.
In my next post, I’m going to take you behind the doors of General Motors; showing you some of the cool ways they design and test out the Traverse.
But not because they pressured me in any way; I didn’t at all feel like I was being coerced into buying a time share in Florida or forcefully invited to join a pyramid scheme selling trendy diet pills.
Instead, they were real people who treated me like a real person. They even specifically gave me their blessing to include anything negative in my upcoming blog posts, but not to feel like I had to write about the visit at all.
Wow; an invitation to be vulnerably honest. How weird.
I represent the demographic of American dads who actually contribute the bettering of the American family and who actually has buying power when it comes to the family crossover SUV; not the idiot you see on TV who forgets his wife’s birthday.
GM understands that about us dads. That’s pretty cool; to be part a relevant demographic, not a sexist stereotype.
I have always been curious about the day Jack would finally meet his first dog. Up until this point, Jack has been introduced to several “dog like” creatures, including stuffed animal dolls of E.T. and Gizmo, but never an actual living canine. We spent the past weekend with some good friends in Nashville who happen to own the coolest dog I have ever met. Admittedly, I’m not a dog person.
But Max the Cockapoo is the equivalent of Falkor the Luck Dragon (that flying dog thing from The Neverending Story). And that is a very good thing. In fact, one of life’s biggest disappointments for me, as a kid in the ’80′s, was accepting the fact that there truly is no such thing as Luck Dragons. Max the Cockapoo doesn’t fly through the air, but he is one of the few dogs I have met who truly accepts me as I am and who doesn’t smell bad. He is one chillaxed dog. Therefore, he is totally my speed.
Naturally I had envisioned Jack and Max instantly becoming big buddies, since in essence, Max is the dog equivalent of Jack. I imagined Jack smiling real big whenever Max would walk up to him and I even expected Max and Jack to take naps together. But this bromance didn’t unfold that way, in reality. It’s not that they didn’t get along. It’s that Jack didn’t realize that Max was a living dog. Instead, I believe, Jack thought Max was the shag carpet rug he’s used to lying down on in our living room at home. To Jack, Max was simply a moving shag carpet rug.
But being the classy dog he is, Max didn’t take it personally. However, Max still did his dogly duty of looking after Jack. When Jack would cry, Max would rush over and sniff him. Of course, we humans fed and changed Jack’s diapers accordingly, but Max’s habit of sniffing Jack was his way of treating him like the youngest pup in the litter. Even when Jack pulled Max’s face fur, Max was cool about it.
It was by observing Jack and Max together that I taught myself that dogs don’t actually smell “bad things”. Instead, every smell is simply just another interesting smell. So the couple of times that Jack passed gas and Max hurried to come smell it, Max was simply getting a different form of a doggie treat. At least Jack could give Max that much. And it made great entertainment for us humans to watch.
For now, Max the Cockapoo is a white shag carpet in Jack’s eyes. But one day, Jack will understand the difference between humans, rugs, and dogs. And this inevitable friendship will occur. Jack will befriend the canine equivalent of himself and the two of them will be Joe Cool buddies, at last.