The Dads Left Out of Father’s Day Marketing

by | June 16, 2013
filed under Feminism

IMG_1906by Jarrah Hodge

I want to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, but in particular, to the dads that are left out of the mainstream Father’s Day marketing. Let’s take a look at who those dads are:

Gay Dads:

How many cards do you see on the Hallmark shelves that let you send best wishes to both your moms or dads for Mother’s or Father’s day? The answer would be none. This year South Carolinian Kristiana Johnston started a petition to change that but so far the company has no plans on the books.

And if we really want to celebrate all fathers, how about taking a minute today to support gay parents’ right to marry and adopt their kids? Freedom to Marry and the Campaign for Southern Equality have put together this video about two North Carolinians who aren’t allowed to have their marriage recognized in their home state, or to adopt their four foster kids.

Read more about 8 gay families celebrating Father’s Day this year at the Freedom to Marry website.

Trans Dads:

Whether you identify as “Maddy” like Jennifer Finney Boylan, as a woman who is also a father, a man who is pregnant or has given birth, or a trans man who is parenting in any other way, Happy Father’s Day. As the author of the genderqueer Tumblr says: “These families are unique, and unique families have to be strong and loving to make it in our society.”

Dads of Colour:

Main image on for Father's Day

Main image on for Father’s Day

The lack of positive representations of dads of colour, immigrant dads and multiracial families in pop culture reinforces how we think of fathers and Father’s Day. Along with the dated ideal of masculinity we see in Father’s Day cards and advertisements comes an image of the father as white. Today on, every single Father’s Day e-card that showed a dad depicted that dad as white.

Papa's Day card

Papa’s Day card

On the plus side, there are people working on cool projects to show and celebrate more diverse dads. The Strong Families campaign has a number of free, gorgeous ecards for “Papa’s Day” that represent all kinds of families. Another example I came across this week is artist Janine Macbeth’s new children’s book, “Oh, Oh, Baby Boy”, which is designed to promote engaged fatherhood and positive images of loving men of colour. She told Colorlines:

As I started working on the book and working through all that negative self-talk that shuts you down, you know, nobody is going to care, nobody wants to see this, I realized that the fact that Lome [my husband] is a person of color made it that much more important to do the book, because he’s expressed frustration about the lack of positive images of men of color and dads of color in the world.

All Other Dads Who Aren’t Into Ties, Beer, Grilling, Cufflinks, Power Tools, Gadgets or the Outdoors:

Ad for Father's Day gifts at Chapters/Indigo.

Ad for Father’s Day gifts at Chapters/Indigo.

You wouldn’t know it from the marketing around Father’s Day, but not all dads work in jobs that require ties and cufflinks. They don’t all love drinking beer while grilling red meat or lounging in a fishing boat with their buddies. They aren’t all great at home repair and they don’t all feel emasculated by using non barbeque-related cooking supplies.

A side note on the dated but nevertheless omnipresent idea of giving your dad a tie for a present: it doesn’t only speak more to a white-collar middle-class; it’s also kind of sexist. Giving a dad a tie implies that his role as a father is defined by what he does at the office (earn money to support a wife and kids) instead of at home. Hence the Mother’s Day gifts that define a mom by what she does in the home: cooking, cleaning, appliances. But that’s for another post.

Ultimately, whether you’re a dad who’s into basketball or ballet, computers or crochet, grilling or gardening or all of the above, it shouldn’t matter. If you love your kids and show it, you deserve to be celebrated today.

I’ll close with this video from Miss Representation, in particular celebration of dads, like mine, who empower their daughters:

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