Language matters. Words have the power to shape our reality. So a bunch of hands-on Dads – some at-home, some the primary caregiver and some who share equitably – say they’re tired of getting e-mails from “Amazon Mom,” a discount program for the parents of toddlers addressed “Dear Mom,” with references to yoga class and losing baby weight. The same discount program in the UK, Japan, Germany and France is called “Amazon Family.” Why not in the United States? The Dads are turning up the pressure on Amazon to make that change. I spoke with Matt Schneider, co-founder of the City Dads Group and co-organizer of the New York City Dads Group – two of the largest Dad organizations – to find out why.
Q: When did Dads start the “Amazon Family” campaign and why?
Schneider: The campaign originally started about three years ago when Jeffery Harrington, an at-home dad in Topeka, Kansas, started a petition on Change.org calling for Amazon to change the name of their parent discount program from Amazon Mom to Amazon Family. Jeffrey didn’t get much traction until about a year later when Oren Miller, a parent blogger, called for Amazon to change the name of the program on his site and suggested that people sign the petition. Even with Oren’s call for change, Amazon didn’t respond. Sadly, Oren lost his life to cancer a few weeks ago. Oren was a prominent and beloved figure in the dad blogging community, and he will be missed by many of us. As a tribute, we have re-ignited his campaign to encourage Amazon to change the name of the program.
The other side of the story is that Amazon is under the mistaken impression that using “Mom” in the title of their program is a reference to everyone in a family that cares for children. They even say on their site that “Amazon Mom is open to anyone, whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent or caretaker.” I am tired of getting e-mails from Amazon addressed, “Dear Mom” . . . and so are my fellow dads that receive these e-mails. I won’t speak for all moms, but many that I know are also tired of the presumption that they care for their families on their own.
Q: Why it’s important to shift from titles like “Amazon Mom” and Mommy and Me” to Amazon Family and more gender neutral language. Why does that language matter?
Schneider: One reason for the shift is that these titles don’t reflect the way that families are living today. More and more dads are sharing parenting with their partners. More and more dads are primary caregivers, and more and more moms are primary breadwinners. Plus, the make-up of families is changing. Many families have two dads or two moms or single dads and moms parenting on their own. A title like Amazon Family is more inclusive and better reflects our changing world. Another reason for the shift is that it is time to take the pressure off moms to be everything to everybody.
Most mothers now work and provide some, half, or a majority of the income to support their families. These women are still mothers though, and our culture expects them to buy all the diapers, schedule all the music classes, and prepare all the meals. Small culture shifts matter. I don’t know that it has been studied, but my hunch is that a lot more moms would share these responsibilities with their partners if there wasn’t this presumption that this is what moms are “supposed” to do. My experience also tells me that a dad is a lot more likely to go to a “Baby and Me” music class rather than one called “Mommy and Me.”
Finally, these shifts have already taken place in so many other areas. Firemen are now firefighters. Policemen and now police officers. Stewardesses are now flight attendants. These new names don’t diminish the value or respect we have for the work, but they do reflect the changing demographic of people doing these jobs. By the way, Amazon only calls this program ‘Amazon Mom’ in the United States. In every other country, they already call it ‘Amazon Family’
Q: What kind of response have you gotten – from other moms and dads – from other retailers – from Amazon?
Schneider: The feedback has been pretty unanimous– this is an easy and obvious change for Amazon to make. As of today though, Amazon has yet to respond. They have not even given a “no comment” to us, or to the significant number of calls they have received from press outlets. This has not been an angry movement and there are no threats of boycotts. Many of us are happy and lucrative Amazon customers, and we hope Amazon is listening to our feedback.
Q: Your organization has played a role part of pushing back against some offensive “Dads are dolts” ad campaigns like the one Huggies put on the air a few years ago. Are the voices of involved Dads growing in power as a movement?
Schneider: With City Dads Group, we have seen a major shift in the way that marketers are portraying dads. Not too long ago, dads were shown as buffoons that couldn’t manage even the simplest childcare or household tasks, and superhero mom had to come in to save the day. We have had the opportunity to sit down with many brands to give them a better sense of what is really going on in homes based on the thousands of dads that are part of our groups across the United States. In most cases, these have been light bulb moments for ad execs when they realize that both moms and dads are caring for their kids, and portraying the parenting partnership appeals to both.
The Super Bowl this year was full of commercials that showed dads as caring and capable, and we’re very excited that big brands like Dove Men+Care and Nissan are leaving the tired stereotypes behind. And it’s not just typical “male” dominated brands– companies like Britax, Baby Bjorn, and Huggies are also recognizing that dads are part of the family, and we’re parenting competently right alongside our partners.
The “dad movement” is heartening because it is has been needed for a long time. As women and moms have become an increasingly important part of the workforce as all levels, we as dads have an opportunity to increase our responsibilities at home. For some, moms and dads parenting together is not new and is happening. For others, these cultural shifts open people’s minds to the possibility of what life at home can look like. If we can break down the stereotypes, couples can make decisions based on what is good for their families, rather than what is expected.
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