It’s June, John Lewis has stocked up on golf clubs and power drills and the internet is telling me to buy the Godfather Trilogy, a Silverstone driving experience or a day at a whiskey distillery for my pa. That’ right, Father’s Day cometh.
Why is it that retailers, advertisers and the media can come up with a veritable smorgasboard of fun, adventurous and genuinely awesome gift ideas for this day of Dad celebration, but when Mother’s Day rolls around all we seem to get are discount offers for geraniums or the Downton Abbey box set?
My Amazon sidebar helpfully suggests I buy a bunch of action films, books on military history, fishing equipment and, of course, camping equipment. Man stuff, for men. I’m pretty sure this same sidebar was valiantly insisting that The Best Of Abba and the latest Gardener’s World annual were similarly perfect for Mother’s Day procurement back in May. Stereotype much? What if we ladies want to go fishing? (I don’t – fish are DISGUSTING, but that’s just me) What if the Dads want to go on a spa day for some green- tea-sprinkled relaxation after all that exhausting societally enforced DIY and lawn mowing?
Then there are the cards. Trying to pluck a half decent Mother’s Day card from the offensive wall of pink, glitter and shoe punnery that confronted and confounded me last month, was exasperating. To my local greeting card shop – some women don’t joyfully foam at the mouth and fall into a euphoria induced coma at the sight of something pink. I hate it – and not because I’m a miserable fun sponge, but because it’s bland and reminds me of prawns, which I also hate. Incidentally, plenty of men like pink and sparkly things but I’ve yet to see such decoration in place of the staple footballs, beer and cars you find on Father’s Day cards.
When I have children, if they offer up any of this gendered bullshit on my parenting day, there will be trouble.
Thankfully there’s one breath of fresh air infiltrating the haze of pidgeonholed rubbish enveloping us this Father’s Day. American department store chain J.C. Penney has put out an ad featuring a gay couple from Texas playing with their two children. The small-print reads "First Pals - What makes Dad so cool? He's the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver - all rolled into one. Or two." Brilliant! Fist pumping celebratory hurrahs all around! Finally something to remind us all that society doesn’t just comprise a homogenised mass of cultural stereotypes.
J.C. Penney also included shots of a lesbian couple with their daughters in their Mother’s Day catalogue last month. Yay for diversity in advertising! Injecting a little reality into the way people and family dynamics are presented in terms of gender can only help educate society to look at men and women as individuals. You know, actual people rather than learned, robotic stereotypes.
Not everyone shares this opinion though. One Million Moms – the organisation described by the Guardian as ‘campaigning against fictional gay people’ - condemned the retailer for ‘taking sides’ when they should be taking a ‘neutral stand’. Umm what? So ‘taking sides’ translates to not being a raging Stepford wife endorsing homophobe? BAD J.C.Penney.
OMM claimed to merely be...wait for it... ‘protecting their children’ from ‘disrespect for family values and common decency.’ Presumably they want retailers and advertisers to do us a massive favour and stick to those social norms that we know and love – with Dad heaving up new shelves and Mum and her pesky ovaries whipping up cupcake mixture in the kitchen, while sons and daughters look on and learn their place in the world. It’s painting by numbers for gender roles – and it stinks.
This Father’s Day I want to see men everywhere clutching colossal bouquets of fuschia tinted flowers, fluffy ‘I Heart Dad’ stuffed penguins and Good Housekeeping magazines. Buy your pa anything but what mass media dictates you should, run him a lavender scented bubble bath, serve up the least macho cocktail you can find, and you know what, I bet he’ll bloody love it.