Stereotyping mums does not help gender equality

Last week we bought some antibacterial, eco baby wipes from a company called Mum & You. They describe themselves on their homepage as follows:

After we made the purchase we took the time to write to them to say we found their messaging around reinforcing a stereotype that explicitly and exclusively attaches women to baby care problematic. They wrote back saying:

“We completely support Dads and equal parenting, but we have to recognise that in the majority of cases it’s the Mum that most often takes parenting leave to care for a baby. Because of that, we believe that supporting Mums is the best way to achieve an equal society. By no means are we excluding Dads, we want to support every care giver.”

(Let me clarify one thing before I go on. This issue is not about excluding dads. I don’t feel excluded as a dad when I see their brand, just like I don’t feel excluded when I see other products not targeted at me.)

They then pointed us to a blog post from their CEO clarifying their brand position:

“To quote some statistics (ONS) for parents of young children in England, 90% of dads of children between 0–4 years of age work full time, whereas only 25% of mums work full time. As a dad, I hope I have had a great role in bringing up my kids. However, we dads can’t ignore the fact that in the critical early years of a child’s life, more often than not, it is the mum who is the primary carer.”

Well, we are off the hook chaps! Let’s get back to our careers and leave the baby stuff to the ladies.

Yes, the statistics are clear that more women than men take on the primary child care in the UK, so maybe it makes business sense to target your marketing more at mums than dads. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary or helpful to use messaging that reinforces these statistics, and it certainly doesn’t help create a more equal society.

To quote some other problematic statistics from the ONS:

“women put in more than double the proportion of unpaid work when it comes to cooking, childcare and housework”.

Does this mean that it is acceptable for cleaning products should be branded and targeted exclusively to women? Of course not.

Taking the opposite of stance of throwing these stereotypes out, like P&G do in this ad, is surely more helpful to creating equality.

I hope that Mum & You reconsider linking the idea of equality to reinforcing gender-based stereotypes, but this single company isn’t the extent of the issue.

It’s not uncommon to see baby products embellished with a “Made for Mums” award. If this award scheme was set up to specifically recognise products related to breastfeeding, pregnancy or child birth then clearly the products would be made for mums, but when I went off to Westfield looking for a changing mat I was surprised to see the messaging “Made for Mums” clearly reinforcing the idea that it’s a women’s job to change nappies:

This changing mat is made for mums because … 🤷

Being a mum or a dad is a big part of any parent’s identity, and I don’t believe these companies are ill-intentioned. But I would like the people leading these brands to read about the struggles and progress towards equality made by people like the recently departed Ruth Bader Ginsburg and ask themselves whether they are really inspiring this kind of progress or holding us back in the dark ages.

Founder / director of www.tickettailor.com (@tickettailor).