We are creating the change we want to see with how dads and men are portrayed in the media.
Several years ago, back before The Good Men Project was what it is today — before it was a website, before it was even a published book, or film, or series of events, or an international conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century — Tom Matlack and I were sitting in his office, talking about men. “The way men are portrayed in the media is not good,” Tom said passionately. “It’s either buffoons, or adulterers or cheaters or villains…look at Madison Ave. When was the last time you saw a man in a television commercial portrayed as a smart, capable dad?” We weren’t the first to have that conversation, of course, and we won’t be the last. Flash forward to today’s New York Times, where there is an article titled “Fathers Seek Advertising That Does Not Ridicule.” The article talks about Dad 2.0, a 3-day conference of over 200 bloggers and media professionals along with 44 brands and advertisers. The same conversation is happening, but it is bigger in scope, involving more men, dads, people, advertisers and media than we could have ever imagined.
I was at Dad 2.0, representing The Good Men Project as one of the Keynote Speakers there, on a panel where I talked about creating content, building a media company and how content gets distributed out across the web. Looking out across the sea of faces from my perch on the stage, I joked about how I knew most of the people in the room only by their Avatars. How nice to see they were real people — multidimensional, complex, passionate, guys who cared about their kids and talked about their lives. Men who opened up, with the truths as they knew them to be. Living, breathing, caring humans – not the one-dimensional stereotypes that so often get shown in the media. Not a single person there was the bumbling, incompetent dad you see in the media. That does not mean they did not have questions and concerns about their role as fathers or how to be better parents. But the guys I ran into at Dad 2.0 are not just talking about how dads roles are changing, but actually living it, by being great dads. Men were not only exchanging pictures of their kids, as the article points out, they were sharing heartfelt war stories, looking for advice, calling and texting their kids back home. Every time I heard another side of the story about how the dads were talking about parenting, I was struck by how the conversation about dads felt as important as any conversation I’ve ever had.
I was also struck with a sense of “My, how we’ve grown.” Many of the dads mentioned in The New York Times article are dads we have worked with over the years – Charlie Capen, Doug French, Chris Routely. Many more were at the conference and have helped us talk and blog about the conversation through the years we’ve been at it — Jim Higley, Al Watts, Jason Avant, Lance Somerfeld, Kenny Bodanis, Jason Greene, Chris Read, RJ Jaramillo, Whit Honea, Carter Gaddis, Andy Hinds, Jeff Bogle many, many others. At last years conference, we were there for the conversation about Huggies – we connected our most outraged bloggers directly with both the PR company and the client at last years Dad 2.0, and later worked with Edelman in putting together a roundtable of dads a few weeks later. This year, I had the pleasure of talking with the brands directly this year. The brands who want to be a part of the conversation about Dads are all those we see as true partners – Dove for Men + Care, who we’ve been working with for years, Huggies, Clorox, Toyota – with new potential partnerships with brands like Honda, ConAgra Foods, Turtle Wax and Maclaren Strollers. We believe in the brands who are committed to telling the story about how dads – and men – are evolving in true, authentic ways. And that, in turn, gives us a chance to tell the brand’s stories in new and creative ways as well.
The New York Times article quoted Rob Candelino, vice president for marketing at Unilever, who focuses on the Dove Men + Care product line. Mr. Candelino described the Dove Men + Care target customer as “a father, or an expectant one, who is in his late 30s and married, cares deeply about his role as a father and mentor, and is as comfortable having a tea party with his daughter as he is having beers with his friends.” And in a post we ran called “This is What Real Fatherhood Looks Like”, we couldn’t agree more:
Photos Credits: (Main Image) Dad 2.0 Facebook page, (tea party) Chris and Sammie in “This is What Real Fatherhood Looks Like.”