Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parenting Editor Responds to Allegations of Dad Bias Advice

Sean Bean, Editor of Parenting Magazine and Parenting.com is a man we respect very much and we appreciate his friendship and kindness in including us in his magazine on occasion. Yesterday, he responded to allegations that one of the articles published on Parenting.com, The New Playdate Playbook, includes advice from an expert that exhibited an unfair bias against dads. In addition to my post yesterday, questions of dad bias came from mainstream parenting sites like Huffington Post and Babble, feminist websites like Jezebel, and sites focused on men's issues like The Good Men Project.

You should read his response yourself, Sleepovers in the Sandusky Era, but basically, he suggests that we as parents are living in difficult and complicated times, there are in fact parents who are concerned about men supervising children, and they are entitled to their opinion. I agree, and I especially appreciated this point:
The 21st century parenting universe is vast. And as the message boards and comment fields on Parenting.com prove, it’s full of vastly different opinions. If would be easy if the only issue during a playdate or sleepover was a wet sleeping bag or a skinned knee. But that’s not the case any more. Gay parents, single dads, divorce, and violent video games are all part of the conversation. They are woven into the fabric of the modern American family. But for some, what’s different is what’s unfamiliar. And what's unfamiliar is what's unsettling. Ever made a difficult, maybe even irrational, decision based on the unknown? Another way to ask that question is: Ever been a parent?
That said, there are two points in this discussion that I think Bean is missing. First, the article frames the response as "expert" advice from a PhD, a therapist, and owner of a counseling center. Though I agree that "experts" deserve their own opinion, I think the inflammatory nature of the advice deserves to be countered with another point of view rather than left on it's own. To Bean's point, we are living in complicated and difficult times, and Parenting and Parenting.com needs to be resources for parents as we navigate scary news stories, technologies we don't understand, and media that we don't even know about. We don't need more fear mongering.

My second concern comes at the end of the piece when he says "five tween girls texting and braiding and gossiping and squealing and (let’s be honest, not) sleeping might be beyond my skill set." First, though Bean acknowledges that his experience is not the issue, he does have an opportunity here to represent a broader picture of what it means to be a dad. The brouhaha is about divorced dads, but the same questions and concerns are coming up about single dads, widowed dads, at-home dads, and gay dads. Whether within our skill set or not, sometimes we are called upon to step up to something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Some fathers don't have the opportunity to "opt out" of a tween sleepover, or braiding their daughters' hair before school, or the first period, or bra shopping, so they step up, do the best they can, and they deserve nothing less than our respect.

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