Consider this hypothetical scenario:
You take an outing to the grocery store to buy food for your family. Upon your arrival you see an empty parking spot RIGHT BY THE ENTRANCE. Your mind screams, “SCORE!” Your giddiness is smashed when you approach the parking spot and a sign reading “Reserved for customers who happen to be buying milk,” staring you right in the face. Your lactose intolerant body has betrayed you by its inability to digest a cow’s milk. You curse your un-evolved stomach as you drive to the other side of the known world in search of a parking spot so you can feed your family.
HORRIFIC ISN’T IT.
As a new father, I am the victim of discrimination. I, like all men, are discriminated against due to something that we can not control – our gender. We men are not catered to when it comes to all things pregnancy. When you have a spare 4 hours, enter your local book store and count all the books about being a good parent that are written for women. The next day when you have a spare 23 seconds, go back and count the books written for men who want to be a good parent. It is a staggering difference. You will find that many of the books written for women stress emotional bonding with your child coupled with research from years of child rearing. The books written for men usually involve illustrations involving stick figures making less than happy faces while changing a diaper and some type of list. The intellectual bias is staggering. WAIT WAIT WAIT … men have earned this, haven’t they? Raising a newborn is a woman’s job. Right? Was that last sentence offensive to you? It should be. That feeling of “I KNOW YOU DIDN’T” that you are experiencing right now is what I felt when I saw this as I was pulling into a CHOICE parking spot yesterday.
As I drove away to another spot, my mind would not leave this alone. I mean why not change it to read “Stork Parking for New Parents and Mothers to Be” Why choose to omit the father who is bringing his infant with him. As I approached the doors, I decided to ask about that sign and what would happen if I, as a man, brought my infant to this store and dared to park my Jeep in that coveted spot.
Being a small town, I knew the woman who happened to be working when I came in. With a smile, I asked about the sign and what would happen if I parked there with my new infant. Flatly, she said, “nothing.” Taken aback and shocked about the lack of penalty, I repeated the facts. “So, I can park there as long as I have my kid with me.” The reply was a firm, “Yep.” I also asked the manager on duty, his comment was something similar to,” We at ___, want to provide the most comfort for our new mothers who shop with us…” When he said the word “mothers” my eyebrow raised. He saw the question coming, and said, “…and fathers.” I thanked him and paid for my goods and went to my Jeep.
I looked at the sign as I drove away, and I felt worse. Apparently, men who are fathers do not factor in the decision on what to have printed on signs that will be placed in front of stores nationwide? They do not care if you, a man, park there but they will not nor even consider using a gender neutral word on the sign? Are men such horrible parents to newborns that we aren’t even in the equation of consideration when it comes to preferred parking at stores? Other places get it…
Why can’t men get the same billing in the parenting department? Why do men get such a bad rap? Has the world not evolved to the point that the man’s role in the parenting and care of a newborn is equal to that of women?
Some places get it. Some fathers have ascended. When will American men earn respect of shop owners and corporate conglomerates and actually have a DAD WITH CHILD PARKING sign considered? I honestly think that those days are still far into the future. Infants and newborns have a stigma attached to them. Mothers care for the babies. Men don’t. That very stigma is the cause of the discrimination I now face.
I don’t know what to do to combat the lack of respect that people of my gender face. However, I do have an idea about what to do about those signs.