Playskool, a division of Hasbro usually touted for bringing Mr. Potato Head into our children’s lives, found itself at the center of a Twitter firestorm over the weekend. On Friday, the brand tweeted a question directed at fathers that many prominent dad bloggers construed as outdated and sexist:
The reaction from dads on Twitter was swift. "Not sure where the question is coming from, but as a work-at-home Dad I'd say every day -- unless the kids are actually 'in charge,'" James Zahn, aka The Rock Father replied right away. John Wiley, whose blog is actually called Daddy's In Charge, simply wrote, "Check out my Twitter Handle."
Their responses, and the couple dozen that followed, indicate that the growing cohort of dad bloggers that includes Zahn and Wiley is becoming more vocal and effective about educating brands on the changing landscape of American families. Major media, HuffPost included, has reported extensively on the "daddy track," meaning the rise of stay-at-home-dads, dads who are primary care-givers at home or whose work is purposely flexible in response to a sagging economy and high unemployment rates. Last May, The Wall Street Journal stated: “Even a casual observer of American family life knows that dads now drive kids to more doctors' appointments, preside over more homework assignments and chaperone more playdates.” And less than a week before Playskool's misstep, The New York Times reported on this year's Dad 2.0 conference, an event with the sole purpose of connecting influential fathers with marketers. The newspaper's headline, which appeared on the front page of its business section, could not have been more clear: "Don’t Call Him Mom, or an Imbecile."
Yet, the dad bloggers are the ones taking brands to task each day, making sure that a question like Playskool's doesn't go unnoticed. Before the first Dad 2.0 conference, they famously called out Huggies for launching an ad campaign based on stereotypical "bumbling dad" stereotypes, which resulted in commercials being pulled. And representatives from Kimberly Clarke, who owns Huggies, flew to Austin, Texas where the conference was held to apologize.
If this all sounds a little familiar, perhaps it is because this band of dads are not unlike, well, moms. As HuffPost Parents senior columnist Lisa Belkin has written, dads today are a lot like mothers who have had to fight for recognition in the workplace and respect for their choices.
But was Playskool's tweet a punishable offense? Some parents said they plan to stop buying Playskool products wholesale. Based on apologies from the brand offered via Twitter to individuals who who were offended, that might be a misguided knee-jerk reaction. (The Huffington Post reached out to Playskool for comment, but had not heard back as of Monday morning.)
"Our intent was that kids sometimes take over the household," Playskool told Scout Masterson, a gay dad, who gained a following after appearing on "Tori and Dean." Father of two, Chris, who blogs at CanadianDad.com, pointed out that they are usually pro-dad in their communications, and linked to this sweet image the brand posted on Facebook the day before their Twitter debacle.
Despite their explanation, we do know for sure that Playskool's question went unanswered. Nobody LOL'd. The brand received only one RT without snarky comment. One "favorite." And countless complaints.
Does dad ever have a day when he gets to be in charge? Yes, often, and this weekend, Playskool, dad schooled you.
Take a look at some of the responses to Playskool below, then let us know if you think their question was misconstrued or believe it was a big ol' social media fail.