What goes on at a fatherhood conference? Duncan Fisher reports from the latest Dad 2.0 conference held in San Francisco this month.
The fatherhood field is changing. A new phenomenon is emerging in US, the land of unlimited confidence and enterprise. A grass roots community of fathers on-line is starting to campaign for social change.
We’ve had campaigners, and we’ve had fathers on-line, but not the two together. And there is another significant new development to support this – money is coming into fatherhood. Dove, Lego, Kia, Esquire, Best Buy, Hasbro, Netgear are all after fathers. The “dadvertising” around the 2015 Super Bowl (dubbed #daddybowl) will mark a turning point in the history of 21st century fatherhood.
I have waited and wished for this moment for 10 years and in San Francisco this month at the Dad 2.0 Summit, I saw it. Better than that, I was part of it!
The video of the summit sets a new agenda, both in its tone and in what it says. A community of bloggers is becoming a movement – leaders, fighters, organisers and influencers for change.
There is now open rebellion by men against the patriarchal norms still lurking around, which despise emotion, vulnerability and care in men. Dove has captured the moment with its #realstrength campaign. Real strength is the ability to show love and tenderness – it is the pole opposite of the strength of the patriarch. I think Dove has got the messaging spectacularly right. There was a celebratory tone at the conference: men really are walking the talk.
At the same time, again and again speakers were able to admit to their own sense of vulnerability. Dave Lesser (@AmateurIdiot) read a beautiful blog post about the crushing of his confidence by the rejection of his two-year-old in favour of mum, matched only by the crushing of her confidence when the allegiance flips the other way. How I remember those moments (as I now experience the new wave of the confidence busting teenage years).
The ideal modern dad
One setback and it resonates with all the doubting questions that are swilling about everywhere. It is not just “am I a useless dad?” but “are all dads useless?” and “am I biologically pre-determined to be useless?” and “should I just give up and go back to work where men actually belong and leave this to women?” and “am I just unable to live up to the new modern ideal of the dad?”
As I was sitting in the luscious Kia hatchback (wondering just how long elegant cream leather would last the onslaught of toddlers), I asked the marketing guys watching over their precious toy, why they have suddenly switched to dads. The answer was simple: advertising to mums has reached saturation point and they have to find another way forward. And when it comes to buying things, as with everything else in family life, research shows that dads are a whole lot more influential than the conventional world-is-flat wisdom would have it.
The Dad2.0 summit, now in its fourth year, was directly instrumental in persuading Dove to go for fatherhood at the Super Bowl, and this has created a domino effect. This is going to have big consequences from now on. The massively maternal focus of absolutely everything to do with babies – even the stuff for and about dads has actually been produced with little effort to appeal to men - is all driven by commercial interests. Babycenter, Bounty and Mumsnet are founded on this money. Now their commercial backers are going to start saying they want to appeal to dads – really to connect with them, understand them, like them, create stuff they actually read. The earth is moving.
We need Dad2.0 in Europe. Anyone reading this who’d be interested to be involved, do get in touch!
Duncan Fisher was one of the founders and CEO of the Fatherhood Institute and is currently developing a project called MumsAndDadsNet.
To mark the launch of the film Down Dog, insideMAN is running a series of articles about fatherhood throughout February and we'd love you to get involved. You can join the conversation on twitter by using the hashtag #MenBehavingDADly; leave a comment in the section below or email us with your thoughts and ideas for articles to insideMANeditor@gmail.com.
For more information about the film see www.downdogfilm.com