I can’t remember the last time I changed a diaper, so I pay little attention to diaper commercials.
But I noticed one the other day and took great offense to it, which is no small feat given that I don’t take offense easily.
You could tell me that I write like a two-bit hack whose prose isn’t worthy of the bathroom stalls at the rest stop on Interstate 95, and I’d shrug it off and recommend you read someone else’s work.
But I take great offense to the latest round of television commercials for Huggies diapers and wipes.
The campaign plays on a stereotype of men as inept fathers who can’t change a diaper without calling tech support. I’ve caught the commercial just twice on television, but it struck me as offensive the moment I saw it.
I searched the Internet to see if I was being overly sensitive. I don’t think I am.
Huggies’ Facebook page proudly displays a picture of four confident fathers holding their babies, who are sporting only a diaper.
“Nominate a Dad,” it reads boldly.
“Help us prove that Huggies diapers can stop leaks better, and that our wipes can clean messes better, by putting them to the ultimate test … Dad.”
Why is Dad “the ultimate test” for diapers? Presumably because he can’t figure out how to change a diaper properly without making a mess.
Of course, the page doesn’t say that, but that’s the insinuation. The stereotype.
A video on the page makes it even worse: “To prove Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable. Dads. Alone with their babies. In one house. For five days. While we gave Moms some well-deserved time off.”
Woah, you can’t really expect dads to take care of their babies alone, can you? Why, leaving a dad alone with his baby for any period longer than a commercial break during the Super Bowl is practically child abandonment.
And a group of them alone in one house for five days? Who would do such a thing to those poor babies? That’s, that’s, that’s just cruel. Someone should call social services.
If that’s the toughest test Huggies’ marketers can imagine, they need to hang around a few children for a spell and exercise their imagination harder.
How about test in which the whole family goes on a day-long hike through the woods, and both mom and dad thought the other grabbed the diaper bag? Baby only has one diaper. How long will it last?
But perhaps that just isn’t funny because it makes fun of no one.
Let’s flip this commercial around and switch companies to see if I’m overreacting.
The Ultimate Test: Mom. Nominate a mom to help us prove that Staples is the better store for your office needs.
Can you see a commercial for Staples featuring a group of women who have succeeded at stocking their office with supplies for one low price, and then celebrating that success as though it were a surprise?
I’m several years beyond my diaper-changing days, so I’m not certain why I find this Huggies campaign so irritating. Perhaps it’s because I remember days when both my wife and I had trouble with leaky diapers.
It’s not a uniquely dad problem anymore than it is a uniquely mom problem. It’s a parenting problem, and both genders need to deal with it periodically. Why point out one as the offender?
I realize stereotypes sometimes sprout from smallest seed of truth, but that doesn’t mean we should fertilize them, especially companies that are trying to win our hard-earned money.
After all, for every man who gives credence to the stereotype of the inept dad, I can find many who discredit it. Those are the dads companies should highlight.