Medicinal bias and the exclusion of dads

There’s a scene in the 1983 movie “Mr. Mom” where the mother looks at their three kids with concern and exclaims, “Look guys, take it easy on daddy. Remember, he’s a rookie.”

Now more than three decades removed from the film with the pejorative name that never goes away, there’s still some of the prevailing message and sexist vibe that also never wants to disappear.

That message is loud and clear: that dad is not an equal, competent parent.

Marketers and media tell us this every day, and never before has this been more evident than at the digital pages of Hyland’s, Inc., which again remind us that parental and gender equality hasn’t come very far since Michael Keaton’s early years.

Let’s start with one of its recent campaigns, which boldly proclaims that “there is no greater power on earth than a mother.”hylands4.jpg

Of course that’s only partially true, because it forgets the equal, equivalent power of the other parenting half.

But wait, there’s more.

That page begins with the declaration, “There are things only a mother knows,” and finishes with “we will take care of moms, so they can take care of the world.hylands6.jpg

It’s all very wonderful writing, but it’s hard to imagine why the author purposely went out of the way to exclude dads. Are fathers that meaningless when it comes to raising families? Are they really that inept at providing medicine for kids and families? Aren’t dads just as important to families as moms?

The dad exclusion doesn’t really end there. You can find mom-centered elements sprinkled throughout its website, which purposely wards off dads at every chance it gets. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an image of a father anywhere on its site.

All of it gets particularly obdurate at the Hyland’s Mom’s 1st Club, where it offers a hylands5.jpgrewards and loyalty program specifically designed for moms. No, not parents – moms. But the awkwardness of the title reaches a crescendo when you discover that none of the program’s perks have anything to do with being female. It’s validated when you fill out the form to join; there’s no gender checkbox, which makes the overall effort mirror that of such parental exclusionary programs as Disney Moms.

So go for it, dads – you too can join the Hyland’s Mom’s 1st Club!

It’s all a bit of oddity for a company that could use a shot in the arm. In October 2010, it voluntarily took teething tablets off the market and was faced with a challenging year, according to its website. But focusing on only half of the parenting population seems to be a strange way to build market share.

If the Hyland’s overarching storyline seems to mimic the ambiance of “Mr. Mom,” you’re not mistaken. And yet as successful as “Mr. Mom” was for its time, it bears mentioning that there was never a sequel, the go-to bread-and-butter for any Hollywood studio executive.

Let’s hope Hyland’s can make some corrections to its site soon and make dads feel like equal, competent players in the parenting game. Fatherhood has changed dramatically since the days of Michael Keaton’s portrayal.

Will Hyland’s change too?