Mumsnet is the UK’s biggest network for parents to swap advice, the site generates over 60 million page views and 10 million visits per month. It was set up in 2000 for both men and women, however besides the title of ‘Mumsnet’, photographs of pregnant women and the chat threads with titles including: ‘feminism’, ‘8+ day period’ and ‘menopause’. It does not exactly entice the men to hang around on the website, let alone join in on the discussions!
This begs the question, is there a need for a ‘man-friendly’ version of the site? Why is it that that Mother’s get all the attention when it comes to parenting and dads hardly gets a look in?
In 2011 a coalition of father’s group including Justice for Fathers, Men Can Be Mothers Too and Fathers Need Forums, took legal action against Mumsnet, claiming they are victims of gender discrimination (BBC news, April 2011).
A spokesman for the Fathers Against Discrimination (FADs) group, said: “It seems grossly unfair that mothers are constantly asked their opinion and dads are not, purely on the basis of gender. We are concerned that our lack of voice will lead to a culture where increasingly men are seen as an irritating irrelevance useful only for procreation, setting the Sky Plus and removing spiders from the bath.
So, where is ‘Dadsnet’? There is in fact, a website called exactly that! Dadsnet was set up 2008, with only 2011 members, it is a forum set up primarily for dads, and in the founders own words ‘less radical feminism and more testicles’. There is also small section on ‘Mumsnet’ called ‘Dadsnet’ but, again the interest and posts are significantly lower than the female orientated sections. I came across a thread titled ‘where are all the men?’ in which women’s replies were: ‘Is the footy on?’ ‘ They are probably watching Top Gear’.
In light of Father’s Day this week, India Knight a columnist of the Sunday Times, was amused by the the idea of Dadsnet; “A man would not go not go online for hours to explain to strangers that he was tired after looking after the children all day. He would go to bed”. I agree that discussing problems, whether it is in person or over the internet, is a predominantly female trait, and that the lack of dad orientated forums (in my opinion), is not through lack of opportunity but through lack of will.
Things have come a long way from the stereotypical image of the father sitting in front of the television after a long day at work, while mum does the housework and takes care of the children. News this week that fathers could be given a month’s paternity leave and paid at almost twice the present rate, under proposals being considered by Labour, supports the changing roles of the modern day dad. Never-the-less, I don’t think we can ever prevent the ‘battle of the sexes’- women are always going to complain/make fun of men (for example watching too much football and leaving the toilet seat up), and vice versa. The fact that the majority of fathers do not spend hours online fretting about the best way to change a nappy or comparing notes on their children’s nursery, does not make them any less of a parent compared to women, there will always be the need for a male role model- some things are simply down to genetics!