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Is the name Mothercare sexist?

Is the name Mothercare sexist?

Do you remember when Iceland brought back their ‘That’s why mums go to Iceland’ slogan a few years ago?

I remember hearing it and thinking, “What, like dads can’t go food shopping?” Little did I know a few years later, neither my husband nor I would go food shopping at all. Instead, food would be delivered to my flat by a Tesco employee every Sunday between 4:00 and 5:00, and I’d marvel that I’d ever wasted time pushing a shopping trolley around a supermarket, dodging pensioners and impulse buying posh crackers.

Anyway, the point is that the Iceland slogan bothered me, because men are perfectly capable of buying frozen fish fingers for their kids too. And yet I’ve spent the past two years throwing my money at Mothercare without ever thinking about the name.

MOTHERcare.

I only started thinking about it because I read an article by Matt O’Connor, a father who is calling for Mothercare to change its name.

“In an age of equality…isn’t the casual sexism of a name like ‘Mothercare’ an anachronism?”

He may have a point, I thought. After all, mothers aren’t the only ones who care for kids. Yes, the majority of childcare is still carried out by mothers – according to the Fatherhood Institute, fathers only do 24 minutes of childcare for every hour a mother puts in – but it’s hardly right to exclude them completely. Dads can do pretty much anything a mum can do, minus the boobin’. Their penis doesn’t affect their ability to change nappies, wipe snotty noses, sterilise dummies, or…well, CARE.

A name like Mothercare sends the message that childrearing is a lady thing – which it’s not. It can’t be. Parenting is fecking hard, and it needs to be a team effort.

If, after the birth of our daughter, my husband had said, “Cool – I’m just going to leave you to it, yeah?”, I would have divorced him so fast. Thankfully, he’s not a dick, so we’ve made this parenting thing work together. Sometimes he sacrifices his career to support childcare, and sometimes I do. We’ve both endured sleepless nights, the ‘no’ phase and dozens of toddler viral infections. We take turns watching the YouTube video for ‘Bear Necessities’ from The Jungle Book on repeat. It’s a catchy song, but not, you know, the 12th time you’ve heard it in a row.

Look, I know that the name of a shop is hardly the most important thing in the struggle for a more equal balance in childcare. More generous shared parental pay would help entice men to share leave with their partner after their child’s birth. Efforts need to be made to close the gender pay gap. Our whole culture needs to shift away from the idea that women should be the primary caregivers. If Mothercare became Parentcare tomorrow, none of that would change.

So…am I going to stop shopping at Mothercare if they don’t change their name? Umm, no. It’s really convenient for me and they have lots of stuff. But at least it will bother me a little.

Top image © Indi Samarajiva under the Creative Commons license 

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19 thoughts on “Is the name Mothercare sexist?”

  • Hmm. This has got me thinking. I must admit it has only very fleetingly crossed my mind that the name might be a bit too mother-exclusive, and as I’m a single mother, I don’t spend an awful lot of time thinking about why fathers might feel excluded from x, y or z, because it feels like something that doesn’t affect me directly in the same way that other issues of sexism do. I think that if a store with that name was set up today, I probably would have something to say about it, but Mothercare has been around so long and is such a piece of the cultural landscape that I don’t really think about the name-it just “is.” Having said that, it’s difficult to argue against the fact that the prominence of the word “mother” in the title is just another one of those little niggling things that normalise the view that mothers do the lion’s share of the parenting. Something to think about, definitely.

    • Yeah, I can see why people don’t really question the name because it’s been around so long – I certainly didn’t, and I shop there all the time. The name is a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it does reinforce the idea that mothers should do most of the childcare.

  • Actually, you have a pint. I’ve never thought about it but that’s the point I suppose. We just accept it but perhaps it is wrong? I also have a bit of an issue with these ads that put men down as if they are crap at housework. I mean, my hubbie does his share and he is definitely not crap. Good post….got me thinking. x #dreamteam

  • Yes the name has been around a long time but is that really a reason for it not to be changed or does that make it any less sexist? Let’s be honest if it was the other way around there would have been a name change a long time ago. Having said that there does seem to be more important things that need changing.

    I read about the campaign for the name change online a couple of weeks ago. I asked my husband what he thought about it. His comments were interesting.

    He doesn’t like going in Mothercare without me or our baby because he feels he doesn’t belong there! He points out that the general feel of the store is all about mums- even pictures up on the walls portray Mums and babies. He has no problem going to the kids department in TK Maxx or John Lewis but mothercare for some reason is a different story. Now his feeling of exclusion by the brand isn’t because of the name it must go deeper than that. It seems mad that a brand like Mothercare is risking losing business from males just because John Lewis or wherever make them feel more comfortable when shopping there.

    Interestingly if you visit the Mothercare website and have an account as a male (or tell them your a male) the name of the store in the header changes to Fathercare.

  • I’m glad you’re not going to let the name bother you enough to stop shopping at a place you like. I decided a long time ago to choose my battles, not be offended by every tiny little thing and get on with living. None of us uses speech that is entirely free of “isms” of one sort or another. For example, your remark about “dodging pensioners” could be offensive to some of my older friends, though most are too busy getting on with life to take offense at every innocent bit of ageism that they encounter.

  • You’ve definitely sparked my pondering this evening as I’d never really given it a thought before now. It probably is somewhat out of touch with today’s parenting, but I guess the name/brand as a whole is historically imprinted into our high streets. I don’t think a new brand would adopt such a heavily biased name today, but I also think that changing it wouldn’t really be necessary for me either. Definitely a good point though. x

  • Some thoughtful pondering here. I like that the website is flexible and changes. But it was interesting to read that fathers don’t feel comfortable going in there… that is more troubling than the name. I wonder what they will do? #dreamteam

  • Great points you raising here. My husband can do pretty much everything, yes he couldn’t breastfeed – which is a nobrainer but he was a very hands on father when our kids were babies. These days he will do the girls’ hair if I can’t and although it’s not the way that I would do it. Perhaps it should be brought to their attention so that they are aware of it and you never know they might change the name.#dreamteam

  • An interesting point. Mothercare has been around for donkey’s years and to change the name would be bad for business reasons I guess, Parentcare just doesn’t have the same ring to it! My husband loves going in there and he doesn’t mind one bit browsing around even if I’m not there! x

    #fortheloveofBLOG

  • Daddycare!!! Has a bit of a ring to it! 😁we’d all soon be pissed off then! My OH has been on fire today. Dunno where I’d be without him! Ohh yeah prob abroad somewhere hot right now with alcohol, not sat with a zillion kids around our feet that HE gave me lol!

  • I never even thought about the name like you said and have seen it for years, and how much easier is getting your shopping delivered – mine is every Thursday 7-8pm from asda #ablogginggoodtime

  • Mothercare sells a lot of maternity stuff, breast pads, that kind of thing, so I can see why it’s very mum-focussed as it’s women who grow the baby and deal with leaky nipples, but yeah, a rebrand wouldn’t hurt to be more inclusive of men and women in the care of babies once they’re in the world.

  • You’ve hit the nail on the head in your final statement. It bothers me too – this lazy sterotyping and generalisation sends the wrong message to our children. However, I can also see why a massive corporation won’t change it’s name and I won’t boycott them for it….. golly I’m such a hypocrite! #ablogginggoodtime

  • Oooh you know I have never actually thought about it, (oops) but yeah not a great choice of name is it? I am going to google when it was founded… I will probably still shop there too, because for us it is an afternoon out and the children love going there to play with the toys (don’t ask, I am sure we actually have more toys than Mothercare but whatever) however I think parentcare has nice ring to it?!

  • Tssssh.. Yes it’s a shop for kids stuff and yeh both women and men raise children, but it also sells pregnancy related, labour and breastfeeding stuff, which I’m sorry is for women. Sadly as much as we’d love them to, men can’t grow and give birth to a baby, or breastfeed. The name really doesn’t bother me – sorry! I think sometimes people are just looking for an argument with these things. #DreamTeam

  • Yes I agree. it’s the same as “Fireman Sam” recently where London’s Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton decided that she wanted the name changed to Fire fighter Sam because it stopped girls wanting to be fire fighters. I think she herself look quite naive because of the millions of pounds it would cost to rebrand the series and the merchandise it’s just not going to happen. It’s the same for Mothercare, and whilst I’d like to see the sexism against men cut back as much as I’d like to see women doing these jobs, I don’t think that accepting these as historical names is that much of an issue.

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