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.
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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