Piers Morgan, the nation’s least favourite breakfast show host and all-round unpleasant bloke, has once again made some ridiculous comments in his constant quest for attention. This time, he’s attacking critically-acclaimed James Bond actor Daniel Craig for carrying his baby daughter in a papoose, using the bizarre hashtag ‘#emasculatedbond’. Beyond the fact that James Bond is a misogynistic alcoholic who shouldn’t be used as a role model, and that Craig is not a problematic super-spy in reality, Morgan’s statement makes no sense. But the implication that a papoose somehow robs someone of masculinity speaks to the larger societal problems revolving around men and care-giving.
young men are being actively discouraged from looking after their children full-time
Men aren’t discouraged from having children by any means, but even in 2018 there’s still a prevailing feeling that once the child is born, responsibility divides: the stiff-upper-lipped husband goes out and earns money, while the nurturing, gentle wife takes time off to fully assume the maternal role. Though the number of stay-at-home mums is at an all-time-low, only 9% of mothers according to an ONS survey, women are largely still expected to work part time, whilst men are full-time breadwinners. The 2018 Modern Families Index, put together by charity Working Families, revealed that 90% of fathers surveyed worked full-time, compared to a mere 51% of mothers. In addition, men are only guaranteed a maximum of two weeks paternity leave, whilst women can be granted six weeks with 90% pay, and up to a full year with ‘decent pay’. With no financial safety net and societal pressure to provide for their children, young men are being actively discouraged from looking after them full-time.
It’s not just economics that cause issues, however; advertising and the media continually perpetuate ideas of fathers as well-meaning but generally incompetent and oblivious. The TV dad, from The Simpsons to Outnumbered, tends to be a useless bungler who can’t change a nappy to save his life – their only possible areas of competency will be in the workplace. Nearly every formula milk or baby powder advert features a smiling caring mother, with daddy nowhere to be seen. These stereotypes might be setting up a vicious cycle – if men don’t see responsible father figures in the media they consume, will they take that lack of involvement into their future families? And where do these representations leave same-sex couples? Are two mothers impossibly nurturing power parents, and two fathers a hotbed of blunders and poor choices? Of course not – but there’s undeniably a societal sentiment that men are the inferior parent, not expected to know anything about raising a child.
Even beyond parenthood, men are a rarity in any profession involving young children. The Victoria Derbyshire programme discovered that a mere 2% of 400,000 early years practitioners were male – nurseries and playgroups remain very much the purview of women. Teacher Jamel Campbell stressed the importance of male role models who ‘can be silly…can give you a hug if you’ve fallen down’, but stated that men are actively discouraged from professions with young children, as they are seen as not nurturing, or as a potential danger.
a mere 2% of 400,000 early years practitioners are male
As someone who wants to work with young people and be a father one day, it’s saddening to read countless testimonials of men who have been met with confusion and criticism if they step into a more active caring role. The replies to Piers Morgan’s ludicrous tweet are filled with men happily carrying their children in papooses. To change the dialogue around masculinity and care-giving, we absolutely need a societal change in attitude, yes: but we also need more guys like that. Men who are proud to care, proud to get involved, and proud to be active fathers are the future.