The Wonders of Commercializing Fatherhood

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Anyone who has spent any time over at my other side project, rebeldad.com, knows that I spend an inordinate amount of time moaning and complaining about how dads get marginalized in the media. And when I talk about the "media," I mean the media writ large, not only the news media.

Fatherhood continues to be a sitcom punch line. Dads are almost entirely missing in action in parenting magazines (there's a whole post coming on that one). And men showing their paternal side in commercials? Forget about it.

Take a look at the back-to-school ads, and let me know if you see a single one where the parent skipping through the mall or the office supply superstore or the department store is someone other than mom. Ditto ads for toys or household products or just about anything else (except, perhaps SUVs).

The net effect is a million subtle messages a day that kids are not part of the core responsibilities of American fathers. Now, I don't blame the TV for any lack of involvement, but it does create a more toxic environment for shared parenting, just as Ronald McDonald makes for a more toxic environment for healthy eating.

On the bright side, this may be changing. The geniuses on Madison Avenue have apparently discovered that dads really do care about their families, and this has become something of a media trend lately. First, there was a New York Times piece on dad inventors ("'This is one of the strongest trends we've seen,' said Ellen Galinsky, the president of the Families and Work Institute. '... Men are really different.' "). Then CBS News pulled together a piece on how macho diaper bags can make men into better fathers. (There are plenty of products on the market for modern dads, to enable them to be both hands-on and hip") Finally, AdAge determined that families, not gold handicaps, are the new status symbol (" 'Dads today define success as being able to spend time with the family,' says Peter Rose, a trend interpreter at Yankelovich Partners" in the article titled "Dads Are the New Moms, so It's Time to Start Selling Them Stuff.")

Maybe, just maybe, that means us "really different, hands-on and hip" successful dads will now be deluged by slickly produced 30-second spots during 'Grey's Anatomy? As much as I like to decry the overcommercialization of everything, I can't help thinking that would be a little cool.

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  August 30, 2007; 7:25 AM ET  | Category:  Dads
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Commercials are a form of propaganda, a form of brainwashing, which compels people to purchase frivolous things and generate waste (and pollution) in the process.

If dads love their children they will not allow Madison Avenue to dictate their behavior and their choices. They will not shop or respond to advertisements envouraging them to shop.

America is a country burdened by $trillions in debt, a trade deficit of $800 billion, and there is a significant risk of consumer products manufactured in China containing poisons which would harm a child.

If parents want their children to remain healthy and America to remain solvent, they will refuse to live like consumers.

Posted by: dmathew1 | August 30, 2007 7:35 AM

Segunda! (Back from holidays in the sunny Algarve).
"As much as I like to decry the overcommercialization of everything, I can't help thinking that would be a little cool."
I hope it becomes cool from another point of view: boys growing up with that subconscious message making its way in (specially if their own dads do not belong to the still too small hands-on category). Anyway, when the time comes for them to parent, maybe they'll find somewhere "inside" both the ease and the urge to get involved.
I see too many cases of "hands-off" fathers sheepishly blaming their attitude on the context they were brought up in.

Posted by: portuguese-mother | August 30, 2007 7:39 AM

"The net effect is a million subtle messages a day that kids are not part of the core responsibilities of American fathers."

Brian, do you think this message is likelier to affect the attitudes of fathers (or potential fathers) toward their child, or the child's perceptions/expectations of his/her father's role(s)?

One suggestion for fathers: if you find your child seeing/hearing a commercial (or print ad) which you consder marginalizing towards the father, use it as a starting point for a conversation with your child about "what's wrong with this picture?"

Posted by: mehitabel | August 30, 2007 7:43 AM

Bem vinda, mãe portuguesa, Espero que tu e a tua família bem gostassem das férias!

Do you find that Portugal (or Europe in general) have fewer commercials, and that they're less pushy in conveying stereotypes?

Posted by: mehitabel | August 30, 2007 7:48 AM

dmatthew said: America is a country burdened by $trillions in debt, a trade deficit of $800 billion, and there is a significant risk of consumer products manufactured in China containing poisons which would harm a child.

Whoa! There is a significant risk that you'll prematurely die of a stress disorder if you dont chill out a little dude. Passive verb construction implies that America, and the American family is a victim - I disagree. We are complicit in these conditions if we dont pay attention and take an active role in our children's upbringing. Dont be a victim!

Dads can empower their kids, turn off the TV, and play catch with a good ol fashioned pigskin! Good for all ages and sexes - and in all weather too... nothing wrong with a little good clean dirt IMHO :).

and the debt thing? It is called capitalism and pricing of risk reward. If you dont like it go to the USSR... wait that's gone. er go to China - er they have a market economy too.... er go to Cuba! they survive on barter and handouts from HUgo Chavez... Good luck to ya!

Posted by: btpduc748 | August 30, 2007 7:57 AM

what a bore. we are all just robots and mindless sheep according to brian. Saying ronald mcdonald is toxic, please. Just more of the leftist drivel, railing against the stupidity of americans and the evils of capitalism.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 8:04 AM

"Do you find that Portugal (or Europe in general) have fewer commercials, and that they're less pushy in conveying stereotypes?"
Well, the mainstream is pretty much the same everywhere, I guess, but I have spotted a few "mavericks" lately as well.
Oddly, the trend is more visible in household-chores related commercials: I've seen a lot of attractive men vacuuming, stacking the dishwasher, etc. But when it comes to parenting, it's not so noticeable.
Anyway, my favorite is the commercial (advertising a ready-made infant formula) where it's early morning, mom&dad are asleep and baby starts to fuss in the cot nearby. Dad gets up, easily makes the bottle and feeds baby while mom sleeps blissfully. The piece is well achieved in conveying the core positive message of a "hands-on and hip" dad, but there may be other subliminal and negative messages to consider - the formula is so easy to use that even fathers can do the trick; mothers deserve a break so dads should step in every once in a while.
(beijinhos, mehitabel, as férias foram óptimas)

Posted by: portuguese-mother | August 30, 2007 8:08 AM

pATRICK, I think Brian's point is (or at least should be!) that if fathers don't like the present situation, they can and should speak up and take action -- even if it's only on a one-to-one basis with one's child and even though it's at times an uphill battle against an onslaught of pervasive media messages.

A good many of the posters who visit this blog, I think, tend to have at least some intestinal fortitude when it comes to resisting this pressure. But we have to be ever vigilant, because there's so much money at stake in commercialization. pATRICK, I assume that when you or your wife see an ad or program or other message you find offensive, you try to explain your disagreement to your children in an age-appropriate way.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 30, 2007 8:16 AM

My husband is a hands-on, stay-home dad. It was nearly impossible to find a "manly" diaper bag, even one I liked was difficult. That being said, I would be thrilled to see more companies make products geared toward fathers. Obviously this would require advertisements to sell these products...

Posted by: alycialeslie | August 30, 2007 8:23 AM

pATRICK -- You're usually one of the first and loudest to decry the messages the media sends to our kids. So why jump all over Brian for doing the same thing?

Off-topic to Portuguese Mother: we've got a trip coming up to Portugal (Lisbon-Porto-the Douro-Sintra). I forget which area you're from, but if you have any experience with these areas, we'd appreciate any recommendations for places to eat and things to do (other than drinking port, of course -- think we've got that covered!).

Posted by: laura33 | August 30, 2007 8:28 AM

"and there is a significant risk of consumer products manufactured in China containing poisons which would harm a child."

Maybe he shouldn't worry about the trade deficit, but toys from China are a worry for many parents. Have you tried to find toys not made in China? I have, I found a few games, that's it. Even a lot of little tyke stuff is now made in China. I am sure that there are many children in America who have too many toys, but the bottom line is that they need stuff to play with. I've been looking for a "chew" toy for my soon to be son for months, can't find one that's not made in China.

Check your pig skin; it might be made there too.

I tend to ignore commercials unless they are either really funny or really stupid.

Posted by: Irishgirl | August 30, 2007 8:29 AM

This is so very very true. I started writing to companies complaining in 2001 when my first child was born. I used to go through magazines and advertisements. You're lucky if you see a SINGLE dad in the magazine - and half the time, he's halfway out the door going to work. The media preaches one story (liberated women, domesticated men) but they don't follow through. It's a sham. I'm 37 and in most of the families we circulate with, the dads would give a kidney to stay at home with the kids. Most men I know count the day they install their first car seat far more important than their own high-school graduation. And for the record - I can change a poopy diaper in HALF the time it takes my wife!

Posted by: mwcob | August 30, 2007 8:30 AM

to laura:
I'd be glad to provide some tips, but shouldn't it be done off the blog? But if so, how can we exchange e-mail addresses? Anyway, we can always share the recommendations with everyone...

Posted by: portuguese-mother | August 30, 2007 8:41 AM

"I tend to ignore commercials unless they are either really funny or really stupid."

The "Viva Viagara" commercial is both.

Posted by: hillary1 | August 30, 2007 8:44 AM

"for the record - I can change a poopy diaper in HALF the time it takes my wife!"

That's because, if you are a typical man, you are doing a half-assed job of it! LOL!

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 8:52 AM

I have noticed this with commercials and sitcoms as well. Dads are bumbling idiots who try to do as little as possible. Moms save the day with the help of new cars, cleaning products, etc.

I would love to see men be more evenly represented in magazines and more fairly portrayed in commercials. It would be great for the younger generation to grow up knowing that it's normal to see men raising kids and caring for the house. As much as kids watch TV, I think commercials and cartoons are a great place to start.

This will also help break women out of the role of sole caregiver and house cleaner. When dad is portrayed in the house cleaning or playing with the baby, the mom can be mowing the lawn or playing catch with the older kid or... the possibilities are endless. The more we enforce the idea that men and women are equal, the more we will see it in the younger generation.

Posted by: Meesh | August 30, 2007 8:54 AM

I have a busy, busy day, but I wanted to say CONGRATS to Fred and Freida for having a fully functional house!!! ~I~ don't even have a fully functional house, and I didn't suffer devastating hurricane damage!

Go, involved dads. My husband loves his diaper bag backback. It's simple and black. Unfortunately he hasn't figured out how to pack it and ends up stealing mine, leaving it in his car, and leaving me high and dry and the baby not so dry. I wouldn't trade him for the world, though. He's a GREAT dad.

Posted by: atb2 | August 30, 2007 8:57 AM

dmathew1, as I understand it, our economy depends almost solely on consumerism. If we all decided to stop "acting like consumers," the deficit will get much worse.

Ideally, we would stop importing a lot of the stuff we can make here in the U.S. That way, we'd have more jobs, safer products, and money staying in the U.S.

Until that happens, the best thing we can do is not stop buying altogether but stop buying imports and put our money into the local economy.

Posted by: Meesh | August 30, 2007 9:00 AM

We hardly ever watch TV now that we have a 2-yr-old (except perhaps the news, etc. after he goes to sleep). I remember when my son was first born, my husband had him laying on his (DH's) stomach and DH was watching "Cops"! I found that stomach-turning (cops, junkies + a newborn) and asked him to please turn it off. Slowly, DH has got the message. (He also is a great dad, of course, just to stick that in).

The point being, I think men are still not conditioned to be fathers in this country. They are conditioned to be either "moms" (and thus 'domesticated' in the eyes of other men) or stupid children like "Everyone Loves Raymond".

We need some manly father role models out there -- beyond the stereotypes of "the coach" in the football game. Can we move beyond sports, by the way? I'd like to see fathers and sons bonding in other ways. It's like they can only be emotional and close if there is a game on.

Posted by: goodhome631 | August 30, 2007 9:09 AM

Brian, I totally agree. All the parenting magazines are geared towards women - it would be great if there was one that didn't have 20 pages of beauty tips.

Goodhome631, what do you mean by this: "The point being, I think men are still not conditioned to be fathers in this country. They are conditioned to be either "moms" (and thus 'domesticated' in the eyes of other men) or stupid children like "Everyone Loves Raymond"."

If by "moms", you mean feed, bathe, and otherwise take care of the children, isn't that what being a parent is? What exactly are "fathers" supposed to do?

Posted by: dennis5 | August 30, 2007 9:25 AM

Two thoughts:

(1) My wife and I have stopped reading parenting magazines. Aside from being bothered by how advertising-driven they are (here's a new gadget you need RIGHT NOW!, and it just happens to be made by one of our sponsors), we were annoyed at how often the "How embarrassing!" sort of feature, where parents write in about funny little things that happened to them as parents, should actually have been titled "stupid stuff my husband did".

(2) Why worry supporting the diaper bag makers, whether they make options with a masculine look or not? We got a good-quality regular backpack, which means that (a) it's got shoulder straps wide enough for me, (b) it's got plenty of room for all the stuff we carry around for both our 2yo and newborn, and (c) it doesn't scream "parent approaching!" to everyone who sees you, which is a bonus for both of us.

Posted by: db.www | August 30, 2007 9:25 AM

There's certainly a tendency to generalize in media, but that doesn't mean that the generalization isn't based on reality. Not all moms and dads are the same. There are dads that are NOT engaged as parents (or even know what school their children attend), and do not want an expanded role as a parent. It's the exception for a dad to be an equal (much less primary) caregiver. If dads are REALLY more engaged than what is presented in the media, then why don't the so-called 'men's' magazines and other male-directed media take the lead and correct this perception. Let's face it. Men don't want to read, watch etc about parenting because they don't want to be more of a parent than they currently are (whatever that might be).

Posted by: lkdirksen | August 30, 2007 9:44 AM

My kids are out of diapers now, but when they were I just grabbed the diaper bag my wife had bought because I didn't have the time to get another one. And if somebody gave me attitude about it I'd spit in their eye. But go home and worry about how well I was accessorized? Hell no.

This article misses what I think should be the main point. If you want to be a good father you should call your cable company and disconnect that stupid television and tune out all the garbage that it puts out. Television advertising is based on the cynical manipulation of unconscious wants. And deriving your self-image from such a medium is a fallacy. You're better off without it.

Killing your television will open up lots of time in which to parent. I suggest reading both the Harry Potter and Narnia series to your kids. There are lots of great things you can do but almost none of them you will get from TV commercials.

Posted by: qwert3 | August 30, 2007 9:46 AM

Being 1 of 8 boys, I learned to change poopie diapers long ago. How long ago? We had only cloth diapers and "safety" pins. So it has always bugged me a bit about how men are protrayed as hopeless idiots when it comes to any domestic or childcare chores.

What do I do about it? Rather than response to the ads as a reason for buying some item, I look at consumers ratings for the products that I need and buy the highest rated one with my budget.

Posted by: Fred | August 30, 2007 9:50 AM

Madison Avenue will happily cater to anything that helps them get rich. But if, in the process, the media and the advertising world move beyond their pet misandry, a silver lining can be had. Most of the Dads I know are VERY involved at all stages of their kids lives. They're loving and attentive and do not at all fit into the absentee/idiot/abusive Dad stereotype. I don't pretend that my experience is universal, but it's not on the margins either. It would be nice if the media and advertising world better aligned itself with reality.

Posted by: mbcnewspaper | August 30, 2007 9:51 AM

Hey Brian, I am 55 now! (back to a conversation we had awhile back.)

Concering the house, I have very little left to do on the inside. Touching up some paint (it will take longer to get set up than painting), having the tileman repair and replace some tile and putting up towel racks. Now on to the outside!

(Not saying who, but someone dropped his cordless drill on the new tile floor and cracked a tile or two!)

Posted by: Fred | August 30, 2007 9:54 AM

Brian, take it from a SAHM. If you are looking for respect and validation from the media and the outside world you will be waiting a long time. If you are making choices that are good and right for your family then that should be all the validation you need. If you are doing a good job, your children will know and emulate you instead of the Tide commercial. Remember, Everybody Loves Raymond is a comedy, NOT a documentary.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | August 30, 2007 9:58 AM

"Let's face it. Men don't want to read, watch etc about parenting because they don't want to be more of a parent than they currently are (whatever that might be)."

So, basically, if the media reflects reality, then women must really, really love scrubbing toilets. And spend their days hanging around the house in chinos and polo shirts, just waiting for junior to come home from football practice so they can heat up some Hot Pockets and go get those grass stains out.

Please. The media thrives on stereotypes -- and they're usually the last to catch on that those stereotypes don't reflect reality. If those stereotypes ring true for the guys you know, then I'm sorry. But that's not the case for most of the men I know. Even in the families that have chosen the "traditional" roles of SAHM and WOHD, the dads I know want to be a big part of their kids' lives -- and they're good at it, too.

Posted by: laura33 | August 30, 2007 10:00 AM

"Remember, Everybody Loves Raymond is a comedy, NOT a documentary."

LOL!

Posted by: mehitabel | August 30, 2007 10:01 AM

If you are looking for respect and validation from the media and the outside world you will be waiting a long time.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | August 30, 2007 09:58 AM

The media thrives on stereotypes -- and they're usually the last to catch on that those stereotypes don't reflect reality.

Posted by: laura | August 30, 2007 10:00 AM

Amen to that!

And Fred, MANY CONGRATS on being in your fully functional house!! And if that wasn't imoressive enough, I discover that you have functional knowledge of cloth diapers. My mom used our old cloth diapers as dusting rags for many years after my sister and I no longer needed them.

Posted by: educmom_615 | August 30, 2007 10:06 AM

pATRICK -- You're usually one of the first and loudest to decry the messages the media sends to our kids. So why jump all over Brian for doing the same thing?

Uh Oh, I have been put in a quandry by LAURA. On one hand LAURA is right and on the other hand I hate the idea that we are just mindless sheep. I will have to percolate a little and get back to you.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 10:12 AM

"Killing your television will open up lots of time in which to parent. I suggest reading both the Harry Potter and Narnia series to your kids. There are lots of great things you can do but almost none of them you will get from TV commercials."

Posted by: qwert3 | August 30, 2007 09:46 AM

We didn't have to kill our television. The picture tube broke just after our youngest was born and our oldest started kindergarten. We never repaired it. It was like someone had given us a gift of six hours a day of time. That meant time to throw the ball around on the County land behind our yard, time to play with Legos and baseball cards, and time to read them Donald Duck comics and Babar the Elephant stories. Where there used to be a television set, there is now a grand piano. We are also immune from the bias of the Drive-by Media.

Yes, TV can keep children mesmerized and seated and quiet while busy parents have a chance to breathe. It's like a miracle drug! But like any drug, TV has side effects, especially for children. Marie Winn's book, "The Plug-in Drug" (Penguin Group, 2002, ISBN 0142001082) is a good place to find out what these effects are. R. Avigdor Miller said on one of his tapes that if you had an open sewer emptying into your living room, you'd be better off than having a television set there.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | August 30, 2007 10:15 AM

Remember, Everybody Loves Raymond is a comedy, NOT a documentary."

That is funny, my sister says I am raymond and she is robert. Even though my parents spend 10 times the money on her they do for me. Go figure.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 10:16 AM

This is today's email add I got from Urban Baby, Obviously a magazine for women only.

August 30, 2007
Bumpology

So long, comfy beach cover-ups. Farewell, empire sundresses. Yup, summer's almost over. As the autumn air blows in, how does one dress that burgeoning belly?

This season, fashion is becoming even more sophisticated and clean, and maternity will follow suit. We got the scoop from style experts at
Chaiken,
Cadeau,
Isabella Oliver
and
Babystyle
- who have dressed some of the most fashionable moms-to-be - on the top maternity trends for fall:

What to wear
Color: Think rich, warm colors like chocolate, hunter green, eggplant and grey. And you can't go wrong with classics like ivory, camel and navy.

Silhouette: Look for skimming silhouettes, like knee-length peg skirts, wide-leg trousers, T-shirts with great draping or detail, swing tops and dresses
that flaunt curves.

Must haves: Make sure your closet is stocked with a sweater coat, a great fitting pair of pants and an easy-to-wear dress.

How to wear it
Play up your curves. Pregnancy can create great cleavage. Maximize your assets by drawing attention with a plunging neckline, scoop or V.

Keep it simple. Choose clean lines and quality fabrics. Work your look around sleek shapes, good cuts, solid colors and pregnancy-friendly fabrics like
jersey.

Stay true to size. Do not be tempted to buy bigger. The extra fabric in non-maternity clothes may cover your bump, but it will hide your body's sexy new
curves.

Remember who you are. Pregnant women have more choices than ever in keeping up with trends. Maintain your personal style both while you're pregnant and
after the baby comes.

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 10:21 AM

Okay, I'll take the somewhat unpopular position of defending the TV.

Using the TV as a crutch or a babysitter isn't good, of course, but if you limit what they watch, monitor it and even watch with them, it can be a very valuable item to have.

When our kids were younger, they watched various things like "Sesame Street", "Barney", "Dora the Explorer", "Bob the Builder", "Blue's Clues", etc. Not all classics, but good and not harmful.

Now, DS (he's about to turn 17) watches a lot of History Channel, especially History International, and similar channels, and can intelligently discuss the Roman Empire and the Middle East in the time of the New Testament. (He's actually able to point out things that relate to his high school Latin classes.)

Last night, DW made the two DDs still living at home watch a PBS special on Rudolf Nureyev's career in Russia before he defected. I actually watched a little bit; it was pretty good. (DW's admission to me was that Nureyev and Barishnikov were two of her first teen "celebrity crushes" because of the way ballet tights made their, um, "packages" look. "-)

And what's wrong with sports? I find that I can put sports on TV as a good source of background noise while doing other stuff like cooking, cleaning, reading, etc. If you miss the exciting play, you'll hear the screams and catch several of the 10 replays they're going to show. Heck, I've even been known to do a week's worth of ironing while watching a Purdue-Ohio State game!

Yes, we do have lots of other activities: the kids have all been very active in sports: softball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, basketball, golf, etc. and I've coached more of them than I can count. They read a lot and always have; and they've always had unstructured outdoor play time.

And yes they watch some "mindless" TV (as do I); the kids are hooked on Spongebob Squarepants; middle DD used to love Gilmore Girls and watch it with her Mom all the time; and while Ray Barone isn't my idea of a role model I thought "Everybody Loves Raymond" was funny.

The bottom line is that the TV, like a lot of other things, is what you make of it.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | August 30, 2007 10:45 AM

I disagree with the assertion that there are no daddy-oriented commercials. Two I remember fondly:

One where the dad is showing his kids a frog and the littlest boy has these wide eyes, looking closely at the frog.

Another is where the father is strapping his daughter into the car seat and she is just talking and talking and talking and talking and...

A third I remember now is the Jimmy Dean commercial for breakfast food, and the Father Sun, where "mommy makes it differently". The point is that he is making breakfast.

I do things differently from my DW, but it gets the job done. And, yes, I tend to get it done more efficiently than she. I don't make a second meal for my son if he doesn't like what we are having. He just doesn't eat breakfast/dinner. He'll eat when he's hungry enough. Lunch is a different matter because we all have different ideas about what we want to eat for lunch.

Posted by: WorkingDad | August 30, 2007 10:49 AM

This extact topic is often a topic in our household, as virtually every "dad" protrayed on tv and in ads is a fat, stupid, white man who can only dance the cabbage patch to express triumph - like effectively cleaning up a spill that no one thought he could. As 2 of our three children are boys, we often point out that that it not reality and they can look at their own house, and that of their neighbors and friends to see that all men are not that stupid and incompetent. So they ask why men are shown that way. It opens up the discssions of advertising, stereotypes, and the fact that you can get away with making fun of the stereotype that seems to hold the power. It will be interesting to see what happens as power shifts a bit. We have a woman and an African Amercian running for President, as well as white men. As our leaders reflect our society more, will ads change as well? Can you imagine the outrage (rightfully) if women, blacks and other "minorities" were shown as mere reflections of their stereotypes.

Posted by: malsamson | August 30, 2007 10:51 AM

malsamson asks: "Can you imagine the outrage (rightfully) if women... were shown as mere reflections of their stereotypes."

Yeah, that's one of a multitude of reasons there was a women's movement starting back in the late '60s. TV commercials (and programs) often depicted females in most unflattering lights.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 30, 2007 10:59 AM

We actually went for the "manly diaper bag" etc. when we were looking for baby items (eddie bauer has one that looks like a gym bag for a very reasonable price). Not because I wanted manly, but because I'm a grown woman and couldn't see myself hauling around a giant electric-blue valise coated in some licensed character. I think that these trends have benefits beyond keeping men from feeling emasculated. That diaper bag that looks like a gym bag? Well, one day it'll make a very nice gym bag.
I don't think these encourage rampant consumerism. In fact, because things don't scream "THIS IS FOR A BABY" they can be multipurpose and used for much longer.

Posted by: dedeeboru | August 30, 2007 11:07 AM

"So, basically, if the media reflects reality, then women must really, really love scrubbing toilets. And spend their days hanging around the house in chinos and polo shirts, just waiting for junior to come home from football practice so they can heat up some Hot Pockets and go get those grass stains out."

What, Laura, this isn't how you live your life?

Patrick, I don't think that Brian's point is that we are all mindless sheep, any more than that is your point when you complain about messages from the media. I think the point is simply that those messages reflect negative aspects of our society that we have to be aware of and address as parents. And maybe a little gosh, wouldn't it be nice if that changed?

Posted by: LizaBean | August 30, 2007 11:29 AM

Yeah, that's one of a multitude of reasons there was a women's movement starting back in the late '60s. TV commercials (and programs) often depicted females in most unflattering lights.

And that is my point. When you are the minority, it is not appropriate to be a "stereotype" and will spawn a movement and people will rise against such a thing. But men are in the "power" group so are forced to carry the brundt of the unflattering depictions. I think as the concentration of power in the hands of white males changes, so too will the ability to belittle them so easily in pop culture.

Posted by: malsamson | August 30, 2007 11:36 AM

Posted by: LizaBean | August 30, 2007 11:29 AM

I hate commercials anyway and never watch them thanks to TIVO, so that may influence my distrust of madison ave.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 11:45 AM

malsamson, you may be right. I would point out, however, that women constitute some 52% of the US population.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 30, 2007 11:47 AM

pATRICK wrote: "I hate commercials anyway and never watch them thanks to TIVO, so that may influence my distrust of madison ave."

Or, it could be that your distrust of Madison Ave. is one reason you choose to have TIVO, so you can avoid the commercial. NTTAWWT.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 30, 2007 11:48 AM

Media is market-driven, and the demographics are changing, so media will follow. In addition to SAHDs, there are a lot of men who are single dads, and as such, they are a new target audience. Single dads MUST be involved in their chidlren's lives if they have any custody at all. When I take my daughter out to breakfast on the weekend, I see lots of weekend dads with their kids. I haven't seen any bumbling idiots, just dads who are doing the same thing I am: having a pleasant moment with my child.

Posted by: pepperjade | August 30, 2007 11:49 AM

"malsamson, you may be right. I would point out, however, that women constitute some 52% of the US population."

I really mean the sociological use of the term, which means those not in power.

Posted by: malsamson | August 30, 2007 11:51 AM

To Portuguese Mother and Laura:

I thought of a couple of ways the two of you might be able to exchange email addresses without impinging upon your privacy.

1. See if Leslie (or whoever's filling in for her) would willing to serve as an intermediary to whom you each could send your email address, then she could put you in touch with one another.

2. One of you could set up a new email account for this purpose, and post its address here. Then the other one can send an email containing some comment that only the other one would recognize as proving her identity, as well as her own actual email address.

Óptima sorte, moças!

Posted by: mehitabel | August 30, 2007 11:53 AM

Great discussion. I am a first-time father of a seven-month old little girl. I think it boils down to this - be who you are. And if you're someone who determines their worth on who they are instead of what they own, drive, carry diapers in, etc, you're better off (male or female).

My wife asked me if I'm ever embarrassed to carry my little girl around in the Baby Bjorn, if it ever felt unmanly. What could be more manly than fathering a child and caring for it?

Sterotypes, Madison Avenue, consumer culture be damned. Do what feels right for you and your kids. (That said, I do love one TV Dad - Homer Simpson!)

Posted by: GreenRich | August 30, 2007 11:54 AM

Or, it could be that your distrust of Madison Ave. is one reason you choose to have TIVO, so you can avoid the commercial. NTTAWWT.

Once I got tivo, i couldn't believe how many commercials i used to sit through. Now it's intolerable to watch any of them, we are completely spoiled.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 12:08 PM

" let me know if you see a single one where the parent skipping through the mall or the office supply superstore or the department store is someone other than mom."

I skipped through the mall yesterday with my two daughters (actually, it was more them skipping and me trudging along, carrying the bags, and a lot of arguing about what's cute and what's not). I saw a lot of other moms in the same situation. Didn't see any dads. And we live in a progressive area where there are plenty of dads who care for the kids during the day.

A few weeks ago I was in an office supply superstore shopping for school supplies and ran into a woman friend who works full time who was doing the same thing. Her husband cares for the kids during the day and has his own business where he has a good deal of flexibility. Yet mom was using her lunch hour to shop for school supplies.

I'm all for dads being involved and being the SAHP and whatever is right for that particular family. But commercials are going to (and should) reflect the way society really is. And women do the shopping - and since commercials are for shopping, women are shown in commercials instead of men.

Posted by: fake99 | August 30, 2007 12:10 PM

"What could be more manly than fathering a child and caring for it?"

Boy, are we on the same page! Manly has nothing to do with physical strength. It's all about making your family a priority, and it's a lot harder than lifting weights. My husband loves the Bjorn.

Posted by: atb2 | August 30, 2007 12:10 PM

Actually, there is one back-to-school commercial with just a dad -- I think it's for Office or Staples, and it's several years old but they seem to run it every year. It depicts dad happily gliding through the aisle on a cart to the tune of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" while his scowling children look on.

Posted by: lucykat | August 30, 2007 12:14 PM

I am with pATRICK - I virtually watch everything with my DVR now so I can fast forward thru commercials. You can do a one hour show in about 40 mins.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | August 30, 2007 12:17 PM

Although I don't think people are mindless sheep, if certain stereotypes pervade society through radio, TV, newspapers, blogs, books, movies, etc., people can't help but be impacted by that. Never mind that maybe men (or anyone) don't really need/want to buy all the crap advertised on TV. That's almost irrelevant to the point about fathers being valued for being fathers and what it means to be a father. If these media still promote the bumbling husband/father, women are the only ones who can clean/take care of children, types of attitudes, I think it does affect societal norms and even what individual people think. It's a kind of societal brainwashing. Yes, people can deconstruct a commercial to explain why it is "wrong" but it does seem like trying to swim upstream.

Posted by: rockvillemom | August 30, 2007 12:19 PM

"A few weeks ago I was in an office supply superstore shopping for school supplies and ran into a woman friend who works full time who was doing the same thing. Her husband cares for the kids during the day and has his own business where he has a good deal of flexibility. Yet mom was using her lunch hour to shop for school supplies."

Whose fault is that? Madison Ave? Maybe he didn't want to, maybe she is one of those women who won't let their spouse do any of the "traditional" tasks. Maybe she is just married to a lazy, boozy SAHD? Who knows.

I do agree that women tend to make the majority of the purchases and purchasing decisions in the home and it is therefore understandable that the majority of marketing would be directed at them.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | August 30, 2007 12:34 PM

Patrick and KLB, I am completely with on commercials. We don't get any commercial TV at home (our TV won't pick it up unless we plug it in to a rooftop antenna that the previous owner of the house wedged into the attic, so we just don't do that). We get dvds of movies and occasionally a TV series. I can't stand watching regular TV bc of the commercials and so much of it is so crappy anyway, what's the point?

Posted by: LizaBean | August 30, 2007 12:37 PM

Quite frankly ladies, a lot of wome really don't want men in their turf. I take my daughter to things and often I am really not feeling the love. I guess some women just want things to do that no men will be around.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 12:39 PM

The problem with advertising or journalism is that the people in them tend to think that everyone has the same upbringing or views as their generation. Then they try to write or sell based on that. A bunch of fifty year olds could not possibly IMO understand what 20 somethings are like because of the age difference so we get these occasional EUREKA moments like "dads are more involved than they were in the 50's, 60's 70's etc" because they find that people do things THEY don't or didn't do. 99 percent of the dads I know are very involved in their kids lives, yet big media acts as if it just found out about it.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 12:52 PM

"Take a look at the back-to-school ads, and let me know if you see a single one where the parent skipping through the mall or the office supply superstore or the department store is someone other than mom"

Alice Cooper did a back-to-school Staples commercial a few years ago. Not the typical back-to-school commercial, but it was definitely memorable and hilarious!

Posted by: jcscowgirl | August 30, 2007 12:55 PM

Alice Cooper did a back-to-school Staples commercial a few years ago. Not the typical back-to-school commercial, but it was definitely memorable and hilarious!

Posted by: jcscowgirl | August 30, 2007 12:55 PM

Don't know if Alice did the back-to-school shopping, but he is/was a hockey dad...not sure if his son is still playing, but my coworker would see him at the games where her son's league played against Alice's son's league.

Posted by: pepperjade | August 30, 2007 1:03 PM

"I do agree that women tend to make the majority of the purchases and purchasing decisions in the home and it is therefore understandable that the majority
of marketing would be directed at them."

I think there is a lot of carryover of gender roles ever since the caveman that has perpetuated itself into modern society. It makes sense to me that you will see more women, being the gatherers, shop for things like school supplies. It's a gathering kind of activity.

Men like to go out and hunt for the big game. That's why you'll see them go out and drag home the big purchases like the RV, pickup truck, computer, riding mower, and gas grill.

Whether you like it or not, biology still plays a significant role in how we make our decisions. Advertisers simply capitalize on this premise to appeal to their target audience. Don't expect the commercials to change their content in any significant way anytime soon.

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 1:06 PM

Lil_Husky

"Men like to go out and hunt for the big game. That's why you'll see them go out and drag home the big purchases like the RV, pickup truck, computer, riding mower, and gas grill."

How does this work in same-sex couples?

Posted by: hillary1 | August 30, 2007 1:23 PM

"How does this work in same-sex couples?"

Usually in these relationships, there exists a dominant partner that assumes the role of the male, and a submissive partner that assumes the role of the female.

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 1:32 PM

Quite frankly ladies, a lot of wome really don't want men in their turf. I take my daughter to things and often I am really not feeling the love. I guess some women just want things to do that no men will be around.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 12:39 PM

Y'know, pATRICK, I actually agree with what you're saying here. There are some areas where I've seen women have "turf" issues. One of OrganicKid's best friends is very involved in ballet. Her dad regularly took her to class because it worked in the family schedule better. He would describe the looks he'd get from all the moms, very dramatic, and using a comically rubber face to get the point across. His stories were hilarious, but it was so sad to hear how these women treated him as if he were encroaching on sacred turf. But don't feel alone in this...most places that are uncomfortable with dads are also uncomfortable with tattooed, hippie freak moms!

Posted by: OrganicGal | August 30, 2007 1:43 PM

"for the record - I can change a poopy diaper in HALF the time it takes my wife!"

That's because, if you are a typical man, you are doing a half-assed job of it! LOL!

Lil Husky: Thanks for perpetuating the stereotype of the bumbling man who can't do anything right. I think this dovetails nicely with pATRICK's recent comment: Quite frankly ladies, a lot of wome really don't want men in their turf.

Exactly. Some women (clearly not all, but a good number) are indeed threatened by men who are able to take care of things, clean well, and nurture. It's an interesting juxtaposition with the idea that women couldn't be any good in sciences, finances, sports, etc. Neither is defensible.

Posted by: elgrunir | August 30, 2007 1:45 PM

"But don't feel alone in this...most places that are uncomfortable with dads are also uncomfortable with tattooed, hippie freak moms!"


Yep or any mom who is not in their click. I feel this way sometimes at soccer when most parents are sitting on one side of the field and the "click" parents are sitting on the other. The click parents are gym teachers and know each other from school. The female gym teacher even told me the one time she talked to me that she was glad she didn't have girls. I just smiled and nodded as my girl came over and gave me a hug. Sometimes it's better to be outside the click.

Posted by: Irishgirl | August 30, 2007 1:50 PM

...most places that are uncomfortable with dads are also uncomfortable with tattooed, hippie freak moms!

Well, that makes me feel better, I think....;)

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 1:50 PM

I agree with pATRICK as well. Most women still consider running/maintaining the household as their responsibility and they don't want to give it up. They want their husbands to "help", but on their terms. They aren't willing to give up control and let their husbands do things the husband's way, it has to be her way.

Posted by: dennis5 | August 30, 2007 1:54 PM

The first mistake is looking to the media or Madison Ave. for anything resembling reality.

Posted by: MLuther | August 30, 2007 1:56 PM

OrganicGal:

When I was married and living in Centreville, my daughter took dance. Both my husband and I took our daughter. The other mothers thought he was the best dad around--they loved having a man hanging out in the halls with them. Perhaps it depends on the man?

Posted by: pepperjade | August 30, 2007 1:56 PM

The female gym teacher even told me the one time she talked to me that she was glad she didn't have girls.

Life is ironic. my son is a very sensitive, warm hearted, super friendly easily frustrated boy and my daughter is an independent, tough, do it her self type, couldn't care less what others think of her, daddy's girl. So saying she was glad she didn't have any girls is a stupid statement.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 1:56 PM

yes, pATRICK I was offended. This comment came out after another couple asked me what I was having. They thought I had two boys and wouldn't have to buy new clothes.

She basically went on and on about how she wouldn't know what to do with a girl and if she had one she wouldn't buy them dolls or dresses, etc. There was a lot more that I won't go into. Either I smile away or I get nasty with rude people. I have been trying to just smile more. I actually couldn't believe that they let this women work with kids.

My daughter sounds like your daughter.

Posted by: Irishgirl | August 30, 2007 2:00 PM

Pepperjade, I doubt it was him, and likely more the "clique" being invaded. Of course, I wasn't there, but he said he'd either bring some work, or hang out reading. He'd said try to join conversations, but would get frozen out. I definitely feel better being outside the clique, I've never had any patience for Queen Bees; but it's never nice to be shut out for just being yourself.

Oh, as far as men only being allowed to clean if it's on the woman's terms...what is UP with THAT??? Geez, just last night OrganicGuy said "leave the dishes, I'll get them tomorrow" and it just set me to swooning! I don't care how it gets done as long as it's done!

pATRICK, you should feel better...I make killer flan, too...all the better to have with a Dark n Stormy!

Posted by: OrganicGal | August 30, 2007 2:04 PM

pATRICK, you should feel better...I make killer flan, too...all the better to have with a Dark n Stormy!

Posted by: OrganicGal | August 30, 2007 02:04 PM

You're in! ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 2:10 PM

Before I got married, I was happy to eat Chef-Boy-R-Dee out of the can.

Then the wife showed up, (with cat)

Next thing I knew, I had to deal with table cloths, place mats, serving dishes & silverware, napkin rings, doileys, dust collecting figurenes, banana stands, gravey boats, and cat hair all over the place. All this stuff needs to be cleaned and taken care of.

Women, I swear, quadruple the household workload, then they have the gall to complain that their husband doesn't do his share. Sheesh!

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 2:13 PM

"They want their husbands to "help", but on their terms. They aren't willing to give up control and let their husbands do things the husband's way, it has to be her way."

I don't know about "most" but I definitely know a few women who are like this, it makes me a little crazy to watch. On the other hand, I also know men who are the same way when their wives take on traditionally "male" tasks, so I think it's more of a human thing than a gender thing.

patrick, your son sounds like my son a little bit.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 30, 2007 2:13 PM

But commercials are going to (and should) reflect the way society really is. And women do the shopping - and since commercials are for shopping, women are shown in commercials instead of men.

Posted by: fake99 | August 30, 2007 12:10 PM


Yeah. Right. You must be a little too young to remember that commercials in the sixties and seventies never showed a person of color. As though soap and dishwasher detergent weren't being purchased by anyone but white, middle class women. They were just reflecting society "the way it really is" and not perpetuating silly stereotypes, right?

The fact is that while some guys like pATRICK (I'm not giving you a hard time, pATRICK - okay?) married women who want to control everything and have it done their way, and probably do all the back-to-school shopping, many other men didn't marry women who are control-oriented or inordinately domestic. We divvy up those sorts of tasks (as well as which parent attends back-to-school night, birthday parties, and drops the kids off at playdates or sports camps) by who draws the short straw. As often as not, it's DH. I do the grocery shopping more often because I care more and have a better memory for what we need.

Advertising is all around us, btw, and not only on tv. As you know, ads are placed on city buses, in magazines, all over the internet, on billboards in a few states, in stadiums and at sports events. Using Tivo doesn't clear your world of ads.

It doesn't make any business sense to potentially offend or ignore the percentage of younger Boomer, Gen X, and Millenial dads, including divorced dads, who are actively parenting their kids, including buying school supplies, clothes, sports equipment, snacks for the sports teams, and whatever else comes up.

Posted by: MN | August 30, 2007 2:16 PM

LizaBean,
I agree with you. If you are used to doing things your way for whatever reason then when someone else is in the picture it is hard to release the reins. It isn't that we don't want them to help but sometimes it takes longer to explain how to do it than to just go ahead and do it - as we all know - nobody can do anything as well as we can, right?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | August 30, 2007 2:17 PM

"Some women (clearly not all, but a good number) are indeed threatened by men..."

They are easy to spot too. They have a NOW bumper sticker glued to the back of their Toyota.

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 2:20 PM

MN, Remember the commercials with women cleaing in dresses, heals and pearls and smiling? Like that really happened.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | August 30, 2007 2:20 PM

KLB - that is funny. my son is reading Dick and Jane books and the mother is always gardening in a skirt with a little kerchif (sp) knotted around her neck!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | August 30, 2007 2:23 PM

Well MN, We also do those things ( We divvy up those sorts of tasks (as well as which parent attends back-to-school night, birthday parties, and drops the kids off at playdates or sports camps) by who draws the short straw.) But you of all people know that all couples eventually work out what is best for them.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 2:25 PM

Some women (clearly not all, but a good number) are indeed threatened by men..."

They are easy to spot too. They have a NOW bumper sticker glued to the back of their Toyota.

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 02:20 PM

Going out in a blaze of glory I see.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 2:26 PM

MN-PART 2, In all honesty if my wife was not so detail oriented, we would not function as smoothly as we do, since I hate detail work.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 2:27 PM

One of the funniest commercials I saw when I was a kid was for Spray & Wash. This nicely dressed couple was walking out of a movie theater when a car tire hit a mud puddle in the street in front of them. The spray from the puddle got all over the girl's dress as her handsome date jumped in back of her to avoid it. What a dude!

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 2:31 PM

Worse than Ibsen!
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Posted by: hillary1 | August 30, 2007 2:35 PM

"You must be a little too young to remember that commercials in the sixties and seventies never showed a person of color...."

Wrong!

Johnson & Johnson marketed their Baby Shampoo by a guy named "Shampoo Man" who was a person of color who gave his daughter a bath.

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 2:37 PM

MN-PART 2, In all honesty if my wife was not so detail oriented, we would not function as smoothly as we do, since I hate detail work.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 02:27 PM

pATRICK -LOL, maybe THAT's our problem. Neither of us is detail-oriented about anything that would help us function smoothly, but our crown-mold is installed perfectly.

Posted by: MN | August 30, 2007 2:39 PM

Posted by: MN | August 30, 2007 02:39 PM

oh, that is a problem. But you will always have Paris......

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 2:44 PM

Lil' Husky - you must be looking for some attention based on the NOW comment and recalling a lone commercial. I'm not up for the fight or the research today to banter with you, though. I hope you find a biscuit somewhere.

Posted by: MN | August 30, 2007 2:44 PM

You're in! ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 02:10 PM

Yea!! I'm in, I'm in!!

Hold it...does that mean I have to now put up with it which shall not be named insulting me, too?

Posted by: OrganicGal | August 30, 2007 3:26 PM

Hold it...does that mean I have to now put up with it which shall not be named insulting me, too?

Posted by: OrganicGal | August 30, 2007 03:26 PM

No, that comes free with blogging on on balance, regardless

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 3:31 PM

I think I'm a pretty good dad (of one) and don't really care if I get recognition or not. I hope the influence I have on him is greater than the somewhat limited exposure he has to tv and advertising in general.

As far as manly diaper bags go, just by a backpack. That works for us. If companies that make baby stuff haven't figured out that there are more than a few involved dads in the world (aka potential customers) too bad for them.

Posted by: floucka | August 30, 2007 3:51 PM

DH does the school bus because it arrives 20 minutes after I report to work. I pick her up at after care because a lot of nights (including tonight) he works until 10 pm. We could never do the straw method.

She is surviving the first week of kindergarten well. Mom, well I am a work in progress. Got to run.

Posted by: shdd | August 30, 2007 4:19 PM

"Going out in a blaze of glory I see."

pATRICK, I remember when you first began posting here. You were somewhat abrasive to the women here, especially the liberals.

Then, withIn a few short months, they have you licking flan out of the palms of their hands.

But, I must say, you're doing a lot better than I am. I can't even get MN to throw me a bone... And it's my last supper.

[Putting my tail between my legs and scampering off]

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 4:23 PM

"Going out in a blaze of glory I see."

pATRICK, I remember when you first began posting here. You were somewhat abrasive to the women here, especially the liberals.

Then, withIn a few short months, they have you licking flan out of the palms of their hands.

But, I must say, you're doing a lot better than I am. I can't even get MN to throw me a bone... And it's my last supper.

[Putting my tail between my legs and scampering off]

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 04:23 PM

Well, I still skewer the libs when I see the need. I have always enjoyed reading your posts as kindred spirits. But don't worry, your proud tradition will be carried on.As far as flan, well what can I say, I love flan.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 30, 2007 4:27 PM

But, I must say, you're doing a lot better than I am. I can't even get MN to throw me a bone... And it's my last supper.

[Putting my tail between my legs and scampering off]

Posted by: Lil_Husky | August 30, 2007 04:23 PM

hey there, boy. That's two days worth of gratuitous targetted comments. Buy your own Meaty Bones.

Posted by: MN | August 30, 2007 4:40 PM

father of four I don't understand why you are leaving the blog.

I will miss you.

Posted by: Irishgirl | August 30, 2007 4:43 PM

"Advertising is all around us, btw, and not only on tv. As you know, ads are placed on city buses, in magazines, all over the internet, on billboards . . ."

Posted by: MN | August 30, 2007 02:16 PM

"I love a billboard, I always will,
Because a billboard gave me such a thrill!
When I was younger, and just a child,
A sexy billboard drove me wild."

Tune: Trio from "The Billboard March," by John. N. Klohr

You can hear the Millard North Wind Ensemble on YouTube playing this march. The trio begins 1:41 minutes into the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-KFaj6J1V8

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | August 30, 2007 5:13 PM

"I think that I shall never see a
billboard as lovely as a tree.
Perhaps unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all."

Ogden Nash

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | August 30, 2007 5:16 PM

Dads in commercials: my favorite commercial of all time is a Staples back to school commercial. Dad is dancing around store with shopping cart with two depressed looking kids behind him. It's the most wonderful time of the year is playing in the background.

Regarding the impact of fathers on kids, I see examples of engaged dads every day. Granted, many of them are not walking around with baby spit-up stains on their shirts but they are engaging with the full time job of being a parent.

Posted by: bdickson | August 30, 2007 5:17 PM

"I love a Fossil, I always will,
Because a Fossil gave me such a thrill!
When I was younger, and just a child,
A circus Fossil drove me wild."

Posted by: old_blue_in_exile | August 30, 2007 5:49 PM

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