“Choose your words carefully.”
That’s what my mother told me when I was trying to squirm out of a lie as a young boy. My father gave me that advice in college when I told him I wanted to become a writer. And my wife hisses the phrase at me in the heat of arguments when I’m dangerously close to crossing a line I can’t uncross. Point being in all of these examples, the things we say and the language we use often have a long-lasting impact and substantial significance.
Or, to put it bluntly, words matter.
Two years ago, my friend and fellow dad blogger Oren Miller took issue with Amazon’s discount diaper subscription service, called “Amazon Mom.” He wasn’t flying off the handle, loony tunes mad about it, but he was annoyed. Especially because in several other countries around the world, the program had a different and more inclusive name — Amazon Family.
“It’s not about a name and it’s not about me personally being offended and it’s not about stupid emails about yoga classes. It’s about a company that looks at the US, then looks at England, and then decides that over there, parent equals mom or dad, while here, well, we’re not ready for that yet.” — Oren Miller, 2013
Well, Amazon didn’t make the change. And unfortunately, my friend Oren had to end this fight to battle a more insidious foe in the form of stage IV lung cancer. Sadly, he died last weekend. But while Oren may have lost his battle with cancer, a bunch of his friends (myself included) decided the best way to honor his legacy is to finish his fight to get Amazon to change the name of their program.
And so the #AmazonFamilyUS hashtag was born. Since beginning 48 hours ago, it now has more than 6 million impressions. More than that, it’s been picked up by TODAY, CNN, MarketWatch, Adweek, Consumerist, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and many more, all talking about the emergence and importance of involved dads, and why some companies are still dragging their feet to be inclusive.
But with the good, comes the (expected) bad. Mainly the troglodytes who still think masculinity is how many beers you can drink in one sitting and how big your paycheck is.
This guy is still (unfortunately) the majority in this country, and that’s why words matter. That’s why making Amazon Family the norm instead of Amazon Mom matters. It’s why we rail against bumbling father stereotypes in TV sitcoms. It’s why we complain that fathers are either left out of, or worse, made fun of as inept buffoons by marketers promoting products parents rely on.
Some people — even some dads — say “none of this matters if you’re a good dad to your kids” and “this isn’t going to change anything,” but I don’t buy that. It will change things. And I have proof.
Did you watch this year’s Super Bowl? If so, you probably noticed commercial after commercial involving dads cast in a positive light. A lot of people were surprised and wondering why and how that happened. Well, as someone in the trenches on this issue, I can tell you it was years in the making. It involved a lot of discussions with brands who initially cast fathers as dolts. It involved laborious howling on social media about the negative effects of casting dads as idiots. And it involved showing companies that marketing to dads in a positive way benefits all parents, and the bottom line.
And that’s why we do this.
Because for better or worse, culture impacts society. Even policy. So when Phil Dunphy becomes the norm over Ray Romano, people begin to have different (and higher) expectations of fathers. When dads are seen in national spots as nurturing, diaper-changing pillars of the family, guys in general will gravitate in that direction. And when a retail giant like Amazon starts being inclusive by using terms like Family instead of Mom to market to parents, it sends a message of “we’re in this thing together.”
That’s why this change is so important. It’s for Oren. It’s for dads. Hell, it’s for moms. It’s for being equal partners in parenting and doing away with harmful gender norms.
It’s because words matter.
***Please sign the Change.org petition to get Jeff Bezos of Amazon to change Amazon Mom to Amazon Family. And if you’d like to join in the call on social media, please use the hashtag #AmazonFamilyUS.