To celebrate Father’s Day we talked to Dads Rock; the Scottish network of free playgroups which was set up by a couple of Edinburgh dads who saw a gap in services for fathers. Co-founder Thomas Lynch spoke to us:
First off, Happy Father’s Day! Can you tell us a little bit about who Dads Rock are, your aims and outlook?
Dads Rock is Scotland’s first and only free network of playgroups for dads and kids.We are open for all dads/male carers and kids aged 0-5 yrs.
We were started by Dads for Dads, and just wanted to create somewhere fun, positive and rocking. Somewhere for Dads to get 1:1 time with their kids, and to speak to other dads about the highs and lows of parenthood.
We’ve noticed that you are supportive of Let Toys Be Toys on social media – are there any aspects of the campaign that you particularly agree with, and why is that?
We believe that children need the freedom to choose toys, books etc without stereotypes.
Speaking personally, although me or my wife have never knowingly passed gender stereotypes onto our son he will tell us that pink is for girls, and dislikes the idea of wearing pink clothes, which for the fact he is 5 yrs old is a bit sad. I believe this has come from the media, he tells us that he has seen adverts on TV for girls, and dislikes them. We as parents need to challenge that carefully and help him see that pink is good!
We noticed your website says one of your aims is to promote positive images of fatherhood. How do you think Dads’ roles are changing?
We know from very clear research that dads are doing more, the pay gap that once was very wide is narrowing, and whilst it still exists there are many families where the mother is the primary earner.
I also think that we want to be different from previous generations and want to do more with our kids, to have closer and better relationships. There is still a long way to go, dads need to do more and speak up more, and we as a society need to make it easier and more father friendly.
We’ve been looking at the way Dads are represented in the world of toy marketing. Images of boys with dolls are few and far between, there are dolls with names like “Mummy make me better” and Mothers are often mentioned in product descriptions but we haven’t found any that mention Dads. How do you feel about this?
Overall sad, sad for our society. It happens all throughout life, I think there are many reasons why dads are left off materials and marketing, and we have allowed it to happen. There are moves within the Scottish Government to take a lead on this and they are proactively starting to refer to dads more within their own literature, with the hope that this will influence others to do the same.
We need to recognise that for some, dad is not present or around, however it’s true to say that even if this is the case, there is still a dad somewhere. They need to be acknowledged, they deserve to be. If we start to value them the same as mothers it will encourage more to step forward.
There are lots of reasons why dolls make great toys for all children. Do you think there is still a stigma attached to boys playing with dolls, or do you think that’s changing? Why do you think that might be?
Yes and no, we have prams and dolls at our playgroups and the boys love them just as much as the girls, and I can’t remember a dad asking his son to stop playing with them. I think generally speaking we as a society are more relaxed, and lets face it, if we want boys to be better fathers, they need to be good at dealing with babies, and dolls are a great first step!
A recent study suggested that dads who do household chores tend to have more ambitious daughters. Do you agree that it’s important for dads to be role models when it comes to housework?
Ha that made me laugh…I think it’s way more complex than that. However we need to ask ourselves, what do we want for our children? Surely we want the best, most fair society. In order to get this we need equality. So I think it’s important that children see all parents doing their fair share and helping out around the house.
Obviously marketing is meant to influence people – Do you think changes in the way toys are marketed could have a positive influence on the way people see gender roles, and would you like to see this?
Definitely. Marketing is very powerful, especially colours. We need marketing to catch up and bring themselves into the 21st century. We all need to work together to stop buying into stereotypes and buy into fun, positive toys. Apart from anything else, it’s very dull to have only blue or pink. There are more colours available, and some of the words used are just offensive.
Do you have any real life examples that show how your children, or children you know, have been affected by gender ‘rules’ or stereotypes?
As above in reference to my own son. I love the fact that he is 5 yrs old, and plays with boys and girls and want that to continue, we need our kids to have friends from both genders.
We all know that children learn through play. What do you think they learn when they see some toys as for boys and others as for girls?
They learn the rules, and perhaps also learn about shame and guilt if they play with the ‘wrong’ toys. I think very early on they pick up on cues from others and like anyone they just want to be liked and feel part of the ‘gang’ so anything they do that takes them outside the ‘norm’ exposes them to attack from others.
And lastly, if Dads Rock ran a toy shop what would it look like?
It would be AWESOME! obviously there would be a lot of instruments, and toys of all colours. There would be a lot of loose items for play. It would have a playground in the shop and a stage to perform on!