On the same day in early January that a razor commercial’s release saw the internet explode into conversation about toxic masculinity and what it means to be a man, Ottawa dad Mike Reynolds published an Instagram post confessing his own capacity for toxic behaviour.
“It doesn’t make me an irredeemable man, it means I need to work to identify the things I’ve learned that have a negative impact on others. And then work on changing those things.”
The post lives on his Instagram page, @EverydayGirlDad, between pictures of his daughters — Leah, 9 and Charlotte, almost 7 — his wife, Andrea, and his progress with personal hobbies, cross-stitch and yoga
Reynolds is a dad blogger — one of a community of men, around the world, who have decided to publicly share their experience with fatherhood on websites and social media accounts.
And according to “dad blogger” researcher and McMaster University PhD candidate Casey Scheibling, this community is helping to redefine traditional notions of manhood and fatherhood.
In a research article about dad bloggers recently published in the journal Men and Masculinities, Scheibling says these men are constructing what he refers to as “caring masculinities.”
He defines the term as a move away from “holding up things like physical strength and aggression and dominance and these sorts of traditional signifiers of masculinity, and instead redefining and moving manliness towards notions of care and interdependence and emotional expression.”
It’s this type of normative shift that Reynolds is striving toward with what he posts on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and the other channels on which his pseudonym, Everyday Girl Dad, exists
For years now, Reynolds has been using his platforms “to take on a lot of the dad stereotypes that I was very uncomfortable with.” He says a perfect example is the photo-turned-internet meme showing a daughter and her date on prom night, with dad standing next to them and holding a shotgun.
Everyday Girl Dad, “was basically a way to share a gentler, more relationship-based way of raising kids and specifically, daughters,” says Reynolds.
While you can still watch his videos about styling his daughter’s hair or making a My Little Pony birthday cake, Reynolds is now creating more content that focuses specifically on what it means to be a man today — a subject he says is intimately linked to fatherhood — and shares openly about his mental health, sexuality and body image.
“I think when you see the kind of anger and backlash to razor ads … it becomes obvious there are still a lot of discussions to be had about what masculinity is,” he says, referencing Gillette’s recent commercial.
Scheibling says an area for future research is the extent to which dad bloggers’ online discourse actually translates into real-world action and change.
He points to one example he thinks can be attributed, at least in part, to the dad blogger community.
In New York state, a law went into effect in January that mandates changing tables in both men’s and women’s public restrooms in new or renovated buildings. The legislation came after dads took to social media en masse to demonstrate the struggle that is trying to change a baby’s diaper in a bathroom without one.
But concerted activism is only one of the reasons that men are drawn to dad blogging, he says.
“I think that some of them have turned to blogging in part to find and develop a community of like-minded fathers,” Scheibling explains.
This motivation resonates with Chris Farley Ratcliffe, father of three and another Ottawa-based dad blogger with a website called Dad Goes Round.
“I feel it’s generally true that we, as men, kind of suck at having close friends, and so we’re not great at building communities ourselves.”
The world of dad bloggers is where Farley Ratcliffe has found others of his ilk. His interactions with that world exist mainly on the internet, in a Facebook group simply called…
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