Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear Amazon: Parenting No Longer Just Moms’ Domain

Moms and dads – we differ in so many ways, obvious anatomical naughty bits aside. Yet regardless of childrearing style, regardless of who wins the bread and who makes it into PB&Js, moms and dads are both parents and both caregivers.

That is the heart of the ongoing campaign for mega online-retailer Amazon to change the name of a discount program from "Amazon Mom" to "Amazon Family," the name it already uses in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and France.

#amazonfamilyus amazon mom

In the past two weeks, the rallying hashtag #AmazonFamilyUS has spread across social media, a 3-year-old Change.org petition seeking the Amazon Mom change doubled from having 4,000 signatures to more than 8,000, and media outlets including CNN and NBCNews.com have reported the story. The Fox Business folks, bastions of backwards 1950s gender and race beliefs, seemed baffled by Amazon’s stance. FOX!?

Hundreds of fathers -- some friends of mine in real life, others acquaintances online only -- not so much started this movement as they restarted it to honor a fellow dad. Oren Miller, a 42-year-old stay-at-home father of two, died at his home in Owings Mills, Maryland, on Feb. 28 after a nine-month battle with lung cancer. He wrote about his prognosis, realizing he had lived "heaven on earth," with such eloquence and grace on his blog A Blogger and a Father that it captured international media attention. Oren, who I met several times, strongly advocated dads being actively involved in raising their children and being viewed as parenting equals with mothers. Amazon Mom always raised a hackle with him.

"It's not about a name and it's not about me personally being offended ... ," Oren wrote on his blog in 2013. "It's about a company that looks at the U.S., 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 cure jm blogger father

Oren Miller in his Cure JM shirt for the 2012 Baltimore Running Festival. Oren ran the 5K to benefit the nonprofit that helps kids like my daughter who have juvenile myositis. (photo: Oren’s Facebook page)

Amazon Mom offers deals on diapers and other products for the cradle-to-kindergarten set. Despite its name, the membership program "is open to anyone, whether you're a mom, dad, grandparent, or caretaker," according to Amazon's website. So why "mom" instead of "parent," "caregiver" or, as it is in several other first-world nations, "family"? This is what perplexes rather than angers these activist dads.

"Continuing to treat `mom' as a synonym for `caregiving parent' ignores the blood, sweat and tears in the day-to-day, hands-on work of parenting being done by non-moms," Chris Routly of Oregon, whose graphics have illustrated the online name-change campaign, wrote on his blog The Daddy Doctrines.

He also notes the name is sexist, reinforcing the antiquated idea that, like cooking and cleaning, parenting is solely woman's work. "This isn't a `dad vs. mom' issue, it's a family issue," Routly wrote. "This isn't about being offended, it's about seeking positive change."

One of Oren’s close friends, Brent Almond, has a different take on the controversy, being a gay man as well as a father. While lauding Amazon for its non-discrimination policies and offering full benefits to same-sex partners, he finds the exclusionary name hurtful in modern society.

"Changing Amazon Mom to Amazon Family may just be about a word, but words mean something. Most of us in the LGBT community have been called words that meant something. As a (now) legally married man and the adoptive father of a 5-year-old boy, words mean something. Let's make this mean something, too," the Maryland resident wrote on his Daddy Designer blog.

Amazon has yet to publicly comment, even with a "no comment," on the campaign. It did not respond to multiple emails and calls from me. Therefore, I'll give Oren Miller the final word: "In a way, it's meaningless," he wrote in 2013. "Who cares about the name Amazon uses for its parenting program. On the other hand, what does it say about us?"

To support this cause:

Amazon Mom Amazon Family pie chart

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