IE Grapevine Updates

Sweeney: Good fathers can’t be ‘domestic?’

Gender roles are contested by some couples and embraced by others. But when you factor in the opinions of thousands of other people on the Internet, you might start to feel the pressure to abide by traditional norms.

Katlin Sweeney

Katlin Sweeney

In January, father and blogger Doyin Richards posted a photo of himself brushing hisdaughters’ hair, while holding his other daughter in a baby sling carrier. He immediately received backlash for the image. Because he is an African-American male, Richards received racial and sexual slurs as well.  Some critics accused him of being an illegitimate father that only posted the photo to appear involved in his daughters’ lives. Others advised him to hand his children back to their mother so that he could go back to his job selling drugs or rapping.

An overwhelming amount of hate was flung at Richards, simply for stepping in to help his children when their mother was busy. One image of him taking on what is traditionally perceived as a mother’s job, and he has become the focal point of public criticism.

Throughout much of American history (and of the world, for that matter), women have been revered as the picturesque, maternal figure that handled all domestic affairs. Men and women have been divided into two separate categories, society mandating that women are designed to manage the home and men are meant for the work force.

In this image of Richards, we see a flipping of the gender binary. Based on cultural norms, we are accustomed to seeing a father in the office and a mother helping her daughter fix her hair. As decades have progressed, more women are graduating from college and getting a job that extends throughout their marriage. More fathers are staying home and/or stepping up when they are needed. However, the fact that Richards’ behavior was ostracized as abnormal and absurd leads me to believe that our society has yet to accept this change.

Instead of criticizing Richards for taking care of his daughters, the public should have celebrated him. He was not doing what a mother should do. He was doing what a parent should do. These children have a father that is so proud of them that he has an entire blog dedicated to his adventures in fatherhood (  It says more about society’s character than his that they are debating whether or not he is a good father based upon a photo of him brushing his daughter’s hair.

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