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Amid fury, Clorox pulls post insulting new dads

By Josh Levs, CNN
June 27, 2013 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Clorox pulled what was intended to be a humorous Web post listing the shortcomings of new fathers after an internet uproar
Clorox pulled what was intended to be a humorous Web post listing the shortcomings of new fathers after an internet uproar
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Update: Clorox stated the post was a caricature and apologized again after this article published
  • Clorox posted '6 mistakes new dads make' as a humorous list on its website
  • The post said new dads are bad at dressing, feeding and tending their kids
  • After parents took the company to task, Clorox removed the post from its website

Editor's note: CNN's Josh Levs covers a wide range of topics and also offers his personal take on issues affecting fathers and families. He covers fatherhood for HLN's Raising America. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

(CNN) -- Just when you think derogatory stereotypes about dads are on the decline as fathers take a more hands-on role in child-rearing, along comes an online posting by a major brand that shows not everyone got the memo.

And this one -- published, then pulled, by Clorox -- charts new terrain in depicting first-time fathers as clueless buffoons.

Josh Levs
Josh Levs

"Saying 'No-no' is not just for baby. Like dogs or other house pets, new dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well," it reads.

Somehow, it manages to get even more offensive from there.

The list of "6 mistakes new dads make" begins with a father taking his child for a walk in "a cold, brisk, rain-soaked stroller" and only after 10 minutes beginning to wonder "why is this baby crying so much?" At that point, he notices his child is wearing "a short-sleeved summer onesie."

He's also likely to put his child's clothes on backwards and not understand why they fit wrong.

He lets baby eat off the floor -- so, the web post cautions, "At least get him to enforce a 5-second rule."

He fails to notice the food -- or, worse, Play-Doh -- all over his baby's face, let alone wipe it off.

Dads to media: We're not idiots!

Then he gives his child inappropriate screen time, plopping the baby down in front of "reality shows."

Parental outcry led Clorox to reexamine the wisdom of the post. The company pulled the page from its website, but did not post a statement in response to the uproar.

When I asked for comment, the company sent me this brief statement: "This article was written by a dad for other dads to make a lighthearted comparison between bachelor lives and new parent lives. We took the article down based on feedback and we know how seriously dads take their parental responsibilities."

The post included some classic insults: "Prudence won't stop Daddy from relaxing with a brew and blaring inappropriate shows while baby stares in horror/awe/wonder at the colorful moving yell-box. Tell Dad to embrace parental sacrifice and crack a book."

Finally, to top off this glorious work of wisdom and respect, the post states, "Some new dads have been inspired by raunchy comedies to bring babies to inappropriate places like casinos, pool halls, and poetry readings."

Yes, you read that correctly. Poetry readings.

Well, at least it's clear where Clorox got the inspiration for these stereotypes: fiction.

"None of these places are healthy for baby," the post continues. "If dad needs persuading, just tell him that babies are terrible tippers and can never make bank shots."

Wow.

Like dogs, new dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.
Web post published, then pulled, by Clorox

So, to summarize, new dads give our kids dirty food and Play-Doh to spread all over their faces while watching "Kardashians," then put them in backward summer clothes in freezing weather, oblivious to their cries en route to a poetry slam. But you can't blame us, because of our perpetually beer-soaked state and canine-level motor skills.

Dads and moms wasted no time giving Clorox a piece of their minds.

"This may be the dumbest thing I've ever read," David Livorne Hershey wrote on Facebook.

"Me want to comment but me two dum," wrote Ariel Isenberg.

Tony Hernandez called it "beyond unacceptable," and asked how anyone at Clorox thought "depicting dads in this manner would be received in a positive light."

"As a woman, a single mother, and a feminist, I find this 'article' disturbing on so many levels," wrote Jocelyn Peskin. "Perpetuating unfounded gender stereotypes is deplorable and insulting. Always."

Chad Welch inquired about a job, saying that since he's been primary caregiver to his boys for 13 years, he must be "one of the smartest men you might ever meet."

Dad bloggers had a field day.

James Zahn of therockfather.com said he generally steers clear of complaints about portrayals of dads, but this was "over the top."

"If Clorox were to assign the same '6 Mistakes' to any other sex, race, or group -- there would be major hell to pay," he wrote.

Chris Routly at daddydoctrines.com envisioned dads saying, "I would complain to Clorox about that thing, but I'm too busy betting on red. The baby loves it when I bet on red!"

It's not the first time an insulting depiction of dads comes from a dad. Last year, Huggies took action after an ad infuriated people. Part of the company's response was a Facebook post from a father, using his first name only, who said he was responsible for the ad.

Clorox did not say who wrote this "6 mistakes" piece, who approved it for the website, or whether officials have any assessment of it now.

We're in new territory with today's modern families and changing family roles.
Clorox spokeswoman Rita Gorenberg

In an e-mail exchange, spokeswoman Rita Gorenberg said it was "a piece of web content written by a freelance humor writer who helps us on a number of projects. ... We have enormous respect for parents, moms and dads, as they make their way through the early years of parenting. We're in new territory with today's modern families and changing family roles and we appreciate all feedback to help us get it right."

Chris Routly says this one web page does not reflect Clorox's actions in general.

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"I know you know better because I've seen the carefully crafted ads that you've produced that try to recognize dads as user of your products, who might be goofy, but at least aren't idiots," he wrote in an open message to Clorox on his blog. "I've seen you engage with some of the brightest voices in the dad-sphere on campaigns that seek to include dads into the picture in a positive way. I know you know better because you are a company made up of people who are moms and dads that know better what modern families look like."

Some people argue that dads, and people of all groups, need to lighten up about stereotypes in general. "The problem these days is everyone has lost their sense of humor," Christine Lee wrote on Huggies' Facebook page last year.

But others say the stereotypes send bad messages to boys and girls, and contribute to assumptions made in society and the court system that dads aren't as good caregivers as mothers.

As far as angry parents are concerned, this "6 mistakes" post boils down to one big one by Clorox.

Update: After this story published, Clorox published a note on Facebook saying that the post was actually an effort to "poke fun at the caricature of 'the hapless dad.'"

However, there was no suggestion in the piece that it was making fun of a caricature, and Clorox did not say that when I asked about the piece. The Facebook note says, "To some of you it didn't come across that way and we apologize."

What do you think? Weigh in in the comments below, or join the discussions on Facebook and Twitter.

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