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Sexist signs are keeping dads away when we need them most

A 'mothers room' sign spotted on the door of a change room in Queensland last week. The Moreton Bay council has since confirmed it would remove it.
A 'mothers room' sign spotted on the door of a change room in Queensland last week. The Moreton Bay council has since confirmed it would remove it.

OPINION

DADS are being erased from public life. Their standing in society is under attack from a creeping sexism that treats us as the lesser parents.

It is particularly insidious because fathers won't make a fuss. We don't want to be seen as sensitive, soft or weak. But we know what it's like when we invade a mother's space.

There are looks thrown your way - sometimes suspicious but mostly confused - when you turn up to a child's class alongside the mums.

You're the one man standing in a sea of women at gymnastics and you're the only daddy dancing with his daughter at the Mummy and Me ballet lesson.

Dads are forced to choose a path when they have a child.

You either obey the signs and hints that you're not welcome or you push through them and see what happens next. This week, a dad on Reddit was furious after finding a sign on a Queensland toilet block that read: Female: Mothers Room. Men would all read that the same way: No dads allowed.

I called the local council for an explanation and, hey presto, it's going to be removed. In its place will be a generic and dad-friendly "parents room" sign.

A sign for a parents room at Kawana Shoppingworld on the Sunshine Coast. Management has said this room is designed for 'all parents and carers' regardless of gender.
A sign for a parents room at Kawana Shoppingworld on the Sunshine Coast. Management has said this room is designed for 'all parents and carers' regardless of gender.

Perhaps they moved quickly because signs like that - under Queensland law - can amount to discrimination. And it can end up in court.

The Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland confirms as much.

I share that dad's fury. I know what it is to hunt for a toilet as my daughter prepares to detonate a dirty bomb in her nappy.

To then be faced with a sign saying "females only" is a kick in the teeth.

Meanwhile, at my nearest shopping centre there is another "parents room". It is signed with a woman holding a child. Management says the room is for everyone and that the sign is "standard".

I wonder what the ADCQ would make of that. Down the road is another major shopping centre with a parents room.

Dads are welcomed with a sign showing a woman, man and baby. Details matter. When my brother was faced with a female image above a parents' room, he wouldn't go in with his son or daughter.

Worried that a woman inside might accuse him of being there for the wrong reasons, he avoided the room altogether.

He would change overflowing nappies in the back of his car.

He is not alone. Too many of us are being kept from these public spaces to the detriment of our children.

It's time to stand up for dads, and acknowledge them as crucial in a child's life.

If you see a sign that excludes dads from a parking space, parents' room or other public area, let me know or make a complaint yourself.

We demand that fathers need to step up for their children, then place barriers in their way. It's going to take all of us to bring them down.

Follow Owen Jacques on Twitter @Owenjay or on Facebook at Owen Jacques: Journalist

Topics:  dads discrimination editors picks mums room parents room sexism



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