On Father’s Day many dads will wake up wondering ‘what were they thinking?’

By Daniella Miletic
The Sydney Morning Herald
September 03, 2015
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If it’s the thought that counts then many dads this Father’s Day will wake up wondering “what were they thinking?”

One of Australia’s leading consumer advocates believes that many Australians say it’s the thought but rarely mean it. And on no other day, Christopher Zinn says, is this clearer to him than on Father’s Day.

Each year, he says, shelves across the country are stocked with what he calls “gifts for lazy thinkers”: presents that evoke a one dimensional view of fatherhood and manhood.

For this reason, Mr Zinn, a father of two, is setting a challenge for all children who plan on getting their dad a present this Sunday: spend twice as much time with dad and half as much money.

“The shelves are stocked with really stupid, wimpish cups, anything to do with beer, peanuts or tools … books about WW2 that advertisers think speak to men. But the key thing should be, what speaks to your dad? And I think you might find that could be something very, very different.

“Do shops create demand or are they actually fulfilling the demand? I’m not sure I could answer that question but I would suggest that the presents that they put out there, to me, demonstrate that we need to think more about the father and child relationship than the presents on offer actually do.

“I am not a gender warrior by any means, and I think that there is nothing wrong with beers or tools or anything else, but, actually, what I am given or not given on Sunday, with all those millions of dads, actually … our kids are saying what they think of us and if they think of us as someone who just drinks beer and peanuts and plays with tools I would be disappointed.”

Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a pop culture and society researcher with the University of Melbourne, believes retailers need to be more “responsive to the diversity of their audience”, although she concedes that this would only happen if consumers rejected the wares peddled year after year.

She says standard “man-accessories” like socks and ties, gadgets and naff gifts like hot dog bun-warmers need a rethink.

“I think such gifts appear uninspired and unimaginative but more so, they’re simply generic Dad-gifts that provide a catch-all that would be vaguely applicable for lots of fathers without being particularly creative, innovative or offensive,” she said.

“They say nothing about men and masculinity and everything about perceptions about men and masculinity. Such gifts are marketed to women to give to fathers and husbands as opposed to things men would like to receive…”

“They’re not offensive because nobody is being forced to buy them. The offence is that apparently we keep buying this crap for our fathers thus validity the marketing of these gifts year after year.”

Dr Roseware said the ways advertisers still gender products becomes more noticeable at Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.

“They are simply commodities sold for special occasions as opposed to being indicative of anything a man actually wants to receive as a gift,” she said. “Equally, most function as easy – if uninteresting or uncreative – options for people who a) don’t really know what Dad wants; or b) allows Kmart to choose their gifts for them.”

For gift ideas, Mr Zinn recommends experiences, walks, a drawing, a massage or just talking.

“Our dads are not just defined as men. They are our dads so actually they are far more individual and we know them better than anyone else,” he says.