Happy Father’s Day to all the awesome dads out there (especially mine) and all those who trying to be awesome dads. I’m not really one for making a big deal about special occasions, but I like anything that reminds us to show appreciation for people we care about.
In recent weeks, I have seen a number of articles about a supposed ‘push’ to rename Father’s Day to be more sensitive to those who are excluded from the day. Like most people, I reacted to this pretty dismissively and ignored it the first few times I saw it mentioned. But the headline was obviously good clickbait for the outraged responses it elicited, as commercial news websites continued to run stories around it and even online polls.
What I find most notable about the whole scenario is the cynical exploitation of this situation by forces with differing agendas. After doing a bit of digging around on the internet, which unfortunately included following links to the ironically named Breitbart News (and feeling somewhat unclean afterwards), I could find no evidence of any credible movement to actually rename Father’s Day. The only person publicly advocating this change was someone by the name of Dr Red Ruby Scarlet (seriously) who represented a very small group known as Social Justice in Early Childhood.
Let’s be clear about something. Just because someone is given a speaking platform by television journalists, does not mean they are credible or representative of a considerable section of the population (hello Malcolm Roberts). Shows like Sunrise or Today Tonight will interview any crank with a controversial opinion (hello again, Malcolm Roberts) because it generates emotive reactions from people. Notice how often Hanson and Abbott are invited on programs of their ilk?
Aside from the commercial networks salivating at these kinds of headlines, the other group of people who really get excited about them are conservative commentators and campaigners. Just as PETA’s intervention in Tasmanian politics was a blow against animal welfare campaigners, Dr Scarlet’s words will undermine the efforts of progressive in a range of worthy causes including Aboriginal reconciliation, marriage equality and women’s rights. Conservatives use this kind of overreach as evidence of some hidden agenda of all progressives who won’t be satisfied until every existing institution is replaced. Any proposed change is opposed by reductio arguments that it will lead to something absurd, using Father’s Day as an example.
But most progressives don’t think like that. I certainly don’t want to see a change to Father’s Day even if- as with similar arbitrarily prominent days such as Christmas and birthdays- I always feel particular sympathy for dads who can’t share the day with their children and for kids (like my goddaughter, Ellie) who can no longer share the day with their fathers.
But that is certainly no argument against the day itself. Just a reminder to be conscious that it has different significance to different people and we do well to show empathy for those around us on days like this.