Last month, father and teacher Donte Palmer posted a picture on Instagram of himself squatting in a public restroom. He had to use his legs to help change the diaper of his 1-year old son because there were no diaper changing stations in the men’s restroom. Several days after his older son had taken the pic, Donte realized the potential for his voice to be heard about equality. After a more prominent account reposted the photo, thousands of likes and sympathy from fellow fathers poured in. After several media outlets picked up on the viral post, a nationwide conversation was opened on diaper changing stations in men’s restrooms.
However, this was not the first time that fathers have voiced their concerns, in 2015, Ashton Kutcher tweeted similar concerns for diaper-changing stations in men’s restrooms. One year later, President Obama put forward legislation for all federal buildings to include these stations in their bathrooms, regardless of gender. Additionally, New York City recently introduced requirements for new and renovated buildings to adopt the same practice.
This outcry from fathers in recent years has addressed a rising issue for American gender equality. As the number of men choosing to become stay-at-home dads increases, the need for equal access to public childcare amenities becomes more apparent. The subtle discrimination against fathers as caregivers matches the public perception of these men. One public opinion survey citing that children with a stay-at-home mother were more likely to be better raised than with stay-at-home fathers.
Not only does this need represent an issue for fathers, but mothers as well. If the public spaces dedicated towards parents remain women-focused, how will the public view women as anything but the only gender equipped to be the primary caregiver? As women continue to make up a larger proportion of the nation’s workforce, the traditional gender roles within the American family will also change, and its time that we prepare for it.
Throughout this conversation on diaper-changing, there’s demographic that remains unheard, mainly because they cannot speak –the children affected. Although there’s little statistical information on the subject, it isn’t hard to imagine that changing-stationless bathrooms present a real threat to the babies involved. Neither slippery floors to wall-sit against nor bacteria-laden sinks sound like viable alternatives for the most fragile of all human beings. However you feel about fathers as primary caregivers, I doubt anyone is against installing a simple piece of plastic on a wall to potentially prevent a tragedy. As Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons would say, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?”