Forget sisters doing it for themselves, it’s dads who are making things happen! A group of fathers in the UK, led by father-of-three, Al Ferguson, are campaigning to encourage private retailers and public facilities like hospitals and parks to provide separate baby changing facilities for men to change their children’s diapers.
Ferguson’s crusade was prompted by his own frustrated attempts at finding changing facilities when out and about. To date, the available options for fathers in the UK and around the world are limited to ‘mother and baby’ facilities or the less private option of changing their baby in a public space.
“Society is going through a cultural shift seeing more and more dads take active, hands on roles in parenting and public facilities need to reflect this.” Ferguson told a British newspaper.
He added, “We need to be highlighting both the dad friendly and unfriendly facilities in the hope that businesses will recognise the importance of this issue.”
This issue isn’t restricted to the UK however. American actor and dad-of-two, Ashton Kutcher, spearheaded a similar campaign in the US a few years ago after his own personal experience of struggling to find adequate baby changing facilities for fathers in the washroom of a department store. It started after his Twitter rant went viral which prompted him to team up with change.org to create a petition asking US retailers Target and Costco to provide “universally accessible changing tables in their stores”.
In an interview with his website A Plus, Kutcher explained why he’s become so invested in this cause, using the hashtags #BeTheChange #LeanInTogether. “I would like my daughter to experience a world where gender doesn’t dictate one’s responsibility or limit one’s opportunity,” he said, adding, “Having changing tables in men’s rooms is just a tiny step in the process of rectifying legacy gender discrimination. Men who are aware of this bias want to participate equally in the child care process and our society should support that. It’s time to get our hands dirty.”
Kutcher’s petition, which attracted over 104,000 signatures to date warranted a public response from Target assuring Kutcher that they do provide changing facilities in both men and women’s toilets and promised to continue this practice as they build new stores. However, more significantly it likely influenced the introduction of the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, or the BABIES Act signed into law by President Obama in 2016, which requires baby changing facilities in male and female toilets in public federal buildings, such as Social Security offices, courthouses and post offices. The act states if these toilets do not have changing tables, hallway signs must direct parents to the nearest facilities.
Dads in the UK want to see something similar introduced, making it the norm for commercial establishments to provide them with baby changing facilities, as Ferguson says, “Dads have babies too”.