A couple of weeks have passed since #BML16. It’s the biggest parent blogging event on the calendar, this year celebrating its fifth birthday with a streamlined one-day agenda and an informal ‘fringe party’ tagged on the previous evening.
But with men once again very much in the minority despite the name change away from ‘BritMums Live’ – last year there were 11 male bloggers, this year maybe one or two more – what did those dads who were there make of both the revised format and the event’s approach to encouraging dads?
As you might expect from a diverse set of dads united only by a common Y chromosome, opinions differed.
A common but not universal view was that many didn’t like condensing the conference down to a single day. As Tom (Diary of the Dad), a veteran of several previous years, says in his review of #BML16, “This year’s one-day format made things feel a little rushed – particularly the bloggers’ keynote and awards, which I felt deserved more focus.”
Tom goes on to note that, “The poem that opened the conference included two jibes at dads – one that insinuated we were babysitters and another suggesting that we don’t think as much as mums. The presence of an oiled-up bloke in his pants [on behalf of exhibitors Bollox 2 Cancer] wasn’t exactly dad friendly either.”
One thing that was universal was how high the social aspect of the day is on people’s priorities. As fellow Dads Round-up editor Dave (The DADventurer) notes in his post 8 random things I learnt from attending BML16, “Although the concept of meeting up with a load of randoms – who you’ve either never met or have only seen once or twice before – is pretty bloody weird, it somehow works … This weekend was all about hanging out and getting to know some awesome peeps.”
Friendships were at the core of Martyn’s (Inside Martyn’s Thoughts) reflections on #BML16 and his follow-up post Who needs blogging friends? As a blogger with muscular dystrophy who spent much of this year’s event in his wheelchair to preserve his energy, Martyn is more dependent on friends than most on long, tiring days such as this. I count Martyn as one of my better friends in the blogging world – hey, anyone who refers to me as “a musical genius” can’t be bad, right?
I also make no bones about the fact that Tony (Papa Tont) is one of my favourite people in the blogging community, in large part because he isn’t afraid to voice an honest, forthright opinion without ever being rude. By his own admission he can be painfully shy, but when he speaks you would do well to listen.
So when he titled his post Why I Won’t Be Going Back to BritMums, I paid attention. When he stated, “I was more often than not feeling isolated, alone, and unwelcome,” I nodded in acknowledgement. And when he noted his discomfort at being asked to appear in a dads-only photo, adding that as a Diversity and Inclusion Adviser such attempts at inclusion, no matter how well-meaning, rarely work, I listened.
Tony says he will come to London next year to meet up with people, but not for the conference itself. While for many of us, BML is just one big social whirl, I accept it can seem unfriendly to those who are deeply shy and don’t know anyone else. And it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. But it’s a shame when you read about people who have had a negative experience, and when one of those people is someone from the already minuscule group of dads that you are carefully trying to grow … well, it’s food for thought.
So what can be done? Like Tom, Darren from the Love All Dads podcast (and the man behind the lens on his own photography-based blog Photalife), notes the risk of dads becoming alienated but he also makes the positive suggestion that, “I’d love to see more dads presenting a session and having a male keynote would be perfect.”
This has to be the next step, surely? There was a distinct minority of men presenting during the day’s breakout sessions, none of the external keynote speakers were male and many of them focussed on mum-related rather than parenting-related topics. Some of the responsibility for evening the playing field lies with the BML organisers but it’s also up to us dads to step up to the plate and make ourselves heard.
Dads will always be in the minority at events such as BML and that’s okay. But fewer jibes and a more gender-neutral approach would make a world of difference. It’s testament to all the dads above that they not only come to BML despite knowing they will be massively outnumbered, but many will keep on coming back regardless and speak positively about it. If you haven’t done so previously, pop over and say hi to us next year, eh?