Ashton Kutcher, who we already kind of loved for his activism against child pornography and sex trafficking, boosted his feminist street cred even further this week. The new dad of a five-month-old girl took to Facebook to critique the parenting double standard that leads to providing only women’s bathrooms with diaper-changing tables.
The post seems to have hit a nerve and went viral, having been “liked” by more than 200,000 people. Kutcher’s quippy remark does more than just express the frustrations fathers face when attempting to shoulder an equitable burden in child-rearing. It shows how firmly entrenched gender roles are and how they make their presence felt in even the most mundane of parenting duties.
Our society isn’t always engineered to accommodate men who want to be active parents, and that bias is shown in everything from the lack of paid paternity leave to the lack of social acceptance stay-at-home dads encounter. Sometimes the problem is as simple as not having a place to change your infant’s diaper.
There are never any changing stations in the men’s public restrooms Kutcher visits because the social script dictates it should be his fiancée, Mila Kunis, dealing with soiled diapers.
These patriarchal value systems can be difficult to uproot. Governor Jerry Brown of California recently vetoed a bill called the Potty Parity for Parents Act that would have mandated baby-changing facilities in both men’s and women’s public restrooms.
Equal access to changing tables would better reflect what modern fatherhood looks like—and empower involved fathers who do want to care for their kids.