Jonathan deBurca Butler
Celebrities can’t stay quiet. That is the nature of the fame phenomenon. One advantage of fame is that when you do open your mouth what you say usually gets noticed. Sometimes it gets so noticed that people sit up and actually do something about it. Well-meaning people , otherwise known as the great unwashed, can bang on for years about the destruction of rare plants in the Obscurio Forests of some far-flung place or the plight of the hump-backed-platypus-frog-ant in central Greenland and nothing gets done but one earnestly frowning mention of the very same from even a Z-list celebrity can take your cause to unparalleled heights.
The latest celebrity do-gooder is no stranger to giving his opinion. Last week, first time father, Ashton Kutcher, took to Facebook to demand more nappy-changing facilities for men.
“There are NEVER diaper changing stations in men’s public restrooms,” he wrote, hopefully after washing his hands…somewhere. “The first public men’s room that I go into that has one gets a free shout out on my FB page!”
He even added a hashtag, #BeTheChange, and thus a campaign to get nappy-changing facilities in men’s bathrooms was launched. God knows what the posters would look like but one imagines a suitably aggrieved looking Ashton holding up a soiled nappy with the tagline ‘no more of this shit!’ or ‘Man, I ain’t takin’ this shit anymore. I’m cleaning it!’ #BeTheChange. Such was the popularity of his post that he might even run for President at this stage. The tea-party against the nappy-party would make for quite an election.
The actor’s little rant has been “liked” nearly 220,000 times by those who agree with him. And on the surface – a nice, clean and regularly washed-down surface – calls for change in baby-changing facilities are long overdue. Yet again society is failing to accept that parenting has changed and is changing.
On the other hand, I’m wondering if Ashton has thought this one through. At the moment, the That 70’s Show actor is in the dizzy, loved-up throes of being a father for the first time. His fiance, Mila Kunis, gave birth to their daughter last October. Having been there, I know that Ashton is probably going through a phase of ‘first-time-fatherly-arrogance’ the symptoms of which include being very protective of your children, pushing the buggy around the city like a steamroller, smiling and cooing excessively everywhere you go and being right all the time while everyone else is wrong. Self-righteousness is the most telling sign of this early fatherhood ailment. But time is a great healer and a great leveller and there will come a day, maybe on Ashton’s second or third child, when he’ll be in one of his ‘daddy-bathroom-changing-facilities’ restaurants of the future, enjoying his Eggs Benedict and his eyes, ears and nose tell him that daughter or son have pooped their nappies.
Now pre-Ashton’s rant, it was the mother who automatically got up and changed the child without even a discussion (it’s worth bearing in mind that from the second child on you learn to finish your food and then deal with the nappy. One lives, one learns). Now due to Ashton’s #BeTheChange campaign Ashton’s and every other father’s enjoyment of his breakfast might well be disturbed by there being another option i.e. changing facilities in the men’s room. But that is not the worst possible outcome of Ashton’s crusade. Choice can often lead to argument when two tired parents are facing each other across a mess-laden table. Like a dual in a Spaghetti-Western, who does what can often be decided by who blinks first.
So it’s not just the fact that every father faces a future of having his breakfast disturbed by the fact that he can now change a nappy in his assigned toilet, it’s the possibility of restaurants having to split up rowdy parents arguing over whose turn it is to change the nappy.
Restaurants around the world have been promised a shout out on Ashton’s page if they wade in behind his cause and install baby-changing facilities in men’s rooms. That’s a tempting offer considering he has nearly 19 million likes on his Facebook fan page. But restaurants might want to think again. So might Ashton.
This is a slightly amended version of a Dad’s World piece published in the Irish Examiner omn March 20th