Fatherly—Missing the Mark

  by Chris Horst

In this moment, where fatherlessness runs rampant and our culture strains in the void of engaged fathers, dads need clarity, not confusion. We believe men become fathers through sacrifice, not indulgence. We believe children need fathers to be strong examples to their children, calling them toward a life of virtue and service to the world around them.

We wanted to cheer on Fatherly. A hip fathering web site funded by $2M in venture capital? Yes, please. We hoped Fatherly would bring an important voice and credibility to an otherwise vacant fathering market. But over time, Fatherly harms the cause of fatherhood more than helps it.

The Fatherly mission—“to be the most robust source of practical parenting advice on the Internet”—is noble. But what they’ve delivered in their first two years of business falls far short of their ideals. The first red flag was how few actual dads were writing posts on their site. The second was when they invited Playboy’s chief content officer (!) to write an article on how dads should talk to our kids about porn (though they’ve since pulled this article from the site).

Since their launch, their editorial lens has become increasingly cloudy. Here is a snapshot of what we mean:

  • Men can flirt without emotional infidelity. “Though it might feel odd for a husband to tell his partner a story that begins, “So I was flirting with the bartender…,” there’s some virtue in truth and some intimacy to be derived from an honest discussion of emotional needs.” Another approach: Develop the courage to not flirt with the bartender.
  • The $8,500 barrel sauna. Or the $999 kid scooter. Or the $7,500 “gradient crib.” Or the $1,500 bike stroller. Perhaps there are a few dads in Manhattan or San Francisco who can afford the Fatherly product shop, but the rest of us just can’t get our heads around dropping thousands of dollars on kid gear.
  • Could a ‘Sex Pass’ Save Your Marriage? “Many individuals will express an interest in pursuing an open relationship. But that’s not the only answer. There are lots of non-traditional arrangements to explore. Some revolve around ongoing external relationships.” Here’s our succinct answer to your question: No, ‘a sex pass’ won’t save your marriage, but it will likely ruin it. Proceed only if your sexual needs trump your desire to be a good husband and father.

In these examples, among others, Fatherly aims to take no position at all. They stir the fathering pot and allow the reader to determine the best course of action. This is fathering malpractice. At dadcraft, we’ve talked to thousands of dads. Any of them entertaining Fatherly’s provocative counsel will win themselves both a kick to the groin from their spouse and distance from their children. At dadcraft, we cannot tell dads how they ought to lead their lives. But we also can’t lead them to the cliff. This role matters too much to suggest dads dance with disaster.

Don’t take our word for it. Take a look Mark C, Mark S, Jack, and Jessie; four of hundreds of actual dads responding to Fatherly’s advice to consider a marriage “sex pass”:

We couldn’t agree more with these dads. Fatherly has won a large number of followers. Leveraging their founders’ experience at sites like Thrillist, they’ve built Buzzfeed for Dads, a site whose concern is not about the quality or clarity of the content, but about sizzle and scandal. They are about winning clicks, which lures advertisers and pays back their investors, no matter how they get them.

It’s our hope Fatherly will listen to the fathers who trust them and pivot toward common sense, decency, and virtue.


If you’re curious, here are our company’s ideals. We aren’t perfect, and we invite you to let us know if and when we miss the mark.

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