Ladies, do you ever wonder what to do with your pesky husband while you're shopping? How do you stop him from cramping your style while you indulge in a spot of retail therapy? If he has been especially annoying you could, of course, leave him in the car (with the windows down a crack for ventilation, obviously). But if he's been a good boy and deserves a treat you could drop him off at Hoggies Creche, Newmarket.
The sign outside the unpretentious eatery called Hog Heaven says: "Is he a pain in the BUTT when you are shopping? Does he keep getting under your FEET? Why not leave him at HOGGIES CRECHE and go and enjoy your day, we will take very good care of him for you!!! All we ask is that you pay for his food and drink when you return! DEAL???"
Now I don't see anything especially sinister in this. It's probably just a business owner with a bit of a warped sense of humour. Anyway, treating men like helpless infants seems to be something of a global trend. In Manchester, "[m]en who hate shopping are being offered the chance to play in their very own crèche while their partners make their purchases."
Meanwhile in Sydney, Ikea solved "the problem of bored male shoppers" with the introduction of its Manland - a temporary "in-store man-cave" that offers hotdogs, chips, video games and televisions to keep the man-child entertained. There was a 30-minute maximum drop-off time and a buzzer that notified shoppers when their man is ready for collection.
Marks & Spencer introduced a Christmas creche for men while a shopping centre in Hull filled its man-zone with "everything a man could want to keep him occupied".
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So, is it harmless fun or something more sinister? Can you imagine the outcry if a similar concept was introduced for women? What if, say, Eden Park had a designated area (complete with patronising signage) for dropping off your nuisance female while the men watched the rugby? We would be appalled. There would be complaints, boycotts, maybe even protest marches. The fact that Hog Heaven blithely continues to display its sign unchallenged is proof that we have cavalier attitudes towards how men are portrayed.
On the face of it, a crèche for men is just a bit of a laugh. But it is also reinforcing negative gender stereotypes: the hapless bored husband, the shopping obsessed wife. How such outdated clichés can continue to be considered a source of humour is beyond me.
And, as much as anything, I loathe the assumption couples are joined at the hip and must accompany each other at all times. What does that represent: high dependency, deep mistrust, a lack of other interests? If shopping isn't your other half's thing wouldn't you just, you know, go shopping without him - rather than dump him at a so-called Daddy Daycare? In short, I'm unimpressed with the idea. I won't be dropping off my significant other at Hoggies Creche anytime soon.