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Should Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black Be Commodifying Their Baby?

Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black

An Instagram post sponsored by Pampers has sparked criticism and debate over ethics in rainbow advertising.


A holiday photograph posted to Instagram by Tom Daley has sparked some criticism.

The gay Olympic diver posted a picture Friday of himself with his husband, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, looking at their son, Robbie Ray Black-Daley, who was born nearly six months ago via surrogacy.

In the picture, the family poses in front of a Christmas tree. The child's face is obscured, but the diaper is prominently displayed in the center of the photograph.

"LOOK AT THOSE LEGS!" Daley exclaimed in the beginning of the caption. "Our first family Christmas ... Having Robbie in our lives this year is going to be so magical, our Christmas family traditions will be passed down another generation."

Many comments on the Instagram post, which has garnered nearly 60,000 likes at the time of this article's posting, praised the family and the beautiful scene of a rainbow family during the holidays. The reach of the post, tagged in London, was international. "Cuteness overload !!!" raved Norwegian user @fritzfrilseth. "All the best to the three of you."

However, a few were critical of the photograph, which is labeled in the post as a paid advertisement with Pampers U.K. and Ireland. The next portion of Daley's caption, begun with a heart and same-sex family emoji, explains the marketing purpose of the post.

"Over the past few months and in the run up to Christmas we've been using the Pure Protection nappies from @Pampersuk_ire to keep Robbie comfortable. When the weather gets cold, it can irritate skin and The Pure Protection nappies are made with premium cotton and plant based materials ... and are kind to the skin and soft to the touch.. perfect for snuggles by the Christmas tree #ad."

Daley joined Pampers as a brand ambassador earlier in August. He and Daley made history by becoming the first same-sex family to be featured in a campaign from the baby-product giant, a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble.

Until now, ads for the campaign featured Daley and Black discussing fatherhood. It was the inclusion of their son in the Instagram post that irked some critics, who accused the couple of commodifying their child.

"Jesus is there anything you won't sell for sponsorship. First pride now child," stated Instagram user @garyashcroft. "Shameless product placement," added @fishtowndan.

Others pointed to the privilege on display in the photograph. There are many legal hurdles that same-sex couples face in adoption in the United States, and surrogacy is an expensive route that is not economically feasible for most members of the LGBTQ community.

"Whilst I admire you both I think this is nothing more than making money for the sake of it... its offensive to gay couples who struggle to make a family. Total loss of respect," stated @jaseceecee.

Commenters on the photograph debated whether including the child in the paid advertising campaign was ethical or exploitive of the infant as well as the greater LGBTQ rights movement. User @afrodite0504 pointed out the historic nature of the campaign and saw it as a win for visibility. "Tom and Lance are first ever same sex parents to represent pampers. So yes I think its important," wrote the user, who reasoned that the money from the campaign would also support the family and the child.

Of course, celebrities from all backgrounds profit from their children. Baby photos from A-list parents are routinely sold to magazines for millions of dollars. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie famously sold photographs of their children Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt for $14 million to Hello! and People -- although this money was donated to charity.

Yet due to historic discrimination and a lack of LGBTQ visibility in the celebrity world, rainbow family marketing is a relatively new field for major brands. And there are few role models in the field. Neil Patrick Harris was hired in a campaign for Jif Power Up snack, in which he discussed "parenting struggles." His children did not appear in the campaign.

There is also the welfare of the child to consider in a political climate that has no shortage of anti-LGBTQ sentiment. As a child born via surrogacy to high-profile gay parents, Robbie has been a target of right-wing media since before his birth, when Black and Daley first revealed an ultrasound photograph on Instagram. The title for a responsive, antigay column in The Daily Mail was "Please don't pretend two dads is the new normal."

Update: Black responded to the criticism Saturday on Twitter. "I was heartened when a major family brand asked us to be their 1st two-father-family reps. It felt like progress," he stated. "Sad to see some jump on an 'outrage' train manufactured by oft-homophobic UK tabloids. I will keep my ire aimed at those who actively exclude our LGBTQ families."

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.