The rise of #GirlDad in a #BoyMom world: Exploring Instagram’s role in influencing performative parenthood


  • Andrea E. Hall Middle Tennessee State University
  • Lauren D. Furey California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Lauren Muttram California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


Performative parenthood, Motherhood, Fatherhood, Instagram, Identity theory


Following the death of Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020, an interview clip where Kobe described himself as proud “girl dad” gained traction online as a way for dads around the world to share their fatherly pride. It also increased visibility for dads in the digital “mamasphere” of Instagram, paving the way for a comparative hashtag to the already popular #BoyMom. This visual and textual analysis explored the use of #GirlDad and #BoyMom on Instagram in order to examine how posts using these hashtags portray the roles of fatherhood and motherhood as well as the narratives related to the non-traditional parent-child dyads (father-daughter and mother-son relationships). Results revealed that fathers expressed more emotion in their #GirlDad posts than traditionally associated with masculinity, but there was still pressure on women to perform through #BoyMom with posed photos and discussions of motherhood. This study also supports previous research on gender stereotypes, finding that the men were more often portrayed as playmates rather than caregivers.

Author Biographies

Andrea E. Hall, Middle Tennessee State University

Andrea E. Hall is an assistant professor of public relations at Middle Tennessee State University’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media.

Lauren D. Furey, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Lauren D. Furey is an associate professor of multimedia journalism in the Department of Communication at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Lauren Muttram, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Lauren Muttram was an undergraduate research assistant at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She graduated in Spring 2021 and now works as a senior social media specialist.


Adamsons, K. (2010). Using identity theory to develop a midrange model of parental gatekeeping and parenting behavior. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 2(2), 137–148.

Armengol-Carrera, J. M. (2009). Where are fathers in American literature? Re-visiting fatherhood in US literary history. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 16(2), 211-226.

Block, J. H. (1983). Differential premises arising from differential socialization of the sexes: Some conjectures. Child Development, 54(6), 1335-1354.

Blum-Ross, A., & Livingstone, S. (2017) “Sharenting:” Parent blogging and the boundaries of the digital self. Popular Communication, 15(2). 110-125.

Boris, E. (1994). Gender, race, and rights: Listening to critical race theory. Journal of Women's History, 6(2), 111-124.

Burke, P. J. (1991). Identity processes and social stress. American Sociological Review, 836-849.

Burke, P. J. (1997). An identity model for network exchange. American Sociological Review, 134-150.

Burke, P. J., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. Oxford University Press.

Cast, A. D. (2004). Well-being and the transition to parenthood: An identity theory approach. Sociological Perspectives, 47(1), 55-78.

Castro, C., Pham, A., & Rubel, A. (2020). Epistemic paternalism online. In A. Bernal & G. Axtell (Eds.), Epistemic paternalism reconsidered: Conceptions, justifications, and implications (pp. 29-44). Roman & Littlefield.

Chesley, N. (2011). Stay-at-home fathers and breadwinning mothers: Gender, couple dynamics, and social change. Gender & Society, 25(5), 642-664.

Choi, G. Y., & Lewallen, J. (2018). “Say Instagram, kids!”: Examining sharenting and children's digital representations on Instagram. Howard Journal of Communications, 29(2), 144-164.

Craig, L. (2006). Does father care mean fathers share? A comparison of how mothers and fathers in intact families spend time with children. Gender & Society, 20(2), 259-281.

DeVault, M. L. (1999). Comfort and struggle: Emotion work in family life. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 561(1), 52-63.

Donnelly, K., & Twenge, J. M. (2017). Masculine and feminine traits on the Bem Sex-Role Inventory, 1993–2012: A cross-temporal meta-analysis. Sex Roles, 76(9-10), 556-565.

Dienhart, A. (1998). Reshaping fatherhood. Sage.

Erickson, R. J. (1993). Reconceptualizing family work: The effect of emotion work on perceptions of marital quality. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 888-900.

Erickson, R. J. (2005). Why emotion work matters: Sex, gender, and the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(2), 337-351.

Fagot, B. I. (1978). The influence of sex of child on parental reactions to toddler children. Child Development, (49)2, 459-465.

Friedman, M. (2013). Mommyblogs and the changing face of motherhood. University of Toronto Press.

Gibson, L., & Hanson, V. L. (2013, April 27-May 2). Digital motherhood: How does technology help new mothers? [Paper presentation]. SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing systems, Paris, France.

Greve Spees, J. M., & Zimmerman, T. S. (2003). Gender messages in parenting magazines: A content analysis. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 14(3-4), 73-100.

Grossman, K., Grossman, K. E., Kindler, H., & Zimmerman, P. (2008). A wider view of attachment and exploration: The influence of mothers and fathers on the development of psychological security from infancy to young adulthood. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 857-879). The Guilford Press.

Gye, L. (2007). Picture this: The impact of mobile camera phones on personal photographic practices. Continuum, 21(2), 279-288.

Hallers-Haalboom, E. T., Mesman, J., Groeneveld, M. G., Endendijk, J. J., van Berkel, S. R., van der Pol, L. D., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2014). Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters: Parental sensitivity in families with two children. Journal of Family Psychology, 28(2), 138-147.

Heisler, J. M., & Ellis, J. B. (2008). Motherhood and the construction of “mommy identity”: Messages about motherhood and face negotiation. Communication Quarterly, 56(4), 445-467.

Kashen, J., Glynn, S. J., & Novello, A. (2020). How COVID-19 sent women’s workforce progress backward: Congress’ $64.5 billion mistake. The Century Foundation.

Kennedy, U. (2019). Becoming on YouTube: Exploring the automedial identities and narratives of Australian mummy vlogging [Doctoral dissertation, Western Sydney University].

Lamb, M. E. (Ed.). (2004). The role of the father in child development. John Wiley & Sons.

Leckart, S. (2012, May 15). The Facebook-free baby: Are you a mom or dad who’s guilty of ‘oversharenting’? The cure may be to not share at all. The Wall Street Journal.

Lee, E. (2014). Experts and parenting culture. In E. Lee, J. Bristow, C. Faircloth, & J. Macvarish (Eds.), Parenting culture studies (pp. 51-75). Palgrave Macmillan.

Lindsey, E. W., Mize, J., & Pettit, G. S. (1997). Differential play patterns of mothers and fathers of sons and daughters: Implications for children’s gender role development. Sex Roles, 37(9-10), 643-661.

Lovas, G. S. (2005). Gender and patterns of emotional availability in mother-toddler and father-toddler dyads. Infant Mental Health Journal, 26(4), 327-353.

Maaranen, A., & Tienari, J. (2020). Social media and hyper‐masculine work cultures. Gender Work & Organization, 27(6), 1127-1144.

Marsiglio, W., & Pleck, J. H. (2005). Fatherhood and masculinities. In M. S. Kimmel, J. Hearn, & R. W. Connell (Eds.)., The handbook of studies on men and masculinities (pp. 249-269). Sage.

Martin, J. L., & Ross, H. S. (2005). Sibling aggression: Sex differences and parents’ reactions. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29(2), 129-138.

McCall, G. J., & Simmons, J. L. (1966). Identities and interactions. Free Press.

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society. University of Chicago Press.

Milkie, M. A., & Denny, K. E. (2014). Changes in the cultural model of father involvement: Descriptions of benefits to fathers, children, and mothers in Parents’ Magazine, 1926-2006. Journal of Family Issues, 35(2), 223-253.

Mills, R. S., & Rubin, K. H. (1990). Parental beliefs about problematic social behaviors in early childhood. Child Development, 61(1), 138-151.

Newman, H. D., & Henderson, A. C. (2014). The modern mystique: Institutional mediation of hegemonic motherhood. Sociological Inquiry, 84(3), 472-491.

Nuttbrock, L., & Freudiger, P. (1991). Identity salience and motherhood: A test of Stryker's theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 146-157.

Paull, G. (2008). Children and women's hours of work. The Economic Journal, 118(526), F8-F27.

Pehlke, T. A., Hennon, C. B., Radina, M. E., & Kuvalanka, K. A. (2009). Does father still know best? An inductive thematic analysis of popular TV sitcoms. Fathering, 7(2), 114-139.

Pleck, J. H. (2010). Fatherhood and masculinity. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.)., The role of the father in child development (pp. 27-57). John Wiley & Sons.

Pleck, J. H., & Masciadrelli, B. P. (1997). Paternal involvement: Levels, sources, and consequences. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.)., The role of the father in child development (pp. 66-103). John Wiley & Sons.

Ranson, G. (2012). Men, paid employment and family responsibilities: Conceptualizing the ‘working father.’ Gender, Work & Organization, 19(6), 741-761.

Russo, N. F. (1979). Overview: Sex roles, fertility and the motherhood mandate. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 4(1), 7-15.

Silver, C. (2000). Being there: The time dual-earner couples spend with their children. Canadian Social Trends, 57(11-008), 26-30.

Spence, J. T., & Helmreich, R. L. (1979). Masculinity and femininity: Their psychological dimensions, correlates, and antecedents. University of Texas Press.

Stryker, S. (1968). Identity salience and role performance: The relevance of symbolic interaction theory for family research. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 558-564.

Stryker, S., & Burke, P. J. (2000). The past, present, and future of an identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 284-297.

Such, E. (2006). Leisure and fatherhood in dual-earner families. Leisure Studies, 25(2), 185–99.

Summers, J. A., Boller, K., Schiffman, R. F., & Raikes, H. H. (2006). The meaning of" good fatherhood:" Low-income fathers' social constructions of their roles. In K. Boller & R. Bradley (Eds.)., The early head start fathers and children (pp. 145-165). Routledge.

Sunderland, J. (2000). Baby entertainer, bumbling assistant and line manager: Discourses of fatherhood in parentcraft texts. Discourse & Society, 11(2), 249-274.

Sunderland, M. (2006). The science of parenting. Penguin.

Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Shannon, J. D., Cabrera, N. J., & Lamb, M. E. (2004). Fathers and mothers at play with their 2- and 3-year-olds: Contributions to language and cognitive development. Child Development, 75(6), 1806-1820.

Valtchanov, B. L., Perry, D. C., Glover, T. D., & Mulcahy, C. M. (2016). ‘A whole new world’: Mothers’ technologically mediated leisure. Leisure Sciences, 38(1), 50-67.

Wall, G. (2010). Mothers' experiences with intensive parenting and brain development discourse. Women's Studies International Forum, 33(3), 253-263).

Warner, J. (2012). Is too much mothering bad for you? The Virginia Quarterly Review, 88(4), 48.

Weatherill, C. (2018). Motivations and benefits of using Instagram as a means of social support for parents of children with down syndrome: An exploratory study [Doctoral dissertation, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai].

Williams, S. (2008). What is fatherhood? Searching for the reflexive father. Sociology, 42(3), 487-502.

Woolard, K. (2015, October 29). Performative Parenting: What happens when they grow up. Campaign.