A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about how Feminism helps both men and women. I started off on the basics. This week I want to talk about a common advertising trope that I just can’t handle; the idiotic, bumbling dad/husband/partner who has no idea how to properly take care of his kids or clean his house. Having a hard time imagining what a commercial like that looks like? Here’s one from Samsung, a company notorious for their sexist ads.
I know that some of this is “tongue-in-cheek” humor, but it’s still frustrating to watch. I really feel like these portrayals are unfair and damaging for men, and I’m not the only one who thinks this way. In 2012, Josh Levs wrote a great article for CNN.com entitled “No more dumb old dad: Changing the bumbling father stereotype“. (I’d really suggest that you go read his article, I just can’t do it justice with my summary.) He points out that the “dumb dad” trope has existed since the 40’s but really came into the playing field in the 1980’s when TV shows and commercials were trying to distance themselves from the sappy, cheesy father figures from shows like “Full House” and “Growing Pains” and instead created characters like Homer Simpson.
The obvious question here is; “Why is this bad for men? Does it really matter how men are portrayed in the media?” Absolutely it does. I asked my husband how he felt about how men and fathers are often portrayed in the media. He said, “It’s insulting, it’s making fun of you for wanting to be a good dad. It tells me that I’m less of a man if I want to take care of my kids.”
While I could go on and on about how the “useless husband” trope negatively impacts women, I want to focus on how it affects men. Again, please read Josh Levs article for CNN.com, he’s much more articulate than I could ever be. The main issue that I see is that these kinds of stereotypes disincentivize men from being care-takers and stay-at-home dads. Why would men want to take care of their kids if they are constantly being told that they aren’t good at it? The good news is that most men are great dads. According to Josh, Pew Research shows that, “Almost all fathers who live with their children take an active role in their day-to-day lives through activities such as sharing meals, helping with homework and playing.” That’s pretty good news.
You might be wondering, “How does Feminism fit in to this?” One of the many goals of Feminism is to get rid of strict gender roles, allowing men to fulfill the roles they want. I know a lot a great stay-at-home moms, and I also know a lot of really great stay-at-home dads, too. The idea that housework and child-rearing is only reserved for females is pretty archaic, but is also still widely believed. Unfortunately, in a society mostly run by men, the roles they are allowed to fill are few. Men aren’t expected to be sensitive and kind, those are seen as womanly traits. Again, I have a hard time seeing how the patriarchy is actually helping men in the long term.
The good news, is that not all companies are using these damaging stereotypes. In recent years, more and more big name brands are finally starting to realize that it’s in their best interest to compliment consumers. One of my most favorite new commercials is this one by Cheerios which came out last year. I get a big smile on my face every time I watch it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no dummy. I know that at the end of the day, large corporations just want to sell me shoes, deodorant, cereal…whatever. But, let’s face it, I, like most people, am a sucker for advertising. So if I can feel confident knowing the the brand I’m buying from has great, empowering commercials, I’m much more likely to buy more Cheerios than I am to go get a Carl’s Jr.’s burger.
At the end of the day, Feminism is all about leveling the playing field. It’s all about equality for women and men. “Feminism, isn’t it about time?”
Further suggested reading:
“Retire the Bumbling Husband: He Isn’t Helping” by Jamie Zucker for Huffington Post
“Let’s Kill the Media’s Stereotype of ‘Incompetent Dads’” by Abby Schachter for Acculturated