I posted a homework assignment a few weeks ago asking youse to make some daily observances. I asked you to simply observe how men are portrayed versus their female counterparts in television commercials. Well, who did their homework? Show of hands… come on, don’t be shy. Did anyone complete their assignment? I’m going to assume not many, so I’ll go ahead and give you my take on things.
Short answer: Dumb
Long answer: Men, as a collective whole, have allowed ourselves to become the butt of just about every joke running these days. Except for the investment commercials and the ones about “building a smarter planet”, we males look pretty stupid in the media. We can’t cook, handle new technology, correctly buy a car or bathe properly… and don’t even get me started on handling children (even our own). Any commercial that is intended to be light-hearted and funny typically involves making the male look like an idiot. In the eyes of marketing agencies across the country, we men are nothing more than Homer Simpson or Al Bundy (from the Married with Children sitcom, for you young kids) – a useless, balding, overweight buffoon bumbling through life only caring about junk food, TV and beer.
And it’s not isolated to college-age frat boys who are having trouble deciding what booze their going to swizzle all weekend. It can range from elementary school boys appearing dumb in class all the way to an AT&T commercial where the father can’t quite seem to wrap his mind around wireless internet. Men, in general, have it pretty bad in the overwhelming majority of these commercials… but fathers have it the worst.
Josh Levs, of CNN, wrote an excellent article on this very issue – it’s titled, “No more dumb old dad: Changing the bumbling father stereotype.” He references a Huggies ad that aired last year that put its diapers “to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days.” What exactly made time with dad “the toughest test imaginable?” Are we, as fathers, more distracted with watching the double-overtime thriller so as to not change our child’s diaper?
I realize that it’s only natural for comedies and sitcoms to take on dads. After years of “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Donna Reed Show”, television had evolved (and I use that term loosely) into a different animal. Inversion became the key to comedy – taking people who are typically in authority and control and making them the butt of jokes. I also understand that the majority of these portrayals are in fictional situations. However, perception is reality – and I perceive that we dads are looking pretty dumb these days.
The main issue I have with this – is that young boys who don’t understand the sarcasm and fictional nature of these commercials are going to think this is what is expected of them… and they’re going to rise only to the low bar that’s been set for them. Furthermore, it could lead young girls to have low expectation for how their future husbands will handle fatherhood. It’s no wonder so many people are waiting longer and longer to have kids. For any young single woman out there who sees these commercials and thinks this is what we men are like in general, I can see where they might want to hold off on the baby-making for a while. Heck, I wouldn’t want to have kids with someone who acted like most dads do in these commercials either.
I was going to get on my soap box and rant for a little bit, but decided against it. After all, women have been oppressed for so long that a few tongue-in-cheek commercials can’t even hold a candle to what they’ve been through. And maybe, just maybe, some of this harsh criticism isn’t so undeserved. I can’t tell you how many kids’ birthday parties I’ve been to where the mom shows up with her child (or children, most of the time) and the dad is nowhere to be found. I can somewhat understand if said parents only have one child and dad is at home getting some yard work done, but many times I see the mom show up with multiple kids, and there isn’t a helping hand in sight. When you have three kids under the age of four, maybe you should help your poor wife out a bit, yeah?
It all boils down to priorities – what are your priorities as a man? As a parent? As a father? I think the comedy behind these commercials is derived from mocking our manly priorities… they’re a metaphor for how men have historically thought about certain things. It goes back to the Huggies commercial – are these fathers going to be too preoccupied with other activities that the diapers are going to have to hold up for hours on end? Are changing poopy diapers simply not that high on our “important things to do” list?
For many, the answer is yes – which is the reason these commercials can be made in the first place. For all you dual-career parents out there: wake up, men. It’s the 21st century. Women are showing their “tougher” side by getting their butts into the workplace (and many times running the joint,) so now it’s our turn to show our “softer” side and get to parenting. You don’t just get to show up for one night of fun and expect the woman to handle everything that comes afterward – unless you already have such an agreed-upon arrangement, in which case you can disregard this whole blog post. In most cases, gone are the days of the single-income family where dad goes to work and mom stays home with the kids. If your wife is busting her butt all week long with a full-time job just like you, guess what that means? It means she’s just as tired as you at the end of the week and could use a hand. Don’t expect her to taxi the kids around all weekend while you watch football and tinker around in the garage. What’s that you say? You’ll miss getting your hands dirty? Try changing a diaper after your kid ate a whole plate of refried beans and corn the night before. Trust me, your hands will be plenty dirty after that.
I’m certainly not here claiming to be the perfect father, because as I’ve said numerous times, there is no such thing. But, I try every single day to be the best one that I can be. Mommy B and I put in (almost) the same amount of hours at work each week, which means I damn sure put in the same amount of hours with the kids as she does. But it shouldn’t be just about the amount of time you spend with your kids, it should be about the quality of the time you spend with your kids. Dads should want to go to the birthday parties at this age while your kid will still let you… because soon they won’t, and you’ll be sorry you missed your chance. Remember, we’re only “cool” for a little while – and you better take advantage while you can.
Come on, guys… don’t be the dumb-old-dad who doesn’t know how to fold his daughter’s clothes, be the fun dad that tumbles around on the play mats at the little kid’s gym. Don’t sit and watch – get up and do. It’s time to buck the stereotype, and it starts with the little things we do every day. Some may think I’m crazy saying that we all have to be some super-dad that does everything. So be it.
I just call it being… a dad.
I just call it being… a dad.