I am sick and tired of the stereotype of incompetent fathers.
The new movie Mom’s Night Out is just the latest example. The story goes that an overworked, stressed out mom arranges one night out with her girlfriends only to have the children’s fathers lose the kids, neglect the kids and almost forget the kids in a madcap series of what are supposed to be hilarious accidents, mistakes and misunderstandings. Whether the movie actually turns out to be funny is for viewers to decide (the trailer doesn’t look that promising). But what I object to is the stereotype the movie is propagating: Fathers can’t do the job.
Commercials are even worse in this regard. Askmen.com even produced a gallery of Top 10 worst male bashing ads and no. 3 features an idiot father.
“Negative general portrayals of fathers/husbands/men in TV commercials and sit-coms contributes to a decrease in men wanting to assume those roles in society, and creates the impression among others that men need not assume such roles anyways, that such simply aren’t important,” Matt Campbell, an administrator for Mensactivism.org told reporter Sarah Peterson.
A couple of years ago CNN produced a story on how a bunch of dads had decided to fight the “doofus dad” trope. “We’re not the Peter Griffin or the Homer Simpson that we’re often portrayed as,” Kevin Metzger, who runs the Dadvocate blog told reporter Josh Levs. The protest was prompted by a series of Huggies commercials portraying fathers as idiots.
But the stereotype isn’t just in movies or commercials. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out sans my husband and kids and someone has asked if my husband is babysitting. My husband doesn’t babysit his own children. He takes care of his kids just as I do when I am alone with them. Happily, most of the time we take care of them together.
Another thing that bothers me: My husband has often been praised for driving alone with our four kids in the car. But as he always remarks to me afterwards, he has no idea how to respond to such comments. He’ll say, “They are strapped into their car seats, what damage could they possibly do?”
Chris Rock has a great bit of standup on the same topic. He’s vulgar but effective when Rock complains of being tired hearing dumb African-American men brag about what is otherwise just average behavior for everyone else. “[They say] ‘I take care of my kids’,” Rock declares before exploding in response: “You’re supposed to!”
Media images both positive and negative do have an impact on how we think and feel. And since the composition of so many families today are single-mothers and no fathers, it surely isn’t helping make the case for the role of fathers that so many commercials, films and TV shows rely on the stereotype. But let’s not overstate things. Mom’s Night Out is still just a movie.
Modeling behavior of respect and gratitude toward a responsible father and correcting those who will call my husband’s parenting “babysitting” are much more important than a movie portrayal of bad dads. So I’ll keep focusing on supporting my husband and the incredible father he is and try to ignore the rest. If we can get to work reducing the idiot- dad stereotype in our daily lives, then maybe we can move on to more important things, like promoting the value of fathers as authority figures, which has been debased even lower than dads as caretakers.