Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dumb Dads

I'm just sitting here watching TV and a commercial popped up which played on the whole "dads are so stupid and mess everything up" business. It's one of the gendered stereotypes that bothers Ronald the most, I think. He's always imagined parenting in his future and is pretty insulted by the constant implication that he'll be a bumbling fool. I mean, he once wrote a letter to Jif peanut butter because he was so bothered by the phrase "choosy moms choose Jif."

This "dads are so duuuuumb" stereotype is one that I've used to make feminism accessible to heterosexual men who are open to the discussion but don't really "get it" unless they can see how sexism affects them directly. And it's not a hard point to make. This stereotype is extremely present in pop culture; from Homer Simpson to Michael Keaton's "Mr. Mom" and Ray Romano on Everybody Loves Raymond, there's a plethora of men who are really, really incompetent when it comes to raising kids. Insert a joke about how the wife has a 3 year old, a 5 year old, and one really big kid. Yuk, yuk.

It's certainly insulting to the great fathers out there, but it also has implications for women who are co-parenting with them. When the narrative constantly affirms that men can't be trusted with raising kids, then who should? Even in this seemingly silly way, "proper" gender roles are reinforced. We are taught that the onus of child rearing and housework should fall on women--so it still does.

Here I'd like to reference a recent status my friend posted on Facebook where she expressed how sad it is when her married, heterosexual friends post statuses praising their husbands for doing the smallest things in the world--the things which should be expected of an adult. You know, the stuff that makes up the mundane day-to-day requirements of a partnership. You've seen the statuses I mean: "My hubby vacuumed today AND made dinner! I'm one lucky gal!" Lady, who did those tasks every other day!? And as someone else on that thread pointed out: when did we start calling it "babysitting" when a man is caring for his own child? KNOCK IT OFF. I mean...look up the definition of babysitting and tell me what is says.

But seriously, just like all stereotypes, this shit has got to go. It's feminism 101 stuff here.


  1. Thanks for posting this.

    I've read "baby sitting" to refer to "grown men taking care of their own children" as far back as the 1950s... IE, in times when men normally were not caregivers and thus only "minded" the children when something unusual was happening (mom was sick, dead, just given birth, etc). It's not a new term, just one that's stuck around far too long.

    "men as incompetent" is a frustrating stereotype.

  2. SO agreed. This is tangentially related to something I saw on Jezebel today too. They said it was "good for feminism" that ditzy blonde female stereotype characters had been replaced by dumb and dumber guy characters. What? How is it good for feminism to portray men as idiots who can't be trusted with any serious level of responsibility?? Gender equality is not a zero-sum game people. If women gain something that does not in any way mean men have to lose something.


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