The “Bumbling Dad” Trope

I recently came across a blog post about Dad Bloggers taking to the streets with torches and pitchforks because Huggies (and other marketers) portrayed fathers (en masse) as incompetent, or, at the very least, less competent than mothers. Dad Bloggers Took A Stand against the harmful rhetoric inherent in the “bumbling dad” trope, they fought back against gender inequality and won! Huggies pulled their ads, other brands have started reaching out to Dad Bloggers. Victory!

Because gender equality is such a vast and complex landscape, it’s difficult for me to feel comfortable talking about it. The bottom line is that women are still treated as inferior in the majority of social settings. In fact, as one comment on the linked article points out, the trope of “bumbling dad” and “mom as primary parent” still has an element of sexism toward women in shoe-horning them into a specific parental gender role.

For those reasons, I’m not very vocal about the media and marketing portrayal of fathers as inferior. Yes, I believe it’s damaging and yes, it needs to change. While those things are true, this is just about the only arena where men have to encounter a kind of dismissal and minimization that women face in almost every aspect of their public lives.

As a single father, being called “Mr. Mom” is frustrating, and it hurts, and I always correct the person calling me that. I’m for equality across the board. Personally, though, my being treated equally in this one area of my life is less important than women being treated equally in every other area.

If there’s a battle dads should be fighting for equality, I think we should be focusing our energy on getting society to treat women as something more than future mothers, and mothers as something more than nurturing parents; as human beings who are as capable of making decisions in the boardroom as they are in the diaper aisle.

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One Response to The “Bumbling Dad” Trope

  1. Trisha March 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Objective, thoughtful, clear, concise, balanced. Your empowered and professional approach to this situation that creates pain and inequality in your personal life demonstrates maturity, acceptance, and kindness. I couldn’t be prouder, as always.

    I’m not sure I’m saying this as your mom or a professional single parent who raised you.

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