Wednesday, 22 May 2013

We are not idiots!

The main spark for this blog was the discrepancy between one prevailing societal view of Dads – that we're a bit rubbish – and the actual contribution of loads of great Dads who I know or have met over the years. At the time I thought I was pretty much alone in the blogosphere: there are loads of online networks for Mums, but a quick search suggested there wasn't that much discussion and support amongst Dads.

A few months later, I have come across lots of sites, mostly in the US, where Dads are leading the fightback. This morning I listened to an interesting and amusing discussion on the Dadsaster podcast. In particular, there was a fascinating chat with @DaddyFiles who has written about the use of fathers as a punchline.

They discussed this article, in which one Mum gives her views on appropriate gender roles:

The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.” Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; “women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.”

This is obviously a massive generalisation, even though with my sample of 1 I would possibly agree with her on the final point: my wife probably does keep it together better than I do. She's also incredibly patient and tolerant. I might be a better multitasker.

I very rarely get the vibe from my wife that she thinks I'm any less capable than her on the parenting front (and of course it's not a competition). And when there has been a glimpse of that, I think it comes across as playing up to a cultural norm rather than a deeply held view. That's something the article tackles:

Psychologists suggest that perhaps American women are heirs and slaves to some atavistic need to prove their worth through domestic perfectionism: 'So many women want to control their husbands' parenting,' says Barbara Kass, a therapist with a private practice in Brooklyn. '"Oh, do you have the this? Did you do the that? Don't forget that she needs this. And make sure she naps." Sexism is internalised.'

Of course, women have had to put up with this for years, a point Aaron Gouveia (aka DaddyFiles) makes in the podcast:

'It's like what you see with so many women entering the workforce in recent years, men have gotten defensive, and women don't have it even, going to work and trying to get up the corporate ladder, and it's kind of the same thing here in reverse: women have traditionally been at home with the kids and now Dads are staying at home, and there really is a sense of "wait a minute, you're creeping in on my turf here." It really shouldn't be that way, it should be equal involvement or at least as close to equal involvement as you can manage. It's a shame that that mindset is still there.'

I think there's a lot of truth in that, but I don't think it's enough to explain the general rubbishness of Dads in popular culture. Take films. Most of those that portray Dads as bumbling idiots are written by men, by Dads. I think crap Dads are just seen as an easy target, with broad enough shoulders to take the sexism in good humour. And generally we do. But it doesn't half go on, and that brings me back to the purpose of this blog: to hopefully show from time to time that many Dads are in fact capable of getting through the day without killing, losing or starving their own offspring.

1 comment:

  1. I completely concur Jon, the negative/bumbling/incapable stereotyping of men is horribly prevalent particular in the British sitcom . The attribution of authoring is interesting,I have one recollection of a bumbling inefficient mother in sitcom land, in a series called "Butterflies" interestingly written by a woman Carla Lane, so maybe there is a tendency to self deprecation in writers? Nonetheless absent minded Dad is somewhat of a cliché but I feel things are improving in the media at least a little. There are now men portrayed as stoic, responsible, considerate and forward thinking like in some American comedies though they are either Uncles with a bumbling Dad to counter like Charlie in Two and a Half Men or Gay as in Modern family and The New Normal, with bumbling Brother-in-laws/Granddads to overcome. Still small steps eh? Maybe its just easier to laugh at Dads?