Why you should care about sexism in parenting and ending the "Doofus Dad" portrayal.
You probably already know by now that I'm a divorced dad. My son and I live in a co-parenting situation like many families do these days. It's not ideal, but "it is what it is" and we make do.
But this article isn't about custody, specifically. It's more about equality of responsibility, stereotypes and perceptions.
Co-parenting is a term most often used when two parents are no longer together. Co-parenting situations exist in divorced families as well as nuclear families, just in different ways. When parents work together to raise a child, aren't they co-parenting?
The fact is that some dads struggle with their role as a parent every day. Some don't know it but they may even be contributing to the reason behind their struggle. Dads everywhere fight an up-hill battle just to parent their own children. Here's why, as I see it.
Google's Definition of "Dad" is Wrong
We all use Google to look things up. Well, that's what I did one day when trying to figure out if "Dad" and "Father" meant the same thing.
Go ahead, try it yourself right now. "Okay, Google. What's the definition of dad?"
Google says dad and father are the same thing, but I respectfully disagree.
Here's what I think the real definition of "dad" is and why I think it's time for Google to make a distinction between a "father" and a "dad".
Read my definition and let me know what you think!
Sexism in Parenting Isn't Sexy at All
What it is - in a word? "Harmful".
Dads get the short end of the parenting stick, it seems, and that shortened stick is perpetuated by stale arguments laced with the stench of "gender roles". I'm not just talking about co-parenting dads, either.
Dads are portrayed as barely knowing the difference between their asses and their elbows when it comes to basic parenting skills. You know the old commercial - there sits poor dad, all covered in baby powder, unable to change his baby girl's diaper because he's a dad. Mom's not around and dad doesn't have a clue. Dad is fumbling and he needs help.
Parental Sexism in Advertising & "Doofus Dad" as a Marketing Tactic
One of my favorite "dad bloggers", 8bitdad.com regularly runs 'exposé' type pieces on dads in advertising. They've been doing it for years, actually.
How are dads portrayed in the media. How are we represented by brands? One of 8BD's best articles, titled, "Dadvertising in 2011 - a New Hope" shows a number of ads that portray dad in a better (and I'd argue, more realistic) light.
Some companies get it or are coming around, but not all.
Sure, doofus dad that can't change a diaper or who burns the water he's making the macaroni & cheese may give us a chuckle, but it also reinforces the notion that dads shouldn't be parents and you know what? I'm convinced that leads to some dads not being parents.
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Co-Parenting, Parenting Equality and "They're My Kids Too!"
Being a divorced co-parent dad, I take a special exception to the way dads are portrayed in the media, especially when it's done in a demeaning manner.
Divorced or not, many dads occupy the back seat in parenting because of those that came before us. Therefore, the question has to be asked, "Which came first, the bad dad or the laws to protect the mother and children from them?"
The Classic Co-Parenting Chicken vs Egg Debate
The fact is that far too many dads, especially in co-parenting situations, take a back seat in parenting to moms.
"And for good reason!" chimes in the peanut gallery.
You know, what? You're right.
Too often, mom is left to parent alone. But which came first, the bad dad or the slanted public sentiment and legal precedence?
Plenty of, ahem, "dads" along the way have screwed it up for those that actually want to be a part of and be present in their childrens' lives. That really sucks; I hate those guys that messed things up for us.
But have the bad apples ruined it for the rest of us?
Many courts are starting to turn their policies around in many states where dads had to prove they were capable parents before they were given any semblance of equal rights in parenting. Many states' court systems are now favoring 50/50 shared parenting plans unless there's a good reason not to - on either end. Sometimes there is a good reason. Many times, there isn't and both parents should have equal rights and time with their children (and I'd argue the child has equal rights to the parent as well).
So, what's the problem?
Is it Okay to Discriminate Against Dads?
Sexism in parenting may be the purple elephant in the corner or it may be that people are just now recognizing it's there. Just as there is (or was) rampant sexism in the work place and in politics, there is still sexism (not just by women, but by men as well) in parenting. Sexism, just like any type of discrimination, is an individual behavior. Sure, it can be perpetuated by social influences, but it's something one person does that another person may choose not to do.
There are still many moms that think dads should take a back seat in parenting. They feel that they should be the primary parent and the dad should play second string. There are many dads that think men should take a back seat in parenting as well!
We need to break down those walls that surround "traditional" parental roles because, quite frankly, they just don't apply any more. A dad can be just as good of a parent as a mom can be a construction worker. I've seen dads change diapers like champions and I've seen women change tires like they were on a pit crew of an Indy car team.
Besides, what's it all about in the end, anyway?
What's best for the children, that's what.