Flashback: Dumbed-down 'Dad'

Flashback: November 2004

In this day and age, men of all stripes should feel good about themselves. We are told that dads are contributing members to their family and society, but the culture today makes "Dad" look like a helpless boob who is unable to care for himself and others. 

Look at today's television commercials: 

Why is it that moms are the "choosy" ones in the family who are qualified to buy peanut butter? Is Dad not savvy enough to purchase something as simple as a jar of peanut butter? 

Then there are the ads for frozen dinners where Dad is pretending to whip up a gourmet feast for the family, but we find out that he is really nuking the meal in the microwave and even then, he is "just getting by". 

Apparently, it would seem to a cough syrup maker that "Dumb-Downed Dad" is not smart enough to administer the medication to his sick child, so it is "Dr. Mom" to the rescue. I suppose the makers of the medicine feel that "Dr. Dad" is too much of an elusive title for good ole Dumb-Downed Dad, who is only the master of the television remote and the grill. It seems that in these times, Dad is not really an expert in anything. Sure, the home improvement ads show might show Dad actually building a deck, but most of the time, it is an expert who is finishing the job that Dad could not handle on his own. 

After years of so-called liberation, we are still treated to litany of television promotions of mom cooking, cleaning, clipping coupons, commenting on diapers and making all of the important decisions while Dad revels in affectionately being the household buffoon. 

If a visitor from another planet came here to watch our television ads, they would assume that the father's role in the house is to sit on the family room recliner indulging in potato chips while watching football on his big screen television, while Mom is running around the kitchen multi-tasking--another character trait that so-called experts say that men do not possess. 

It is also the self-elected societal "liberators" of the '60s and '70s who are to blame for these negative "Dad stereotypes". In the '60s and '60s, bored, tired housewives came out of the kitchen and demanded equality. That was a great thing, but something funny happened on the way to women's empowerment. Phil Donahue, Gloria Steinem, Alan Alda, Betty Friedan and others made dads look like belching idiots who mistreated women for centuries. That tradition carried on well into the '80s and '90s as "Oprah", "Jerry Springer" and "Montel" carried the torch. While their intentions were noble, it did not make a dad's job any easier. 

But all of those who brought on the awareness of women's rights are not telling the story of the good dads out there. There are scores of proactive dads who are attentive to their spouses; feed and diaper their newborns; get involved in the local PTA; take the kids out to the movies and the park; cook and clean and so much more. 

Yes, I think products can be "Kids Tested, Dad Approved". Why not? 

We haven't even given the stay-at-home dads and single dads who are earning their stripes as good dads each day. 

Give Dad some credit. He's not a buffoon. Give him the feeling of competence. 

A shorter version of this article appeared in The Atlanta Constitution on November 25, 2004 


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