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THANKSGIVING GENDER ROLES: Cultures sees dads as real no-brainers

By Robert J. Nebel

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

(c)2004 Cox Communications

Photo Courtesy: Fox Television

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Short version
Culture sees dads as real no-brainers
By ROBERT J. NEBEL
Published on: 11/24/04
Pass most houses on Thanksgiving Day and you will see male members of the family joyfully playing football or Frisbee. Inside it is another story as the female members of the household are busy whipping up the feast that awaits the family.
Survey after survey say that women are still doing most of the housework even as men have increased their housework load over the years. According to a University of Michigan study, men are doing 16 hours of housework per week, compared to 27 hours for women. Even as men have made great domestic strides since the '60s, many tired and overworked moms are told and feel that there is a great inequality when it comes to the household chores, child care, scheduling and entertaining duties. Could it be that today's culture is complacent in accepting the traditional household stereotypes? I think society and the media are to blame.
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 especially on Thanksgiving Day, when busy moms throw up their hands and say, "Boys will be boys" as Dad and the male crew view sporting events all day. Look at today's television commercials.
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. Thus, it is "Dr. Mom" to the rescue. I suppose the makers of the medicine feel that "Dr. Dad" is an elusive title for good ole Dumb-Downed Dad, who is only the master of the television remote and the grill.
In these times, Dad is not really an expert at anything. Sure, the home improvement ads 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 a litany of television promotions of Mom cooking, cleaning, clipping coupons, commenting on diapers and making all of the important decisions while Dad revels in accepting the label of household buffoon.
If visitors from another planet came here to watch our television ads, they would assume that the father's role is to sit in the family room recliner indulging in potato chips while watching football on his big-screen television, while Mom is running around the kitchen multitasking 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 '70s, 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. But all of those who brought on the awareness of women's rights are not telling the story of the good dads out there who are attentive to their spouses; feed and diaper their newborns; get involved in the local PTA; take the kids to the movies and the park; cook and clean and so much more.
Yes, I think products can be "Kid Tested, Dad Approved." Why not?
Kudos to the dads, such as this writer, who has been and will be a part of a family entourage that will arrange another Thanksgiving Day meal.
Robert J. Nebel is a writer living in Norcross.