Why portrayals of men as domestic buffoons are a feminist issue

Chlorox has just pulled a web piece which depicts a new dad as taking a half-naked kid out in the cold and having no idea why it’s crying; compares men at home to “dogs or other house pets”; shows fathers letting kids eat off the floor and smear Play-Dough all over their faces; etc.

Gender discrimination is bad, no matter which gender’s on the receiving end of it. But that’s not the only reason to take issue with ads like this which show men failing horribly at basic domestic tasks. You’ve got to ask yourself why these portrayals existed long before feminism, and then the answer becomes clear.

Portrayals that reinforce the idea men are inherently bad at women’s stuff are primarily designed to pressure women into doing traditional female chores. That is, we shouldn’t ever expect an adult male partner in our household to change a diaper, tend a child, clean a toilet or prepare a meal. We should just roll our eyes at the buffoonery and Just Do It All Ourselves.

That’s the real purpose of these portrayals, and that’s why until very recently, they’ve been laughingly tolerated by men. The slight downside of looking foolish was well worth the tradeoff of getting out of “women’s work.”

The reason men are increasingly resenting these portrayals now is that many of them are actually willingly sharing household responsibilities with their wives and female partners. Some of them are actually single fathers, at least part-time. Because they’re not trying to escape responsibility for household work, these guys reap no benefit from being portrayed as incompetent at it. When they see these portrayals, they can see only the downside of looking silly – and that’s a good thing.

But it’s important to remember that the real purpose of these portrayals is to help men escape responsibilities for the homes they live in and the children they father. It promotes the idea that we should tolerate irresponsible men instead of expecting all adults to share in the responsibilities they take on.

Comments

  1. Cheryl says

    I don’t blame men for resenting the portrayals. I resent them on behalf of all the men I know and have known who are excellent fathers and husbands. The sexism, misandry, and treating housework and parenting as ‘women stuff’ pisses me off. I regularly read ‘This Commerical Sucks’ and ads that portray fathers/husbands as incompetent idiots who can’t do anything right as mothers/wives as long-suffering saints who are always cleaning up their husband’s messes and fixing what they break are depressingly common. He’s incapable of doing anything right, so she has to do it herself. Poor, longsuffering-in-silence Mommywife (as the blogger refers to the mother/wife).

    None of the men I know lacks a sense of humor about parenting or housework fails and they’ll have a laugh at their own expense and new husband/father ignorance in general, as long as it’s meant in good fun. The content of the Clorox ad, from the sound of it, was so over-the-top I can’t imagine any of the men I know would find any humor in it. There’s poking fun at the cluelessness of new fathers, and then there’s treating new fathers like they’re channeling John Belushi from ‘Animal House’. Two friends of mine from church had a daughter two months ago, and Daddy is so in love with and devoted to his little girl, it’s enough to give you diabetes after thirty seconds of seeing him with her. ;D Thinking of him right now, and thinking about my guy friends who have older kids, all I have to say to Clorox is, “FUCK YOU! You don’t know shit about new fathers, old fathers, or any fathers!”

  2. sbg says

    That’s the real purpose of these portrayals, and that’s why until very recently, they’ve been laughingly tolerated by men. The slight downside of looking foolish was well worth the tradeoff of getting out of “women’s work.”

    Better to be a buffoon than a woman (because vacuuming a dirty floor or whatever is such a feminine chore, I guess)? Yeah. That’s a troubling message and I, for one, would welcome a change in that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.