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.