/> a mother's heart » Blog Archive » dads as neanderthals?

So there’s been a movement for several years now to make men look like idiots, nincompoops, and doofuses Maxwell_Neanderthalphoto © 2008 Matt Celeskey | more info (via: Wylio)
in the media, specifically in advertising.

I understand the thought behind it (to a degree) in that the ads make women seem empowered, stronger, and smarter.  A nod to Girl Power and the feminism of the 70s and 80s.  But what I don’t like and I don’t agree with is that empowering women is a zero-sum gain.  In other words, there’s equal space in our world for men AND women to be smart, strong, and powerful.  One gender does NOT have to diminish while the other climbs over and achieves.  And I think that is where the advertisers fail.  There is no reason to denigrate men while elevating women; the opposite is also true:  there’s no need to denigrate women while elevating men.  We as genders are complimentary to each other – we’re designed to work together, not lop each other off on the way to the top.

So enter Tide.  Yes, the laundry detergent. Tide has recently decided that making a dad look like a passive-aggressive jerk is a great way to sell soap. Really? So here’s the ad and my thoughts follow.

One of the things I’m wondering is why a talk between the parents in the situation hasn’t taken place about their kids’ wardrobes.  I know we do things a bit “old-fashioned” around here, but parents being on the same page in parenting is an important thing.  A skirt that short deserves some healthy boundaries – in the family, for the daughter, and for the sake of parental unity and the marriage.  Modesty-issues aside, how is something like that good for a young woman who’s growing in womanhood and who can/will be ogled by grown men (not to mention her same-aged male peers)? Personal safety is important!  It’s curious to me why the mom approves of a skirt that short and seems to not be concerned with the safety of her daughter and the message that she’s broadcasting.  In a day and age when so many individuals are addicted to pornography and display other sexual brokennesses, I simply can’t see something like this being ok.

If the conversation about the skirt had taken place, there would be no place for the dad in the commercial to be passive-aggressive and wipe his hands on the short skirt.  Yes, I know this would kill the commercial and the point of the ad. Additionally, if there hadn’t been any passive-aggressive behaviour, there would have been no side-long glance (with what appeared to be mild contempt) from the mom in the spot.  I recognize that I’m analyzing this heavily, but while working with couples whose marriages are in trouble, I see many people who have barely-masked contempt for each other, and parenting their kids is where the wheels really start to come off of the relationship.

I also think it’s a shame that dad is portrayed not only as passive-aggressive in this spot, but as a kill-joy.  Dads are a vital, integral part of their kids’ lives.  My friends and I all have stories on the importance of a father in the life of his kids – and being a joy-sucker isn’t part of the stories or job-description.  A dad’s relationship with his daughter will be the foundation upon which she builds her future relationships, her self-esteem, her education, and ultimately, how she chooses to live out whatever calling she has.  A dad’s role in his son’s life is equally as important – it’s the dad who will teach his son what it means to be a man, how to provide for his family, and how to lead his family.  A young man who has a firm foundation of his father’s love will excel in school (to the best of his ability), determine his self-worth, and will identify his own gender and how to form relationships with the opposite gender.  The importance of a dad in the life of a family and children cannot be understated – women simply cannot do it all, despite the old Enjoli ad’s words.

In my opinion, dads acting as neanderthals isn’t something we should be celebrating, modeling, or laughing about – even to sell laundry soap.  This ad is a snapshot of culture in our country today; it shows gender-bias attitudes that are present, unhealthy boundaries with kids and between the parents, and might even elicit a small laugh from people.  I think it’s sad that we laugh at the underlying message, but it seems to have struck a chord with our society today.

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