Anyone who follows the parent blogging world knows the recent addition to the stereotype built against dads. The Huggie’s “Dad Test” ads expose a point of frustration for dads: the idea that dads are not capable to handle the duties that are required of having a kid. Changing diapers, feeding, watching, etc.
Being a professional in the marketing and advertising field I completely understand the use of stereotypes. We have to have them to reach out to a target audience affectively. Take the standard 35 year old mom. A helpful stereotype for marketers for this demographic is that her hobbies mostly consist of activities with her family. She probably is active on social media and enjoys providing some type of motherly act for her family. Whether it’s cooking, housework or just making sure that everyone in the family is happy she’s all about the role of being a mom (whatever that may mean to her).
That’s an example of a useful, non-offensive stereotype. There’s a clear difference between how a mom is stereotyped and how a dad is when it comes to advertising. If it’s taking care of the house, kids, etc the dad is often the incompetent one. When it comes to everything else (deodorant, cars, beer) we are focused on sex and things that make us “manly.” It contradicts the social trend of changing roles. More women are getting college degrees than men. 38% of dads are the primary caregiver of the child (up 17% in 10 years). We are moving closer to not having defined roles as parents. You’re don’t have the characteristics of a “dad” or “mom.” You’re just a parent. Both are responsible for nurturing, loving, watching, interacting and developing their children.
I talked about this in a past post, so I won’t keep building on this. I am happy for this new role of the “21st century dad.” Sure, it means being a man is being more vulnerable. Sure, you have to show your feelings, realize when you’re wrong, and let your wife take a shot at her dreams outside of family life.
I’m a firm believer that we go in cycles as a society. Something gets bad. We become aware. We change it. It gets better. It gets worse. We become aware. So on and so on. We are very aware of what an absentee father does to a kid’s development. We are highly aware of the high divorce rate and what that does to families. We recognize this and men who are willing to realize that they need to be more of an involved parent will have well developed kids and happier marriages.
I also believe that we make a point to place blame on others for our misfortunes. Should marketers realize that they need to change the way they look at dads? Yes. Are men making more daily household purchasing decisions? I believe so. But let’s not put all of our energy into talking about how mistreated we are as dads. Let’s focus on being more involved, loving and nurturing dads. We will be happier. Our partners will be happier. Our kids will be happier. By doing all of that we organically change the way others think.
By Jared Miller