5 Harmful stereotypes about today’s fathers that just don’t hold up

There’s a major movement in today’s culture which aims to make us more aware of harmful stereotypes and to call them out wherever they appear.  Yet when it comes to Father’s Day, there seems to be no end to the commercials and Hallmark cards which get dad completely wrong.  It’s a day which the media has practically built around offensive preconceptions about what it means to be a father, despite our heightened awareness of this kind of bias.

That’s not to say all dads are perfect—some are downright flawed.  But in many cases, lumping them all into one big category seems just as harmful as racial profiling or gender discrimination.  Don’t you think that labeling an entire group of people as having certain traits is a bit beneath us as a society?

While no dad has it all figured out, we still have a long way to go before they see proper representation in our culture.  Here are a few ways we still haven’t got it right:

1) Being a dad does not mean being clueless or incompetent.

I get that perfect fathers don’t exactly make for great television, but that doesn’t mean they’re all Homer Simpsons in the real world.  Most dads are just as complex as any other human—go figure, right?  That doesn’t mean they’re all the kind of irresponsible antiheroes we see in Don Draper or Walter White, either.  It’s something which makes cards like this just plain hurtful:


2) Being a dad does not mean being an unhealthy slob.

Browse almost any Father’s Day gift guide, and you might start to assume every dad was some beer-obsessed couch potato with the sole ability to grill burgers, if that.  And given the baffling popularity of the “dad bod,” it’s as if we’ve accepted that every dad must be some out-of-shape, health-ignorant blob.  That’s simply not the case.  And even if it were, why would we promote this with Father’s Day cards that portray dad as a napping, TV-watching bum?

3) Being a dad does not mean liking rock n’ roll, sports, and trucks.

This goes hand-in-hand with the last point.  I get that some dads might be into these things, but this sort of stereotype (which has more to do with how men are marketed to in general) has real a tendency to get under my skin.  It’s the Entourage inspired brand of masculinity that discourages men from having any divergent tastes or (God forbid) an appreciation for something as “feminine” the arts.  Please.  It’s long past time we moved on from this.  Get your dad something he actually likes for father’s day.

4) Being a dad does not mean being absent.

Last year, Dove ran a series of commercials called “Calls for Dad,” which included some interesting research.  According to the company, 75% of dads feel they are responsible for their child’s emotional well-being, while only 20% of dads see this role reflected in media.  A recent study from Pew Research Center found that “Americans expect dad to be more of a moral teacher and emotional comforter than a breadwinner or disciplinarian.”  So why does the media still cater to an outdated and backwards idea of what it means to be a dad?


5) Being a dad does not mean being embarrassing.

Okay, maybe sometimes this one is true.  We’ve all been embarrassed by our parents once or twice in our lives.  But I’m proud of my dad and all of his hard work and the sacrifices he’s made to keep our family afloat.  Far from the bumbling, idiotic picture that is often painted in the media, dads are to be celebrated for their support and encouragement.  Plus, if your dad is anything like mine, he’s probably pretty hilarious.

It’s time we put to bed these outdated ideas of what it means to be a dad.  As an article from The Washington Post puts it: “Humor is based on exaggerations of things we know to be true. . . . But when the exaggeration refers to something that’s not really happening anymore, then it’s not funny anymore. It’s just odd and inappropriate and irrelevant.”  These things might have been played for laughs ten years ago, but in 2015, it’s just not good enough.

It’s time that the media caught up and started showing fathers for what they actually are—our role models, our teachers, and some of the biggest influencers in the world today.  Thanks for everything, Dad.