You’re family’s weird — we overheard our son’s best friend say to him on speaker phone. What do you mean? Max asked. Well, his friend said, your dad is baking for church and your mom is outside cutting the lawn. Max then replied — yeah, my family breaks all the stereotypes.
Only two days ago, when I was explaining to a friend that I was having the hardest time finding anyone to fix the concrete steps at my church — she replied — just do it yourself. My response was — you obviously don’t know me. I am handy around the house and all — but install a set of concrete steps — are you kidding?
Then there is the media and memes and greeting cards — I ain’t that guy!!
Greeting cards in general reinforce many negative stereotypes about men, women, and several other historically oppressed peoples. We may have come a long way from the racial and ethnic stereotypes in mainstream cards but problems still exist. As a feminist and a father of a daughter, I am aware of the role of women and girls in greeting cards as well as the images, colors, and characters used for girls versus boys. It starts with from conception with Baby Congratulations cards and continues on through Father’s Day and Mother’s Day cards, Anniversary cards, and general Birthday cards. Our best friend and his wife just welcomed a new baby girl, and we could only find a Minnie Mouse congratulations card – no Mickey – and of course it was pink. (There was a Mickey Mouse card but it was for a new born boy and it was blue).
Personally, there are two times a year I dread going shopping for greeting cards. One is my wedding anniversary and the other is for Mother’s Day. I also get frustrated during Father’s Day by all of the marketing and sales. It’s a great time to buy power tools, a lawn mower, a grill, golf clubs, hunting gear – because it is all on sale – for Fathers – but I Ain’t That Guy. My frustration stems from the fact that I was raised as a progressive, Mediterranean-American male – who does NOT fit any of the stereotypes of the typical man as defined by the greeting card industry or by any marketing that is gender-based.
Standing in the card store in front of the rack filled with greeting cards, I momentarily feel inadequate, left out, odd, and less than a man. I don’t golf, fish, drink beer, or demand dinner when I get home from a long day in the office. I DO cook and bake well; I work around the house; I respect my life partner (and still love her a lot); I love being a dad; I do laundry, iron, and put away clothes; I fill and empty the sink and dishwasher; I dress myself and do it pretty well; and I put the toilet seat back down. Eventually I realize that I am very, very OK with NOT being the “guy” in the Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or Wedding Anniversary cards. After a few minutes of browsing cards in our local greeting card store and online, I noticed some themes.
The message I saw is that Real Fathers:
- Eat Beef not veggies
- Don’t Cook – unless it is an Outdoor Grill or Deep Fried Turkey
- Sit in Recliners
- Sleep in Hammocks
- Try to get out of doing Chores
- Drink Beer
- Leave the toilet seat up
- Won’t Change a Diaper
- Can’t Dress Themselves
- Aren’t Romantic
- Don’t Bake – unless you count pancakes from a mix
- Demand Dinner after a long, hard day at work
- Are Lazy, unorganized
- Love cars (over human life partners)
- Burp, Fart, Spend a lot of time in the bathroom, Snore
- Lounge in underwear
- Have bad tempers – Yell at their wives
- Are not affectionate — don’t kiss, hold hands, hug
- Love Bacon
- Leer at young women in bikinis
- Have a mustache
- Need more tools
- Smoke a pipe
- Shoot guns
- Insult their wives – joke about their weight, hair, looks, gray hair, cooking, etc.
- Are mostly white, stupid, and straight
My male role models in my family were studs – but they were respectful of their partners; they were romantic; could cook and did often; and dressed very well. They hugged and kissed their kids every day, said I love you to their wives, and went shopping, did laundry, and made dinner. Of course roles in relationships were different in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s – but I am a combination of their great traits and the expectations of modern times. Why then do the greeting card writers and marketing gurus still perpetuate these archaic, primitive, unenlightened behaviors featuring beer loving, Neanderthals, sloths, chauvinists who can’t cook and prefer hunting and fishing and golfing more than being with their family?
So what’s up? I doubt if the only Father who doesn’t fit their mold is me. I am sure there are other Fathers, perhaps the majority of Fathers, who can’t relate to the males depicted in these greeting cards. In such a competitive, commercial, and capitalistic industry – if it didn’t sell, they wouldn’t keep making them. So, who are these guys? – And who’s buying these cards? Are we just so lazy that we can do nothing more than laugh at the negative stereotypes of Dads? – No matter how offensive it is to both men and women. Are we not protesting enough to see a more aggressive movement to influence change with the current messages in greeting cards – and the negative stereotypes that they are reinforcing? Or it is that I – once again – am the only one who cares? (Probably not.)
So, now I must go and bake for the church brunch, hug my wife, do the laundry, drive my son to cross country practice, call my mom, text my wife that “she’s beautiful and I miss her,” sew my daughter’s shirt, tutor my kids in math, go grocery shopping, and get dinner ready for the family.
This is what this Father is doing – so, call us weird — but there are NO complaints here — because I’ve got the BEST job in the entire world!
Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts:
- Why I Love to Vote!
- Mia Famiglia
- My Story of Pasta Fazool
- Flashback to the Eighties
- Growing Up with GQ