Recently, the site Flip The News decided to take an article published in the Atlantic, and do a gender flip in order to bring awareness to the constant portrayal of men as absent or less capable parents. The flipped article centers around points such as volunteering for the Boy Scouts, failed fatherhood attempts, pet rescue, and fathering through proxy, as in one circumstance in the flipped article where a man talks about his relationship with his nephews.
This is a small, but important, step towards a bigger, more involved conversation about how fathers are portrayed in the media and how we subsequently treat them in our own day to day life. The point is simple yet strong: men are capable of being a nurturing parent as much as women are. Parenthood is not a woman’s role, it is a partnership between two people.
Think about the last commercial you saw for a household product. More than likely, it featured a fumbling husband attempting to clean but, try as he might, keeps making the situation worse. Luckily, his doting wife is always within sight to offer a playful eye roll that seems to be underlined by the bitter question, “I have to do everything for you, don’t I?” In some cases, the product’s mascot is often a strong, masculine “hero” to swoop in and save that poor wife from her husband’s inability to yield a paper towel (we’re all looking at you, Brawny).
While household cleaning products are targeted to women, and while that is troublesome, the portrayal of men as bumbling buffoons who look at a sponge and think, “ ... Chip?” has been as harmful to society as the notion that women are the sole caretakers, with men being the guy who wears a suit all the time and doles out money occasionally. This notion permeates through media and into real life, and how we in turn view men as parents.
Because we so often see men as creatures who-through some miracle-are able to survive day to day life without their nagging spouse to clean up their messes or show them how to properly use a blender, we accept the fact that many men do not actually start families or raise their own children because we impose that role of nurturing caretaker onto the woman.
“Parenting” is often just a soft codeword for “Mothering.” Parenting groups are so often targeted towards moms, that many fathers feel marginalized or left out. What this article does is bring back into the light the conversation society needs to have: fathers are parents, too.