Dad's Who Don't Golf Aren't Getting Cards This Father's Day

With Father's Day coming around (plus my never ending obsession with Indigo's lifestyle section) I've finally caught on to the industry secret of Father's Day gifts. When you stamp any product with some socially acceptable, conservative form of masculinity masculinity and you're sure to have a great gift.

Looking at display sections for Father's Day is like walking into an old Irish Pub. Suddenly the light rose tea pots for Mother's Day are switched with a variety of items every "man" needs. And apparently the thing every man needs can be found in shades of brown or blue. You can pretty much smell the mahogany from the cards branded with stereotypical statements like, "You're the boss!" and "Sorry from keeping you from Golfing!".  These cards are littered with these stereotypical messages that make us believe that there are things that a Dad SHOULD be doing and things that a Mom SHOULD be doing. The issue here isn’t saying thank you to the people who are always there for us; it’s the way they creates rigid gender roles for males and females on the not only domestic roles, but also gender roles themselves.

Father’s and Mother’s Day Cards enforce the idea that there are specific tasks in family/work life should be delegated based on your gender. It’s weird to think that seemingly “jokes” gifts like a litre beer boot for Father’s actually lay foundations in our mind of what it means to actually be a man. What do we get from these Father’s Day Cards? Basically that all Father’s are strong like Arnold Schanagger, are role models like the President, are strict like your second grade teacher, while also craving beer like it’s the last call at the pub. Meanwhile mother’s card’s depict mothers feature qualities as ones that are soothing, delicate and caring. These are NOT bad qualities whatsoever, the only bad thing here is that it seems that only Moms can be caring and Dads can be tough and role models. Again, this huge gap gets created the way Mothers and Fathers are viewed as inherently “different”. All these depictions of what a Mother or Father should be stems from the constructed image of dominant characteristics that women and men are expected to have. Women being fragile in their everyday life for example. Men being constantly powerful and in control.

By changing this idea that there are characteristics that that make up the “right” type of femininity and masculinity, we can change the associated roles that come with being a man and women. Imagine if masculinity was also associated with being caring and compassionate? Being a good father suddenly turns into taking control of the family and “wearing the pants” ~cringe~ to expanding to…..well whatever characteristics make up that PERSON. It’s about creating fluid definitions of what being a man and woman mean to truly change how we view the role of what a mother and father “should” be. Because we no longer just see men as the only people that can have a job, or women as the only ones that can change a diaper. As Paul Raeburn, author of the new book “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked,” says in Katherine Shaver’s The Washington Post article; “I think this is the last gasp of the ‘incompetent boob’ Father’s Day card figure,....It doesn’t fit anymore. 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 odd, inappropriate and irrelevant may be outdated but they are still among the best sellers The proof of change in roles is here though as TIME outlines, “A recent Pew study noted that the family roles of mothers and fathers are increasingly converging. Dads are doing more housework and childcare; moms more paid work outside the home. In fact, today nearly equal shares of working mothers and fathers report feeling stressed about balancing work and family life.” It’s obvious. We’re changing. And the proof of change in attitude is also here as as Jennifer Swan says in her article in Take Part, “Ninety percent of fathers surveyed said their caring, nurturing side was a sign of strength and masculinity, but just 7 percent can relate to depictions of masculinity in the media.” By acknowledging that those cards don’t actually show an accurate view of the now progressive roles of Fathers and Mothers, I think we are one step further to breaking the confines that gender roles often put us in to begin with. Why then are some of the most stereotypical cards among the best sellers? Humor sells, and it seems we often go for the cheap easy joke.

If we became more open about accepting different types of definitions for gender roles in general, I think it would be a lot easier to start seeing modern versions of parenting as normal as well. Ranging from stay at home dad’s to single parents, single sex couples to working Mother’s; they wouldn’t seem outside the norm if the norm expanded. Let’s think about the emergence of the meterosexual? Men can go get pedicures now and care about what they look like and wear without being labelled femine. We need to extend this acceptance of new version of masculinity and feminity further before we can change the idea of what roles parents hold.

If Trump can propose building a wall and Kim can publish a book of purely selfies; it shouldn’t sound so absurd to propose making Father’s Day Cards that show more than just a Dad on a Lazy Boy. It may not be what Huxley was thinking, but it’s a brave new world and it’s time we started showing that.

Check out the Lean In Campaign for ways to change the stereotype. Because we're all better than the basic, "Thanks Dad For Letting Mom Do All The Cooking!"