OK, it’s my turn to ask a question: why do we think it is okay to publicly ridicule men as lazy, uncaring so-and-so’s who just don’t work as hard as we noble, all-giving, all-caring women?
A friend showed me this e-card recently, and it made me steaming mad. For those who can’t see the image, it is a picture of an exhausted woman, with her hand over her eyes, and the caption, “You know that feeling of being able to sit down when you’re exhausted? Yeah, me either. I’m not a dad.”
Now, I like quirky e-cards and memes as much as the next person. I find most gender humor quite hilarious. But something so overtly mean to one gender cannot be funny.
After all, how would we women like it if the e-card said, “You know that feeling of being able to sit down when you’ve been mowing the lawn and trimming hedges in the summer heat all afternoon? Yeah, me either. I’m not a wife.”
There would be a well-deserved uproar! Women would be calling for the head of whomever wrote it. And whomever was crass enough to share it – and laugh about it – on social media.
Yes of course, there are men who do no chores, who watch their wives struggling to do everything without stirring themselves to help. There are men who, if their wife says ‘Honey, can you give the kids their bath?’, or ‘Could you run and get milk from the store?’ will look exasperated and elect to keep going with their very important gaming efforts. There are men who are lazy, or gaming addicts, or just don’t care that much.
But those men are rare. In our surveys, it is very clear that the vast majority of men think about protecting and providing for their families a lot. They work hard to bring home a paycheck, to mow the lawn, to do the dishes, to do whatever they can to serve their families. Just like we women do. For most men, the question, “What can I do to make my wife happy? What can I do to take care of my family?” is at the forefront of their minds. They may not do it exactly the way their wives want…. They may doubt their abilities as a father… They may take what we think is “too much” downtime after work when dinner needs to get done… They may have different definitions of what is necessary to do, when… but none of that changes the fact that they want to do whatever they need to do to care for their families.
In fact the Dove brand – that champion of “realness” in women – did a 2014 survey of real dads out of curiosity. They found that how fathers are portrayed in the media is not at all reflective of how they view themselves. In fact, of all dads (which presumably includes those without kids at home!) 74% say they are actively caring for their kids’ emotional well-being, and 51% are taking direct responsibility for their kids’ daily needs. Nine in ten see their care for family as a sign of strength.
Now, imagine how those men see that e-card. Is there any better way to demoralize your husband – or the little future husband that you are raising, for some future wife! — than to find that funny?
Let’s fight that cultural trend. Let’s actively celebrate our men in their role as dads, even if we wish they would do more chores, or do them differently, or whatever. (Stay tuned to this column; I’ll be addressing why we see some men doing fewer chores – and what to do about it — in a few weeks.)
Let’s encourage our men by seeing the best in them and celebrating it, instead of telling them we expect them to fail.
One great example of encouragement is the Dove “Real Dads” video. It made me cry. And statistically, it is a much more realistic reflection of how much dads do, and how much they care.
Take a look, and see why.
Wish Shaunti could speak at an event in your area? You can help! Forward this piece or others to a leader at your organization or church, with a note of recommendation. They can reach Shaunti at NDuncan@shaunti.com.
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.