Daddy Issues: The Mixed Blessings of "Dadvertising"

Updated Oct 12 2015
By: Easa ShamihCC BY 2.0
Bitch Magazine recently ran a piece on the blessings and perils of Dadvertising — the often times not-realistic inclusion of Dads in advertisements that are aimed at women and families:

JC Penney took a calculated risk that enough of their customers would be impressed (or at least not offended by) their stance on equality for it to not damage their business. Lisa Belkin's article on the Huggies controversy makes clear that the brand's attempts to appease fathers were really only a way to appear attractive to their core customers: women. Huggies brand director Aric Melzl told her: "All of this… is targeted at moms. I don't want there to be any question about who we we're going after."

In our capitalist system, businesses are inevitably less interested in encouraging social change than in pushing product, but by responding to the fact that customers want to see more a progressive stance, even if it's only an act, they're still creating some positive images that could help to subvert gender stereotypes for a new generation.

But while we (rightly) criticize sexist ads, we still live in a society where women's contributions are devalued and it's assumed both men and women will conform to gendered expectations (like that women will be primary caregivers and do the majority of the housework). There are far fewer single and stay-at-home dads in real life than we see in the media, but it would be truly revolutionary if the increase in hands-on fathers in ads, TV shows, and movies translated to a greater number of men taking responsibility for their kids — or at least realizing that sharing childcare is a viable option.

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  1. I can't help it: these things just make me giggle. My husband – a stay-at-home Dad who probably works about three times harder than I do at my public school teaching job – does most of our baby-related purchasing, and he see it as a badge of honor to buy store-brand, local, all-natural, and obscure brands just to spite anyone who thinks their ads will somehow impact his "mommy domain" purchases. Plus, we save money! And the environment! Take that, corporate suckers.

  2. Oh, good grief. Can't we just end the gender wars already? Why do we have to say "women's work is always devalued" when talking about dads? And why do we have to say "dads can be just as good of a parent as moms" when discussing SAHMs?

    • Because, while it may seem obvious to you, me and many other people, there is still a majority in society that either doesn't see that or hasn't realised it yet. Advertising is one area where gender stereotypes are painfully old fashioned.
      I can't speak for the US, but the number of ads in Australia that are like, "haha, dad's cooking dinner, better get fast food!" "haha, dad's doing laundry, better make it easy for him so the stupid man doesn't screw it up" is frustrating, to say the least.

  3. I've started pointing out to my husband all these families that seem to be dad-less, according to the ads. they all seem to be paranoid about being clean too. But yeah, all these "happy family" moments after washing the kids hands, and no Dad in sight, even when the kid is out running around and getting dirty. Whats with that? Peeves me off no end.
    Of course, most of the ads are for the over-the-top anti-bacterial stuff, appealing to a mothers paranoia about keeping the germs away. I dont buy that sort of stuff now, and wont be when Peanut arrives either!

  4. This kind of stuff is sooooo annoying! We're expecting our first in June and my husband is a total badass. I've been so pregnant sick that he does everything and , of course, the house hasn't effing burned down because he's a grown ass man. I gotta say as surprising as it is, a lot if these messages are constantly repeated by women. I'm shocked by a lot of the stuff I read in my online birth clubs. Tons of women are on there commenting about how they're sick, but "it's not like my Husband can be trusted to make a meal, right ladies?" it's do deranged. So many of these ladies constantly complain that their husbands can't and won't do things. It blows my mind. I've come to the conclusion that either a) they are all married to the biggest doofuses on the planet, b) they think they're funny (they're not, they're mean) or most likely c) they're trapped in some weird gender stereotype land left over, presumably, from their parents and can't use their brains enough to realize its nuts. I think it really sucks that so many people out there don't consider men to be an equal part of a marriage, let alone a family. Blarg, it's like extended marriage bashing humour.

    • I came across this a lot with wedding planning, let alone baby-having. Other women spoke about their fiances/husbands as though they were marrying/married to completely irresponsible morons who they had nothing in common with and couldn't trust. I actually ended up saying to a lot of them, "If they're so bad, WHY ARE YOU MARRYING THEM!? And if it's an 'all men are stupid' thing, you'd think there'd be more lesbians!"

      I even had my mother-in-law saying the other day, "When you two have kids, you'll have them most of the time anyway." Why? My husband's studying o become a lecturer and will probably work from home. If anything, HE might have them most of the time, because I'm studying to become an English language teacher and probably won't work from home.

      That said, I don't want either of us to have them most of the time; I want both of us to do things as equally as possible, because this is the 21st bloomin' century and if you have two parents you might as well use them! 😀

  5. We went back home to visit family when our first daughter was 3 weeks old. My husband got up to go change her diaper and one of my redneck, farmer uncles remarked, "Ooh, aren't you the Mr Mum." My husband, bless his heart, calmly responded, "Typically just refered to as Dad."

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