This supposedly hilarious ad paints a dystopian view of the future in which diverse fathers have one thing in common: their kids make them miserable. While presenting men as one-dimensional, regretful, and incompetent, and showing children as little destroyers may be funny, it’s not doing anyone any favors.
This image of men is unfair to the millennial generation, and to the future fathers who are being told that parenthood is something to fear, and that manhood is contingent on avoiding life as a caregiver. It is especially insulting to the 176,000 men who have left work to raise their children, and to the countless working fathers who spend their evenings changing diapers, wiping noses, and cooking meals.
A growing movement has called for fathers to be more caring, involved, and present. We take a giant leap backward when we, as a society, continue to present fathers as absent or full of regret, and moms as children's only caregivers. Regret shouldn’t be the hallmark of fatherhood. And moms, superheroes that they so often are, shouldn’t have the entire burden of parenting resting on their shoulders.
Messages like these take the responsibility off of men by saying it’s not just okay, but the norm to pop on your headphones and tune out duties — and to evade the (conspicuously absent) joys of fatherhood. Our world isn’t quite as black-and-white as ads like this one would have us believe.
None of this negates the importance of safe sex and family planning. Condoms are important, and there are plenty of benefits to protecting yourself, reducing the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, and reducing the chance of an unplanned pregnancy.
We have to find creative ways to convey the importance of condoms, but do so without suggesting that sexual activity and parenthood are the two mutually exclusive paths that a man can choose in life. When we promote anything less than a multifaceted, caring, and equitable image of what it means to be a man and a father in today’s world, we are harming society and short-changing ourselves.
This piece was cowritten by Alexa Hassink of the MenCare Global Fatherhood Campaign.