Another reminder of this came via an interesting article I saw regarding a father who was taking care of his kids. There was a huge fuss over a picture – which went viral – of a father brushing his daughter’s hair while holding his other, younger child at the same time. The article on Yahoo where I came across this story showed the picture and discussed the topic as well.
What’s interesting to me is that there is a reaction to this, and then that many people (including me) are reacting to the reaction. After all, it’s simply a picture of a parent taking care of kids. This happens every day all over the world. Every second of the day, parents somewhere are caring for their kids.
In this case, the visual of a man taking care of two kids – and brushing his daughter’s hair – is apparently remarkable to some people. The article discussed how this went viral quickly, getting over 5,000 comments and 190,000 likes – along with some nasty comments too, for good (bad?) measure.
This is where I find stereotypes so fascinating. Sticking to the topic of gender as it relates to this, if this were a picture a mother doing this, do you think there would be a big deal made of it? She probably wouldn’t get much credit for it, because – in the eyes of society – this is the type of thing that mothers do.
But when a father does this, he becomes a hero. As in, “it’s great to see a man stepping up”, or “good for him, nice to see an involved father”. I thought fathers were supposed to take care of kids. What’s the big deal?
It brings to mind a lunch I had with a few people a few years back, with 2 other guys. All 3 of us were Dads, 2 of us had a daughter and the other guy had a son. We were somehow on the topic of kids, and I joked that I spent some time the past weekend playing with Barbie with my daughter. Yes, I really have done this when asked to.
The guy without a daughter nearly coughed up his food and started laughing. “THAT sucks!” he said.
I was startled. I’m as much of a regular guy as the next dude, but I think I’ve evolved past the Neanderthal stage. It’s okay for a father to actually play with his daughter for an hour, instead of grunting like a caveman and going out to hunt some beast to feed the family.
The guy who also had a daughter chimed in, and told the other guy “Umm, I play with my daughter too, not gonna lie”. He even relayed a story about one of his friends who got had to get off the phone because he was “being summoned to play Barbie” with his kid. This guy was apparently about as tough as they come, according to my coworker who described him as a massive dude and former stud on the gridiron.
The other guy just looked at us perplexed, with a half smirk, then brushed it off with a “whatever!” type of reaction. I went from at first being surprised, to then briefly irritated, then fascinated with this different viewpoint.
Admittedly, it’s easier for me to relate to playing catch or things like that, as I would do with my son. My mind works that way, as I’m wired to have those interests. I was totally sports-obsessed as a kid, and outside all day being active. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not responsible to play with my daughter, or that I can’t do it.
Anyway, I’m sure this type of stereotyping impacts mothers too. As in, a mom playing catch with her son, or even – gasp – going to work and having kids in day care. We’ve talked about double standards for working mothers before. We have also discussed the topic of paternity leave, and whether or not it’s important.
As you can tell, the idea of gender stereotypes and societal expectations is kind of interesting to me 🙂 Really though, I think that there should be nothing remarkable or unusual about a father caring for kids or sharing equally in household responsibilities. Or, for a mother sharing equally in bringing home income and financially providing for the family. Or vice-versa.
Do whatever works for you, right? It’s all good.
My Questions for You
Why do you think that such a big deal is made out of examples like this, which go against gender stereotypes?
Do you agree that there is no reason to pigeonhole people into tasks like this based on gender, or do you see it differently?
Have you encountered any example of gender stereotyping in your own life? If so, what happened and how did you approach it?