Last week in a post asking if society was finally accepting men as stay-at-home dads, I referenced the “dad-mom.” The term comes from a Tide commercial featuring a stay-at-home dad who is folding laundry while telling us why he’s “being awesome.” Yes. You are totally awesome, bro.
At the very beginning of the ad, Captain Awesome introduces himself as a “dad-mom.” The moniker is then flashed on the screen as if to say, “Yeah, that’s right, I said ‘dad-mom’ and doncha fo’get it, bee-atches.” Right, because nothing says bad-ass better than pink lettering. With this now visually emblazoned in our subconscious, we hear him go on about how his wife works while he’s home dripping puddles of awesomeness all over the floor (which his dad-mom awesomeness demands he mop it up).
Take a moment to watch.
I just eye-rolled so hard it strained a muscle in my ocular cavity.
As you can probably tell, I wasn’t too impressed our self-proclaimed “hero,” vanquisher of juice pop stains (per the spot’s short version). My initial reaction was that the ad still implied a delineation between masculine and feminine domestic duties by inserting a man into what’s clearly a woman’s responsibility—doing laundry. My opinion here still stands.
Apparently there was a bit of a flap over this commercial when it first ran back in the late fall, and I came across more than a few commentaries on it to include an interesting assessment on the blog, Sociological Images. In the post assistant professor of sociology at Temple University, Dr. Amanda Czerniaswski addresses the same basic issue I have with the commercial.
In the post she points out three problems with underlying messages being depicted: 1) the display of normative heterosexuality as Captain Awesome talks of the mom-moms swooning over his unique blend of masculinity and nurturing, 2) the competitive nature of men demonstrated when our hero brags about his kid-dressing properly, and 3) the clarification of laundry being women’s work as qualified by the Captain’s application of masculine “brute strength” to the task.
Generally, I agree with Dr. Czeriawski’s position. What concerns me, though, is that in our society’s struggles with gender roles and equality, there’s a tendency to disparage our innate differences as men and women. Sure, a man is just as capable of changing a diaper as a women is managing a company merger, but because we approach these challenges differently as men and women that doesn’t translate into gender inequality.
As I’ve said before, I don’t want to be a mommy, mommies offer things I can’t and visa versa. I just want to be a parent, yet at the same time I’m still going to embrace my masculinity in the process. But there’s a caveat to that, and it ties back to our laundry-folding, French-braiding super stud of a dad-mom.
Masculinity isn’t something you tell people you are; it’s something you live just like parenting. And when you’re living it, others will know without having to be told. That’s what I hate about the dad-mom. He’s too afraid to embrace the fact he’s a man. He straddles the fence by hyphenating his title, but then qualifies it with references to his sex-appeal with mom-moms, his kid dressing prowess, and his swift application of brute strength to household duties. (In the short version he adds problem-solving and working out to clarify he’s still a dude.)
The dad-mom reminds me of those wimpy movie characters from suburbia who find themselves in the ‘hood, and then they try to fit in by talking all tough which in turn, tends to piss everyone off and “yuppie-gangsta” proceeds to get his ass kicked.
So to Captain Awesome I say this, drop the “mom” identifier and commit to being a dad, then don’t tell me about it—live it. Otherwise, you roll on up in ‘dis ‘hood—fatherhood—and you gonna get a proverbial smack-down courtesy of my “brute strength.”
P.S. I’m not done with the Dad-Mom—next up: The Religious Perspective
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Ron Mattocks is a father of five (3 sons, 2 stepdaughters) and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and lives in Houston with his wife, Ashley, who eternally mocks his fervor for Coldplay.
Photo Credit: A video still from advertisement on YouTube. Video Credit: YouTube/MyTideTV