Dads Don’t Count
Today I happened to read what may possibly be the most sexist article I will read all week. Over at Acculturated, Melissa Langsam Braunstein makes the pathetic attempt to argue that fathers aren’t important enough to be featured in advertisements for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
What sort of perverse logic could be behind this inanity? To be honest, she’s all over the place, so it’s not entirely clear. The only thing that does come through clearly is that she believes fathers and their role in raising their children should be ignored, and if you don’t like it: too bad.
The occasion for this particular display of misandry is Andy Hinds’ New York Times blog post asking a simple and obvious question, “Where are all the dads in P&G’s ads?” [He also asks where the people of color and brunettes are, but evidently only asking about fathers was enough to rouse Braunstein’s ire.]
Given fathers’ historical involvement with and encouragement of their children’s athletic endeavors, it was a glaring omission readily apparent to any father in the audience – not just those who are stay-at-home dads or primary caregivers. But Ms. Braunstein refused to even feign an interest in empathizing with Mr. Hinds or any other father who might have felt similarly, instead she launched into a multi-paragraph display of her own misandry.
Let’s take apart some of the ridiculous pseudo-justifications she gives in an attempt to conceal her prejudice.
First, she says:
“…fathers represent a mere 3.5 percent of all stay-at-home parents. So, men like Hinds are a distinct demographic minority and simply less likely to be cheered in a public and impersonal forum like televised advertising.”
Oh. I see. Let’s follow her logic here. LGBT individuals comprise approximately the same percentage of the overall population as stay-at-home dads do of the overall stay-at-home parenting population. Yet we in this country (and others) have been in the midst of a great moral and legal argument over whether they should be afforded the right to a legal marriage. By Ms. Braunstein’s logic, not only shouldn’t we care about their ability to get legally married, the LGBT community has no right to expect to be represented in the public arena whatsoever: there simply aren’t enough of them to matter to anyone else. And yet somehow, I highly doubt that she would have gotten up off of her sofa to write a lengthy diatribe should some member of that community dare mention that they weren’t being represented in some way they felt important and relevant to their lives. If she had, she would swiftly and deservedly be the subject of widespread opprobium. And yet she felt completely safe within her opinion cocoon to scold a stay-at-home dad when he did.
Then she acknowledges that “[N]early 20 percent of fathers with children under the age of 5 are the primary caretaker,” but then ridiculously claims – since it’s not 50/50 – that’s just not enough to be worthy of inclusion. 14.1% of the American population is Black. 17% is Hispanic. Less than 6% are Asian. 2% are Native American. Ms. Braunstein has surely written an article excoriating minorities for expressing their dissatisfaction with being under-represented in the media since none of them even reach the 20% mark, right? Oddly enough, I was unable to locate even a single such screed upbraiding any of those groups despite long histories of each group understandably making just such complaints. According to her logic, no advertiser should feel the need to acknowledge their existence regardless of how they feel about being systematically excluded. Ms. Braunstein would never dare write such an offensive article lest she immediately commit professional suicide. But when it comes to fathers, she feels compelled – and safe – to immediately put pixels to screen after one father dares speak out of turn.
But wait! In her very next paragraph, she writes:
“Pew Research Center made headlines last year for trumpeting that 40-percent of American households with children are now headed by breadwinner moms.”
Hold up, Ms. Braunstein! That’s less than your magical 50%! That also means that 60% are headed by breadwinning dads – but somehow those dads aren’t worthy of inclusion either in Ms. Braunstein’s world. She wants us to forget that the primary caregiver she has in mind – namely mothers – wouldn’t have been able to be home with those children absent the financial support provided by the father. So dads are at least owed acknowledgement for their essential role in this arrangement too, right? Not according to Ms. Braunstein. That would interfere with her narrative, so she skips right past that glaringly obvious conclusion without giving fathers the credit they are due.
Hoping you don’t notice that the foundation upon which the majority of her argument rests has just been completely demolished, she moves on quickly instead and writes:
“Sixty-three percent of those breadwinners are single moms, and their children’s fathers may be entirely absent. For such mothers and children, a P&G ad featuring an involved dad may simply not be relatable.”
So 63% of that 40%, or barely more than 25% overall, have single moms. Now we’re way under her self-imposed threshold, but she doesn’t let the numbers that disprove her point get in the way. And then there’s that neatly inserted, sly caveat that those fathers “may” be entirely absent. May. Not are. But “may be.” She has no clue how many of those single moms have entirely absent fathers, but she throws it in there as if somehow to claim that all children of single moms simply have no way to relate to a father being involved in any way in his child’s life.
Newsflash: 100% of the viewers of this advertisement have a father. You’re probably shocked to hear that. But I’ve double-checked the numbers, and it actually is 100%. Some of those viewers have less than optimal relationships with their male parent for a wide variety of reasons. But guess what? Some of those viewers have less than optimal relationships with their female parent for a wide variety of reasons too. But yet – in Ms. Braunstein’s world – mothers should be celebrated while fathers deserve to be relegated to invisibility because they don’t meet her plain double-standards.
She rests what little remains of her argument on the faulty premise that if a parent is not the primary caregiver, then their contribution is necessarily miniscule and therefore irrelevant. I am the primary caregiver for my children. But my wife’s contributions to our children’s lives are no less valuable because she spends her days providing for our family in addition to being their mother. Not only is she the primary breadwinner, she is also the music, dance and arts teacher to our daughter, and she is the primary provider of sustenance to our infant son. She is the primary giver of hugs and kisses, the organizer of our household, the support to their children’s father, and so much more. Yet, according to Ms. Braunstein’s convoluted line of thinking, her contribution doesn’t count and my children wouldn’t be able to relate to an ad which honored her equally important contribution to their lives. When confronted with this reality, would Ms. Braunstein ever claim that my wife’s contribution was not worthy of recognition? Of course not, she wouldn’t dare. [Also, see above re: committing professional suicide.] But telling men, if they make a living outside the home in addition to being a father, that they shouldn’t be celebrated as an integral part of their children’s lives? Perfectly fine.
So we have established that Ms. Braunstein would never have written this article about any minority group or about mothers – regardless of their caregiver status, but yet both she (and evidently, Acculturated) felt perfectly free to write and publish such an article about men/fathers. Our society has come a long way in its near-universal shaming of those who flaunt their bigotry and prejudices in the public arena. Clearly, misandry didn’t make the list.
Ms. Braunstein concludes her post with this: “And when our Olympians compete in Sochi next month, I’ll gladly cheer for them and all of their loving parents.” Sure she will, as long as the fathers know their place, sit down, and shut up. Because in Ms. Braunstein’s world – and that of those with whom she surrounds herself, dads don’t count.