You know the role of fatherhood is changing when the advertisers catch up, here from Ad Week:
But even with dads participating in domestic life much more than their fathers ever did, many marketers still struggle to figure out how to reach them. What’s certain is that advertisers cannot rely on what’s worked in the past. Just think about those commercials for laundry detergent in the 1970s. Where was dad? Nowhere—and for good reason. He wasn’t the target audience. Mom was the caretaker, and she, it was understood, made household purchase decisions.
If dad was seen at all, he was a prop—coming home from work to admire the fruits of the missus slaving away, or else as some bumbling, hapless character. Archaic as that sounds, it was a smart marketing strategy. “The image of male domestic incompetence has long been an effective selling tool because the marketing target was women, who liked that image or at least identified with it,” explains Donald N.S. Unger, a lecturer at MIT and author of Men Can: The Changing Image and Reality of Fatherhood in America. “When patriarchal power was more monolithic, those ads had the character of making fun of the powerful.”
But as the family dynamic has changed, with more women becoming educated and entering the workforce and men sharing more of the load at home, the doofus dad—an increasingly extinct figure in the culture—nonetheless has remained a fixture in some ad campaigns.
There’s a great interview with pro-feminist father, Jeremy Adam Smith here at Marketplace on the evolving role of fatherhood in the USA and his comments are also in this piece on the impact of the recession on fathers:
We haven’t “won the war against sexism,” he acknowledged, but women’s economic power has been growing swiftly since the Nineties. Meanwhile, for men, “economic instability has become a fact of life.” Whether they work in blue-collar professions like construction or white-collar careers like banking, many men are either experiencing layoffs or “changing jobs like underwear” to try to make ends meet. The result: “moms have a lot more responsibilities on the job and dads have a lot more repsonsiblities at home.” Smith thinks the stay-at-home dads stats actually understate this phenomenon, because a lot of dads are doing more housework and childcare than ever, even if they don’t stay home full-time.
So will this trend reverse itself when the economy bounces back? Smith pointed to the aftermath of World War II, when many women were pushed out of their jobs by men returning from war: a lot of those women, he said, “had gotten a taste of something that hadn’t been available to their grandmothers, and that lit a fuse that burned for fifteen years and then exploded into second-wave feminism.” Similarly, when employment rebounds, “things will get back to ‘normal’ but people’s psychology will have changed.”