Josh McCumber argues that if modern dads want to change how they’re being portrayed online, they’re going to need some help from the mom blogger community.
The traditional description of the father is a hard one to change in modern society. It does not help that one of the stereotypes of a traditional father is “resistant to change.” Social media is such a powerful interface that it can encourage public opinion that change is occurring or it can undermine change by suggesting to the community that change is not genuine or long lasting.
Taking notice of this, fathers around the globe have noticed that we need to take a more active role in influencing the narrative around the modern father. I truly believe the cohort of modern fathers involved with social media want to be informants to our communities regarding what being a modern fathers means, and what the new normal could be. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of Dad-bloggers pounding the keys to get the word out about our efforts. We are stay-at-home fathers, we are lunch packers, we are affectionate, we are nurturing, we are thoughtful about women, we are aware of emotion. Most of all, we are devoted to our role as responsible fathers.
Even with all of our combined efforts to influence the popular discourse on fatherhood, there are still many challenges. For example, the new modern-day dad may still be a minority of men. And the majority of men (who are getting smaller in numbers) still do not see the benefit of being a modern-day dad and the mothers of their children and their children pay a dear price for their under-involvement. I believe that’s why the derogatory memes of fathers on the internet remain so popular.
Just the other day a father in a group I am involved in commented on a picture of a newlywed couple with the caption, “Your husbands will always be your biggest and oldest child that requires the most adult supervision.” Likewise, it is not uncommon to see blogs that make fun of father’s efforts and label men as largely incompetent. Of course, for the women who actually experience these descriptions, these commentaries are poignant and normalizing for them. This is so true that popular brands advertise based on these biases to connect with women in hopes to increase their revenues. Fathers are becoming more aware of these media biases (e.g. see these articles by DadCamp and 8BitDad) and wonder whether they are getting fair consideration as parents.
Other than the relatively recent development of dad-bloggers, is there any evidence that the social construction of the father role is changing? Absolutely. The last 30 years has resulted in concerted investigation of the social sciences into fatherhood. The traditional understanding of the father role (i.e. primary provider, partner of a wife) has yielded to a much richer understanding of how diverse the father role truly is.
The research into the diversity of fathers include absent fathers, resident single fathers, step-fathers, minority fathers, divorced and never married fathers, multi-father families, adoptive fathers, combat veteran fathers, fathers from low socio-economic backgrounds, among many others. Research has focused on father involvement and child outcomes and has specifically looked at healthy families. From these studies, we have a better understanding of what these fathers do and how they perceive their roles; knowing these strengths and reinforcing them we can build stronger families and communities.
In 1988, a new ideal emerged out of the social sciences literature that described fatherhood as “the nurturing father” versus the traditional “bread winner.” By the late 90s, research began to suggest that even though men had made significant changes in their roles in the family, their changes were largely hidden by the dominant discourse about fathers—seeing that the definition of fatherhood is co-constructed with other voices.
In short, there needs to be congruence between the dominant discourse about fatherhood and the changes that are occurring in fatherhood for change to be meaningful and long lasting community wide. This need for congruence is found in the voice of dad-bloggers within social media and researchers in the social sciences alike. That leads me to my invitation to mom-bloggers.
As mentioned earlier, fatherhood is a socially defined role that is co-constructed. Dad-bloggers need to collaborate with other influential social media in order to effectively influence the discourse to focus more on changes than the status quo. I submit to mom-bloggers that we need you. Help us change the definition of the modern father as a nurturing father and a responsible parent. Yes, I am attempting to recruit you. I offer some practical suggestions for ways in which you can collude with modern dads as catalysts for change.
1. Don’t hate
If ever pointing out an example of fatherly incompetence, insensitivity, or obliviousness, please also point out an example of a father that contrasts that offense. Taking this extra step communicates that fathers are not a monolithic group and many dads get it right.
2. Praise examples of fatherhood that you find unique or meaningful
This promotes expectations in a positive way to a readership that many fathers may not have access to. A woman’s witness to an unsuspecting man’s success is a powerful message. Consider this article by an impressed wife.
3. Look for opportunities to collaborate with Dad-bloggers
This can be especially meaningful when looking for genuine examples of the mistakes and successes associated with fathering. Collaboration may also have the benefit of adding credibility to your work addressing topics of masculinity or male emotional development. For example, consider an article that a man wrote about female discrimination in the work place and how it might change with a female professional’s input? Consider how this article on male violence and masculinity might change if there were also a father’s voice added in support of the issue? What about a father who grew up in a violent home?
4. Be elevated because of your value, without stepping on fathers
Women deserve recognition, but recognition at the expense of others is not necessary. This can be seen every Mother’s Day with popular commercials (e. g. consider this Mother’s Day commercial that may reinforce a father’s absence). If you are asked to review a product for a company on your blog, or you are asked about an ad campaign, consider if the company appears to be subscribing to a stereotype about men to connect with women. I am not asking you to boycott the company, just consider making a brief comment in your blog whether an advertisement offers a fair depiction of the modern day dad.
5. Consider influencing other Mom-Bloggers
If both Dad-bloggers and Mom-bloggers are proactive in suggesting a more modern perspective of fatherhood, perhaps well-intentioned Mom-bloggers who inadvertently promulgate father stereotypes will be more receptive to adjusting their writing in the future.
Credit: Image—Neeta Lind/Flickr