J.R. Reed, on a rant about fathers who are treated as second-class parents.
The other day was filing out some paperwork and got to the bottom of one of the pages and saw the picture above.
To say I was offended would be a huge understatement. I’ve had full custody of my daughter for almost ten years and to see “NAME OF NONCUSTODIAL PARENT/ALLEGED FATHER” was like a kick in the sack.
I hate to sound like an old lady but “How dare they assume that the noncustodial parent is the dad?”
Are there way more noncustodial fathers than mothers? Absolutely, but to automatically assume the father said “Peace out” to his responsibility is bullshit.
I was working on a post called Oscar Mayer Is Full of B-O-L-O-G-N-A but now that I’m in full rant mode I see how the paperwork and a company that runs commercials portraying men as idiots are both drinking the Bad Dad Kool-Aid.
I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials. The dad is portrayed as simultaneously whipped and also a complete idiot.
If you want to see for yourself take a peek at the thirty-second commercial below.
As you can see from the picture and video, modern day dads don’t have a lot of street cred. That’s sad. And they get stereotyped all the time.
I was once in K-Mart (a store I will NEVER go back to) and my then seven-year-old daughter was trying on some clothes. The lady running the dressing rooms gave me the “Why are you bringing your daughter to buy clothes?” look and I proceeded to ignore her.
About three minutes in I heard my Drama Queen shouting that she was lost in her turtleneck and needed some help.
I looked at the gatekeeper and began to ask if I could go help my daughter when she said, “No men are allowed in the women’s dressing rooms.”
“OK,” I replied. Can you go help her?”
“You should have her mother take her to buy clothes,” the woman said with a straight face.
Meanwhile my daughter was ignoring my request to stop trying to find a way out of the sweater and just wait for help to come. I know this because she shouted; “Now I’m more stuck than I was stuck before.”
As politely as I could I asked the woman to call a store manager. When he finally came out he was even worse then the woman.
“It’s not appropriate for you to take her clothes shopping,” said the guy who was barely old enough to drink legally. “Her mother should be doing it.”
That was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Let the rant begin.
“First off,” I said in a voice that was loud enough that the people over in electronics probably heard me.
“Her mother isn’t around. I have full custody of my daughter and I take care of her.”
I should probably tell you that I was easily five inches taller than the Assistant Manager and I was playing ice hockey a couple of times a week. Also I was playing the intimidation card.
“Don’t you ever,” I said while glaring into his eyes. “And I mean never tell a dad he can’t take his daughter shopping. Who the hell are you to tell me how to raise my daughter?”
At this point a female customer came over and asked me if she could go help Her Majesty navigate her way out of a turtleneck.
I happily accepted her offer and moments later my daughter appeared. As soon as she did the manager grew a pair.
“I’m going to ask you both to leave the store,” he said. “And ask that you don’t come back. You should be happy I don’t call the police.”
At that point I got livid and whipped out my cell phone.
“You want me to call them for you?” I asked. “Because I smell a cop giving you a verbal beating for being a dumbass. Or maybe I should call your district manager and tell them that you’re kicking a guy out of your store for taking his daughter clothes shopping.”
The guy was visibly shaken by my reaction. He assumed his nametag gave him ultimate authority but he was wrong.
“Listen up slick,” I quietly said as I stuck out my hand.
“This is my business card. It has my name, phone number and e-mail. Go ahead and give it to the police or whoever you want. I would love to talk with someone about this.”
I then took my daughter’s hand and proceeded to walk out of the store. Looking back at the manager and small crowd of employees I said, “And don’t worry about us coming back to this K-Mart or any other.”
She finally figured turtlenecks out around the time she was nine.
That was the most colorful encounter but it’s not the only one. When I take my daughter to places like Forever 21 I get the “You’re a pervert and are standing outside the dressing rooms to get a peek,” glance.
I’m not kidding. Women waiting for their daughters or friends eye me and on my daughter’s thirteenth birthday an employee of Forever 21 asked her manager to come find out why I was standing there.
“My daughter is in the dressing room,” I explained. “Is that a problem? Because if it is we can easily go to other stores in the mall.”
The manager apologized and one mom standing around there gave me a fist bump.
The reason I’m telling you these real-life stories is to illustrate how dads are perceived. I sometimes think that people don’t know fiction from non-fiction.
Is Phil Dunphy, the bumbling dad from Modern Family, an idiot?
Phil Dunphy is a character. He’s fictional and he’s there to entertain us. I laugh my ass off at the dumb stuff he does but I know that (most) dads aren’t anything like that.
Disney Channel and Nickelodeon are famous for portraying dads as clueless, whipped and as someone who brings home bacon but has no say in anything else.
Kids see this night after night and I truly believe it sends a message that dads are a step below a mom.
What can we do to convince society that dads aren’t bumbling, whipped idiots?
My best advice is to make people aware of communities such as Good Men Project and to encourage others to read the stories from literally hundreds of men who are sharing their tales of being good dads and good men.
Maybe Oscar Mayer executives, Forever 21 managers and K-Mart assistant managers should be required to do an hour of Good Men Project reading every day.
That would definitely show that most dads don’t build tree houses that fall down immediately after building it. It would also show that men aren’t whipped, perverts or second-class parents.
With the exception of my mom and dad when I was a kid I don’t think I’ve ever asked, “Can I” continue to do whatever I was doing.
“Do you mind if I stay out a bit longer or do you need me to come home for something?” is how you ask.
It shows that you have respect for the other person’s feelings and needs while expressing your desire to keep eating fried chicken and waffles with your hockey teammates at 10:30 PM.
If you say, “Can I?” You might as well pay your part of the check because you’re going home.
I know this rant went off on several tangents and it might seem a little disjointed but there is a point to all this.
As men and as dads we need to clean up our reputation and change the stereotype. We need to show people that we can take care of our kids and that we can think for ourselves.
Yeah we need our spouse/partner/significant other to keep us from doing dumb stuff (like Facebook friending the babysitter or quitting your job to start a blog) but to portray us as unable to make decisions without the blessing of mom and to assume that the man is always the noncustodial parent is wrong.
I love this quote from Thomas J. Watson, the CEO of IBM from 1914-1956.
But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.
Don’t let the stereotypes of dads and men keep you down. Let people know there are plenty of good dads in their city and their neighborhood. Show the doubters and non-believers that good men are everywhere, they just have to open their eyes and look around.