Papa Bear is a bumbling fool. And TV dads are lovable losers who sometimes save the day. Only in America.
Two decades ago, my husband came to America from Amsterdam to find me, because he’d seen my photo and knew we were destined to be together. Ron lived in America for two years before we moved to the Netherlands.
One of his first observations about his new environment came through the children’s books in my house. Why was Papa Berenstain clumsy and over-reactive? And why was he portrayed as a poor husband and dad? And why did Mama Bear always remain calm, discipline well, get everything right and save the day? And most importantly, why was I reading this to my sons?
I’d never thought about it. Lots of children’s books are like that. Ron also wanted to know why TV sitcom dads finally, in the last few minutes of the show, got to be heroes – but first they had to be goofballs and even losers.
This stereotyping of males was new to him because his country doesn’t have a male bashing culture. I asked a handful of Dutch men, and none had heard of male bashing or knew why there would be such a thing.
In Western Europe, people generally have what they need. It would be hard to find under-educated children or people without access to good healthcare in the northern countries. And it seems to result in a more contented and peaceful perspective.
When life is a struggle, there are more ups and downs, and the stress can result in blaming others for what’s wrong in life. And making people wrong builds negative stereotypes.
When we have self-worth and self-respect, we don’t need to criticize or blame. Women who feel good about themselves don’t sit around telling their girlfriends how bad their husbands are. And men who feel good about themselves don’t hurt people.
We have the power to not participate. Acknowledging what we’re doing, whenever we catch ourselves doing it, causes it to lose power over us. And we begin to rise above the tendency.
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Photo: Getty Images