This weekend I watched a rather intriguing television commercial. It made me grimace for its unpleasant truth and for a multitude of other reasons which are really not fair to the spot’s intention. It is simply a distasteful state of affairs in this era that stay-at-home-dads (SAHD) have become so ubiquitous that they now merit substantial advertising dollars from a large detergent company that was once known for affixing its logo to the decidedly masculine metal of NASCAR racers. Now Tide makes commercials about men who stay home and do laundry while wearing the most innocuous and timorous clothes with an unremarkable dullness of personal non-magnetism to match.
I watched and shuddered.
I exhaled a breath of dismay.
Of course times are tough and the economic gender balance has flipped in the last 10 years. There is no denying this state of affairs and portraying men who solely do all the housework merely reflects real life. Yes, yes, we are all quite aware of the plight of Manhood. Magazine articles, books, internet forums, all awash with the news, heralding Man’s descent and Woman’s rise. The fact that our voracious capitalistic amoral economic system bleeds life from society while the destruction of masculinity ensues does not make things easier.
Most bothersome to me is the actor and his bland gender neutrality which borders on the feminine. I accept that some men are left with no options other than to resign themselves to full-time housekeeping duty while their wife brings home the bacon, so to speak. But is this permission for men to inhibit their masculinity and act like such hollow representations of their gender behind mounds of quivering pink flesh? Perhaps this is not typical of most SAHDs, but regardless, this is how Tide sees fit to paint the shameful subculture. Must man lop off his testicles in such a humiliating fashion if he chooses to forsake all hope of ever being the home’s sole breadwinner?
I actually believe men should learn to be self-sufficient in these times. Perhaps it worked fine in 1880, but this is not the time for men to rely on women. In fact, any mother who enables a habit of pitiful helplessness in her son is dooming his future. Boys must be taught to be self-sufficient because most modern women are too busy working to learn or spend time doing silly things like cooking or house-making. Today’s boy must learn to cook, wash his clothes, even sew a button, for this precious knowledge will be his gateway to independence, thus, personal prosperity. However, braiding hair is bullshit. No man should be forced to learn that. This commercial goes too far in that respect.
Some of the public’s reactions to this spot are amusing. The video appears on Tide’s Facebook wall. Some of the comments echo the predictable “thank you Tide for such a wonderful trailblazing commercial which recognizes the new gender paradigm” with oodles of back-patting. Congratulations for “breaking” stereotypes for the simple act of recognizing and dramatizing the obvious…the preponderance of stay-at-home-dads. Granted, most of the comments are simply about soap and clothes stains, but there was this observation which I believe sums up a common opinion:
Cathy Blackwell seems to have a problem with men who are portrayed as “dullards” which I surmise, from her estimation of baby blue button-up commercial guy, denotes any man who talks and acts like a man. Cathy is correct, of course: men are portrayed as dullards in many sitcoms and commercials, but they are not dullards because they are men. They are dullards because television writers lack the discernment to envision strong, intelligent masculinity because their perspectives are molded by a culture which has evolved to equate masculinity with stupidity. God forbid they actually portray a strong intelligent man as a realistic entity. And of course, for every Cathy who believes masculine men are consequently “dullards,” you have corresponding Ryan Martin’s who hysterically applaud such rants.
In order for a man to escape the dullard stigma, he must wear the most indistinguishable clothes, speak in the softest, quaintest tone possible, and know how to assemble a herringbone braid in his daughter’s hair. The future is here, the Era of the Nancy Boy.