There's a brilliant short cartoon that's been doing the rounds on social media and is stirring up a big debate about the way dads are portrayed in popular culture. The one minute animation---"I'll get the ice-creams"---has been broadcast by the BBC who describe it as follows:
"A man is left to look after his kids while his wife goes to fetch some ice creams. Result = chaos."
As I watched it for the first time I was at first delighted by the beautifully timed slapstick of the piece, which showed a hapless parent struggling to prevent two young children from hilarious pratfalls. As I watched with glee, my inner gender warrior also asking:"Is that a man?"; "Is it a dad?"; "Is it a generic androgynous parent struggling with kids or is it another sexist portrayal of a useless dad?."
And then the pay-off arrived, as the competent wife and mum returns to discover the chaos that (according to stereotype) is bound to ensue when you leave children to be cared for by a man.
So then the question arose in me, is this funny or is this sexist? I took to social media to find out how people were responding and here's a selection of what people said. Firstly some men and women seemed to relate to the comedy in the cartoon:
Arthur Cruz: "God I can imagine that being me when I become a dad xD."
Irene Adler: "This is not only funny but very accurate."
Martina Ni Riain Downey: "This is what most women imagine will happen if they leave dad alone with the kids for five minutes."
David King Wonder: "Kids with dad alone is never a good idea... LOL. I HOPE THEY STILL ALIVE."
Glenda Carr: "I agree David, many times I left the girls home with their dad for a few hours and got back & my clean home looked like a tornado hit, I was like WTF happened in here?! Lolol."
Tara Kennedy: "I agree with David men find it a LOT harder than women to care for children bless them, oh well."
Taking a stand for dads
Then I started to see something interesting happen as men stepped forward and challenged the stereotype that dads are helpless with kids:
Rob Anthony: "I take care of all three of mine from morning till evening before my day begins. Ya'll must be some sorry a$$ people to believe that."
Graham Johnston: "You guys need better partners."
David J Brown: "Good to see gender stereotyping & sexism is alive and well."
Al Moanin Koasohr Eperiam: "Believe it or not there are a lot of men out there that knows how to take care of children better than the moms."
Mums supporting dads
And some mums waded in on the side of dads:
Renee Neri: "I hate going to the playground and my husband is actually MUCH better than me playing with them in the playground, am tired of videos making fun of dads, they are great and constantly trying to help....we need to stop putting dads down."
Jessica Nitschke: "How sad that women don't choose to have children with men they believe are capable of taking care of their children properly I am blessed to be able to leave & know 100% that our children will be taken care of, the house will be in order & that I don't have to worry! Thank God I made a smart informed decision!"
Sense of humour bypass?
Just as I was feeling justified in my belief that this cartoon is a bit sexist against men, I spotted another group of people commenting who made me wonder if I was having a sense of humour bypass:
Kelly Jo: "Can't you just laugh? Maybe your day would be brighter."
Metasymplocos: "Damn it's an ANIMATION! stop trying to put your real life issues in it! Gees!" I enjoyed it!
I remembered that before my inner gender warrior kicked in, I was enjoying the skillfully crafted comedy in the film. Why, oh why, oh why can I not just laugh at funny stuff? I guess it's because of the double standards. I guess it's because jokes that stereotype men are tolerated in ways that jokes stereotyping women aren't.
Maybe if I felt free to laugh at both men and women then I wouldn't be so critical. And then I saw this comment and it made me feel like some kind of balance had been restored:
OhFishyFish: "Bet it took her so long because she had to park the car. :p"
Humour is often about context (you had to be there!). I don't personally find jokes about women drivers funny, but as a riposte to a sexist joke about men, it was witty put down that speaks a thousand words about the sexist double standards that are reflected in the humour we will and won't laugh at.
So what do you think? Is this cartoon sexist or funny?
By Glen Poole
In the run up to the launch of a new film on Fatherhood called DOWN DOG, insideMAN will be publishing a series of articles about fatherhood and we'd love you to get involved. You can join the conversation on twitter by using the hashtag #MenBehavingDADly; leave a comment in the section below or email us with your thoughts and ideas for articles to insideMANeditor@gmail.com.