Sarah Haskins of Target Women fame has a video up about Doofy Husbands. As usual, it is absolutely hilarious. And, it touches on an interesting figure in pop culture: The incompetent, unintelligent, overweight man, who can hardly manage his own life without the help of his overly-responsible and under-appreciated wife. Danny wrote a recent post about fatphobia directed at fat men in particular that touches on this current trend (a long-lasting one too, I might add) in pop culture and every day life.
Some might find it questionable how this particular trend– the one that plays on stereotypes and not only perpetuates, but encourages the idea that men are stupid and worthless– has anything to do with advertisements that market to women in a way that perpetuates and encourages poor body image and low self esteem (which is the basis for Target Women).
Well, that’s because it kind of doesn’t have anything to do with women– other than the fact that without women, these men would probably be dead or living in a box somewhere. Or so we’re led to believe.
There’s the standard argument that this portrayal is rooted in misogyny. How could it be, for this particular trend? Well, women are supposed to work extra hard and accept their husbands for just what they are… or, they don’t mind being under-appreciated… or… no, I can’t find an actual argument that makes any kind of sense. I actually thought I was going to be able to.
Anyway, needless to say, I disagree. But the reason why I disagree is not only because the trend is actually something negative about men, and not having much of anything to do with women, it is overshadowed by what I think is more relevant:
It seems as though the writers of these commercials and television shows like King of Queens or Home Improvement (among so many countless others) are writing these female characters as Smart & Capable Woman vs. Slow & Incompetent Man in order to make up for all of the past roles women were given where they were constantly portrayed as weak, helpless, and usually unintelligent. Their version of responding to the feminist movement. Instead of writing leading male and female characters who both have strengths and weaknesses that are equally celebrated and also made fun of in the name of humor, they do the opposite and create an illusion that women are actually the rulers of the world, only in our own little under-appreciated and uncompensated mini-world where the men actually end up getting all the credit, and we stand back, proud of ourselves, shaking our heads and chuckling about the way it all turned out.
It’s not helping either gender with breaking out of harmful stereotypes and unrealistic expectations based on our gender. It’s only creating new ones where women rule the world, and men are just humble, dumb servants. It obfuscates the point, which is that we should all be treated equally and not judged on our gender alone. Women don’t need overcompensation for past oppressive media representations. We don’t need to switch roles and have power instead. And when it comes to media, we just need to be accurately and respectfully portrayed.
Really, that’s all.
Painting men to be lazy, fat idiots, homely, and otherwise undesirable doesn’t do any justice to anyone. It takes the negative representation off of women and places it, instead, on men. The goal of feminism is not for women to someday take over the world; it’s to fight for the equality of men and women, in a society where women are currently, in general, at a disadvantage to men.
Furthermore, as a writer for any of these shows, do you ever notice how in the attempt to make women look powerful and intelligent, you’re still perpetuating unrealistic expectations of women? While the woman is supposedly all-knowing, capable, and “really” the head of the household, they are still stick-thin, conventionally attractive, and doting mothers? Are we still not able to show an average-looking female that we can take seriously on television? While non-”conventionally attractive” men are still frequently portrayed as stupid, unattractive, and unmasculine, there are still roles available for overweight, homely, male actors where their characters are meant to be taken seriously and respected.
It’s just… ridiculous. All across the board. And it’s still popular! I don’t understand. There isn’t a person alive who shouldn’t have a problem with this. I guess it’s easier to just turn off criticism and laugh.