I’ve noticed several generally accepted “themes” (for lack of a better word) in the media that I think could go away. They help portray some subset of the population as stupid, or they work to quell creativity and original thought in our children. What I hate most, though, is how readily we’ve accepted these stereotypes as valid.
First one: Husbands Are Penny-pinching Idiots. This one gets beat on by every ad for domestic products and services…ever. The wife sends the husband out to buy dish soap. (or laundry soap, or soup, or cold medicine, or whatever) Husband comes back with a store-brand of the product, and life in the household suddenly becomes utter crap. The clothes aren’t white, the dishes are covered in food, the cold becomes near-fatal. Why? Here is the time-dishonored conversation in ALL of these ads:
Wife says, “This isn’t what I asked for! I asked for Fbrvlbkd brand!”
Husband says “I got this…” and he always trails it off, suddenly unsure of his standing in the household.
Wife says, “Why didn’t you get Fbrvlbkd brand? Don’t you want clean dishes?” (white whites, tasty soup, my cold to ever end, etc.)
Husband always, 100% of the time, shrugs, gives a sheepish grin, and utters the carved-in-stone line: “I saved a few pennies…”
Wife then nods knowingly, turns to the camera and tells us that she never accepts any substitutes for her Fbrvlbkd brand.
I detest this one, as a guy in a domestic situation. It portrays me as a mindless penny pincher, who would have my family wiping their butts with old magazine pages instead of t.p., and who would have my dishes washed with sand and old shirts instead of real dish soap. Further, it tries to teach our country that saving money is a bad thing. Last, it simply isn’t true. (shocker, a stereotype isn’t true.). My wife is more likely to go after bargain brands than I am, and is generally overjoyed if either of us finds a brand that costs less and works well.
Second one: Husbands Are Incompetent. This is a variation of the above ad stereotype, but for services around the house. And this one isn’t just in ads, but serves as an entire plot for countless episodes of countless sitcoms. In a nutshell, something in the household breaks — the dishwasher, the plumbing, drywall, the car whatever. The wife suggests they call a professional to fix it, but the guy says “Oh no…I can fix that, and save us a bundle.” The wife shudders, then spends the rest of the episode picking at her husband as he predictably makes whatever the problem was…worse. At the end they hire the professional anyway, and it costs more because of the bungled attempt by the husband, who stands there red-faced and shamed, and is invariably made to promise he will never try to fix anything himself again. Publically. In front of the professional.
I will admit, there are guys who shouldn’t try fixing anything. But, that’s not every guy, and there’s no way to find out without trying. This theme, perpetuated on prime-time tv, serves to humble and humiliate the male gender from ever trying to be resourceful. I couldn’t imagine not trying to fix my own household things. When I bought my first house I knew nothing about home ownership, but I found that the more things I tried to do, the more things I could do. I fixed washing machines and dishwashers, hung screen doors, installed ceramic tile and laminate floors, built a stone patio, grew a yard from scratch — and I would never have discovered this ability if I’d paid attention to the stereotypes telling me that I would just screw things up. Heck, I know one guy who has flat out told me, “oh, I wouldn’t even want to try doing that,” when I told him I’d fixed my own brakes.
So there it is, two stereotypes that are wrong, damaging, and that I detest. Honestly I’d meant to list more, but this blog post has taken me a week to write, in between real life. Nyah.