Did you hear the one about the dad that walked into a bar?
He didn't see it because it was right in front of him.
Or what about the whiny husband that had the man-cold? Or the guy that had a mantrum while combing his kid's hair? That one was really funny. And forgetting trash day? Again? Classic.
The Internet is overflowing with gems like that. Even the social pages of Mom.me (and basically every parenting site worth its reach in Twitter followers) are full of them. Nobody wants to read about some guy that makes his kid's lunch every single day without a thought of a whimper, because boring. But the dumb-ass that packed his kid a carton of soup instead of a juicebox? People will share that crap ALL DAY.
Making fun of incompetent dads is the last safe stereotype, and society will quit bashing fathers when you can pry the clichés out of its cold, dead hands. After all, stereotypes are always based on something true, and time and TV have proven that men are idiots.
You know who really loves the stupid dad jokes? The kids. Children think it is hilarious when their father is portrayed as an uncaring buffoon, a man-child that can't meet the simplest of responsibilities or care for his kids with any sort of reliability, right? Role. Model.
To be fair, there are equally negative characterizations of women—the nagging, the busybody, the shaming and the spin of professional drive and success as code for bitchiness—not to mention endless history books full of hardships and wrongdoings that were never acceptable. Those don't fly, either. I don't let my kids accept those attributes as correct or reflective of women, and I don't expect the women they know to reinforce the adverse views of manhood that too many are handing down like some old, scruffy sweater held together by yellowed yarn and well-worn wool. It takes a village and all that.
Raising boys in a culture that says dads don't matter, a culture that overtly celebrates the passé concept of men as emotionally unavailable, unable to function at the most basic of tasks, that leaves the bar pretty low—which is probably the real reason that the dad walked into it—when the bar for fatherhood is set waist-high that's not a goal, it's a limbo contest.
Belittling men has a similar effect on girls. When girls are told that they shouldn't expect much from men then they won't. Instead, they settle for what fits the bill and the cycle eats itself. The Internet goes crazy.
If the intent of the robust and highly profitable online parenting space is to foster a better, more understanding world for families, then the doofus dad joke is the proverbial two steps back to every one taken.
Knocks on Dad are generally cheap, easy laughs playing to the lowest common denominator. That isn't to say they can't be funny. There is ample opportunity for hilarity when based in actual context, cutting social commentary, biting sarcasm, dry observations of reality or even plain, old silliness, but name calling is just name calling, and it suggests much deeper issues than a tired attempt at humor.
It could be argued that I am overly sensitive to this stuff. Granted, I am hardwired, after a decade writing as the token father for those aforementioned parenting sites, to notice said slights and to respond accordingly. I am also part of the team that runs the Dad 2.0 Summit, and I am the co-founder of Dads 4 Change. Fatherhood is not just my life, it is my livelihood, and I am quick to defend it.
However, I would never use that to suggest I am any more involved than any other guy I know. I walk my boys to school and the yard is full of dads, as is the supermarket, the movie theater, the park, the mall and the library. My day is filled with men of all stripes, some of whom may deserve mocking for any number of reasons (something I'm not above myself), but the common thread is that they are all there—they are all active and present in the daily lives of their children to the greatest degree that their own situation will allow, and there is nothing funny or lacking in that.
I am not suggesting that dads deserve any sort of special recognition for doing what they do, because that would imply they are going above and beyond when, in fact, they are doing exactly what they should do. The "super dad" hyperbole that is currently running, somewhat ironically, congruent to the worthless dad trope is equally detrimental to any healthy image of fatherhood.
The fact is that dads are parents, neither babysitter nor oaf, but caregivers, be they working, stay-at-home, single, gay, religious or otherwise funneled into the labels and niches that we all love to assign upon each other.