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Fathers Deserve Praise For More Than Their Dad Bods

The roles of fathers are changing and deserve a corresponding makeover

This article originally appeared on Slant on March 1, 2016.

By Sheehan Fisher

Dads have a lame image in this country. Since advertising has a major impact on self-perception, gender roles, and identity, addressing how fathers are portrayed is big business. That is because fathers make up more than 20 percent of the nation’s population.

To capitalize on that and shift the portrayal of men in advertising, media and popular culture at the fifth annual Dad 2.0 summit in Washington D.C. recently addressed the shifting perception of modern day fatherhood.

Dove Men+Care, a sponsor for the summit, aims to have fathers reflect reality in media. According to Jennifer Bremner, director of marketing, “Only seven percent of men felt that they could relate to the men they were seeing in the advertising and in the media.”

During the summit keynote, Brad Meltzer, author, writer for the Justice League of America, as well as programs on the History Channel, said being a father influences his work.

According to Meltzer, his super heroes incorporate emotional as well as physical strength. His children’s books chronicle the lives of heroes such as Martin Luther King, Jr. with the hope that they “will impact kids in ways they will never realize.”

Thanks to the popular images of President Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Jordan as fathers, “The sign of strength is now sensitivity, caring and nurturing,” Meltzer said. “We have to give as much attention to the emotional side of dads as we gave the emotional sides of moms.”

The roles of fathers are changing and deserve a corresponding makeover.

Seventy million men are fathers in the United States. Thirteen million fathers whether that role that is biological, adoptive or assumed through marriage — are divorced. Another two million fathers are raising children on their own.

According to the National Health Statistics Reports, 90 percent of residential fathers are regularly involved in the general caretaking of children under the age of five. More specifically, black fathers are most likely to engage in daily caretaking of their children, with 70 percent reporting that involvement. Sixty percent of white fathers, and 45 percent of Latino fathers report they are in charge of daily caretaking.

More than half, 66 percent, of fathers who live with their children ages five to 18 eat with them daily, while 65 percent say they talk to their child about the child’s day. Less than a third of residential fathers helped with homework.

A 2015 Pew Research Center study reported that fathers spend an average of seven hours on childcare and 10 hours on housework per week. That is more than a 200 percent increase of the same activities reported in 1965.

Most children live in married-couple households, which have the highest median income level of about $81,000, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And the next generation of fathers is likely to have similar incomes as their fathers.

Dads are big business. Personal grooming is becoming a lucrative niche for men as they are more invested in their facial and skin care, and anti-aging products.

- Sheehan D. Fisher, PhD, is an instructor and clinical psychologist in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University specializing in fathers and mental health. He is a fellow with The OpEd Project’s Public Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Books, Media, Opinion
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