The Latest Pawn in the Daddy Wars: Prince William

The stereotype of the doofus dad rears its head, yet again

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge carries his newborn son as he and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge leave The Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in London, on July 23, 2013.
Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty Images

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge carries his newborn son as he and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge leave The Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in London, on July 23, 2013.

The unveiling of the newest heir to the British throne on the steps of St. Mary’s hospital in London was a sweet if staged tableau and the message it sent was refreshing. Kate emerged holding the baby but quickly passed it to William, who held his son no less capably than she had. Yes, he had already changed a nappy, they both chuckled. It was he who then buckled the baby’s car seat in place and drove off toward home with his family. They were an ordinary young couple, the stagecraft said—or at least as ordinary as they could hope to be when several billion people  were following the news of their firstborn—and they’d be raising their son in a collaborative and hands-on way.

(Complete Coverage: The Royal Baby)

But that’s not how the media saw it. The scene, chirped one commentator, was a message from the royal family to feckless fathers everywhere: If the prince can buckle his baby into the car by himself, surely you can learn to do it too. It was a remarkable—and remarkably anachronistic—observation. Is there a 21st century man anywhere who has a) a baby and b) a car and really doesn’t know how to put the two together safely? Is there a 21st century man who doesn’t see the value in mastering that skill?

The persona of the doofus dad was not something I signed up for when I became a father 12 years ago. I felt no less capable than I’d ever been, but in the popular culture, I’d crossed a line: Like all fathers, I’d become the sitcom buffoon who can’t boil an egg, warm a bottle, or be trusted to do the laundry without neglecting to add detergent and then exclaiming afterwards, “So that’s what that bottle of blue stuff was!” Round about the time women began pouring into the workforce and men began carrying their weight at home, both the responsibilities of parenthood and, critically, the presumption of competence ought to have shifted. But the change has been halting.

Last month, Clorox earned itself a cannon blast of scorn for a breathtakingly tone-deaf story on its website called “6 Mistakes New Dads Make,” a bit of ostensible whimsy that started off bad and wound up jaw-dropping. “Saying ‘No-no’ is not just for baby,” the ad read. “Like dogs or other house pets, new dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.” New fathers, readers were warned, would take a child for a walk in a cold, rain-soaked stroller and then ask “Why is this baby crying so much?” And as for dad’s behavior around the house? “Prudence won’t stop Daddy from relaxing with a brew and blaring inappropriate shows while baby stares in horror/awe/wonder at the colorful moving yell-box. Tell Dad to embrace parental sacrifice and crack a book.”

The ad, no surprise was quickly pulled and Clorox made the usual anodyne statement about having respect for all parents and the hard work of parenting. “We’re in new territory with today’s modern families and changing family roles,” the company added, “and we appreciate all feedback to help us get it right.”

But it’s not new territory, is it? And you shouldn’t need help to “get it right”—any more than a man in the workplace should need help any longer to know not to harass or condescend to a female coworker. We’re all better than that and smarter than that by now—and yes, smart includes fathers too.

Read TIME’s previous feature about why the royal baby will be such a figure of global influence

Read TIME’s original 1982 story about the birth of Prince William

15 comments
SocialPlanner
SocialPlanner

I think almost all of you have missed the point.  

The half blood prince is the herald of the acceptance of homosexuality within the british royal family.  The way it works is this, for the existing monarch to sign off on such statutes, the situation has to be acceptable to existing royalty, so, this was the plan of the british fags from way back when, following from several disappearances from the public service.  They needed a prominent example within their own laws and community to make their way of life a valid perpetuity.  So, either Elton and Hairy do a black film, or, the half blood prince has to now wait 49 years for a baptism. Apparently they could not find anyone within their aristocracy to perfect the perpetuity, and certain patent holders would not cooperate, so they went morganic.  

Personally I think this is a hold over from Edward Viii'th abdication in 1936.  This is the difference between statutes in a republic and legislation in a monarchy.   To make things a little more complex, they have basically looted the morality and domains of some of their governor generals in the colonies, pre-podally saturated the record with unconstitutional or ultra viries legislation,  and made explicit yet silent agreements with those in authority to maintain the position they have chosen.  

Even though there are legalities to which most are disassociated or indifferent, the whole scheme fails because of the statute of frauds, and their inability to collect a monopoly over 11 perpetuities required by a precedent called Thomas vs. Sorrel to perfect a valid coronation.  Without those they fail their own laws, their crown, and their throne, with a default coronation passing to some half blood morganic clown to come, or to unknown patent holders.

hesse
hesse

Thanks for this.  Good article.

mtngoatjoe
mtngoatjoe

I think it's important to keep in mind that many dads need to take a more active roll in their child's lives.

The media does a poor job of expressing this, but the fact remains: If a man has a spouse and a child, then being a good father and husband is the most important job he will ever have.

I think the press was right to highlight how William is a new millenium father, but they should have cast it in the light of expectations. Fathers are expected to be more involved. They are expected to change diapers and share the work load at home. We can all applaud William, but he's just doing what's expected of him.

pcronin623
pcronin623

I am so tired of the lame (and mean) jokes at the expense of fathers.  My husband and I don't have children, but I'm still surprised at the lack of creativity and sensitivity by people and companies that should know better.

KLInIdaho
KLInIdaho

It seems that we can't empower one sex, or one group of people,  without demeaning the other. The same way an excellent worker gets torn down by lazy people at work and then moves on, because you really can't keep good people down. Great people lead by example, regardless of gender.  When we learn to be secure with ourselves and be inspired by others, give credit where credit is due, not to mysterious methods in the sky orchestrated by a Daddy Pixie, we can advance to a new level of being decent humans. It's as if we think power is a limited resource that we can't share; we have to take it away from someone else to get it, without earning it for ourselves.

abitabar
abitabar

I completely agree with Kluger.  I've been sick of seeing the doofus dad stereotype for a long time now.  Can't we move on and let the tired old cliche fade quietly away? 

MissPriss1948
MissPriss1948

To Interwebhobo and mharri:  It was not my intent to offend, and if I did so, I apologize.  I think you would have to agree with me that Mr. Kluger's tone is pretty irritable ... not that I've never been irritable myself, of course.                                                I understand well how unfair and offensive these stupid stereotypes can be. I understand also that most men are absolutely able to function as competent and loving fathers to their children.  My point is that allowing thoughtless and dumb mass media stereotypes to make us angry or defensive is to relinquish our own self-images, self respect, and energy to stupid, ignorant people, and to the mass media which perpetuates the false and insulting stereotypes.  

And yes, I have certainly been on the receiving end of stereotyping:  When I entered law school 41 years ago, I was frequently asked what I planned to be when I graduated. Ridiculous question, right?  After spending some time and a bunch of energy being angered by the condescension, I finally learned to respond calmly with  "I'm going to be a nurse."Stupid question, stupid answer;  we're even.  Even earlier than that I had learned to say "I don't know how to type," because I knew that, if I could type, I'd be typing for a living all my life, as my mother did, although she had a college degree, and was brighter than many of the men for whom she typed.  

My point is that, rather than be eaten alive by other people's ignorance, I've found it best, for myself at least, to just keep walking on my own path, and leave the dimwits to their knitting.  My stomach feels lots better this way than when I let these people get to me, and I'm able to sleep through the night without grinding my teeth or dreaming of slugging someone.

MissPriss1948
MissPriss1948

What an unpleasant rant.  If Mr. Kluger feels that popular culture ridicules him and other fathers as inept fools, perhaps he could consider how women feel about being portrayed as idiots wearing awful haircuts and their mothers' cutie-pie aprons, cooing over Febreze.

The popular  marketing make us all look like idiots IF we identify with their stupid and outdated stereotypes.  If we refuse to identify with those stereotypes, choosing instead to remember who we are, then we can pass by that garbage, and retain our self-respect.

So easy does it, Mr. Kluger:   No one of any importance thinks you are an idiot or an inept and clumsy parent.  Learn to ignore the marketing, go about your business, and you'll have a nice life.


BryanJ.Maloney
BryanJ.Maloney

Expected of him? He's just doing what is already being done. It is no longer 1973. Fathers are not only "expected" to change diapers and share the work load, they actually do.

Interwebhobo
Interwebhobo

@MissPriss1948 I can agree you almost completely. I think that your choice to do so was one that you found best for you. I just believe that it's not that we allow these stereotypes to anger us, but rather it's important to attempt to make people more aware of their existence. If we all just gritted our teeth and ignored it, I feel like it would counteract forward movement as a society. That's not to say those who point out instances of negative and inappropriate stereotyping are letting ignorance get to them, just that what they are saying isn't acceptable. 


I'll give you that the author does seem a bit irritable but that doesn't make his argument any less important. In fact, I believe that it is partly the responsibility of those in the news media to do such things to attempt to keep society honest. It's a helluvah lot better than being a part of the problem, anyway. Hah.

Interwebhobo
Interwebhobo

@MissPriss1948 I just wanted to say that this opinion piece is calling out a specific and current stereotype. That is not to say that this author does not recognize that other stereotypes exist and aren't worth calling out. Please, pretend for a second that someone wishing to call foul must not list every stereotyped individual in the world. 


Could you imagine saying "Learn to ignore the marketing, go about your business, and you'll have a nice life." to the female who is commonly stereotyped as a mother and looked down upon as a working person? Or the black person who is eating chicken in a commercial? Or the Asian in a car-insurance commercial? 


I highly doubt that you would call authors out for pointing out that it is completely inappropriate, so give us poor males a break. You're right, we all get stereotyped, especially in the mass media. That doesn't make it any more appropriate for the media nor any less appropriate for ANY individual who is being stereotyped to call them out on it.

mharri
mharri

@MissPriss1948  

I  remember seeing an article on io9 some months back saying, essentially, feminists are not your enemies! It's not a zero-sum game--sexual stereotypes hurt everyone! In this spirit, I would venture to suggest that your annoyance at Mr. Kluger is misplaced. In fact, I would hazard to guess that you and he could be allies.