RT: There’s a lot in your book about battling pop culture stereotypes. How do you see the pop culture and the policy as being linked?
JL: The starting point is pop culture. We need to change the predominant images people have in their minds. I spoke to one guy who was excoriated for taking off two whole days after the emergency birth of his child, but who takes really good care of his kids. He said to me, “I’m not like most dads. I come home and cook dinner and take care of my kids. Most dads don’t want to do anything when they get home at night.” Where do people get that image? It’s from this popular image of the clueless, doofus dad. It’s perpetuated in ads suggesting that dads are really stupid and don’t know how to do anything, so buy our product and it will fix that.
We need more real life stories that tell us that the norm today is for dads to be totally capable at home. Dads are not lazy, not coming home at the end of the day, kicking up their feet and doing nothing. When we start to understand that domestic egalitarianism actually does exist, we will have to respond with policy. That’s why these dumb dad stereotypes are not just an annoyance, they have real life implications.
I have some problems with Levs' declaration later in the interview that "we have to start really listening to what the guys are saying [about gender inequality] and think about how to actively bring them in and make sure their voices are heard." My feeling is that we as a society are a long way from that point, and that men in general (and particularly white, straight men) would do well to just sit back and listen for a long time to what women and other groups are saying.
However, he is spot on regarding the pop cultural prevalence of dumb, incompetent dads. It is astounding that, in 2015, commercials for detergents and home cleaning products feature almost entirely women using them. Same goes for the "So easy, even Dad can do it!" trope.
As Levs says, there is a real-world impact to this crap. For dads in egalitarian households, it makes them feel like something is wrong or off about them. For the hold-outs who still think their role around the home is limited to drinking beer, watching football, and occasionally fixing a leaky faucet, it only reinforces these brain-dead and outdated beliefs to see them reinforced by pop culture.