Stay-At-Home Dads Break Free From Stereotypes

June 21st, 2011 | Categories: Gender, Role

Break

Porcelain statue

Held in high regard, valued

As untouchable.

Haiku, Anastacia Kurylo, June 21, 2011

To be broken is to be damaged. To be broken is a bad thing. When a child breaks something they are scolded if not punished.

What is broken, often even if it is an inconsequential item, is raised to the status of untouchable. The child, in other words, should have known better than to touch this item. By reprimanding the child for breaking the item, we privilege the item over the child because we are demonstrating that we would rather sacrifice the child’s immediate happiness for the sake of the item.

The Green Bay Press Gazette titles their slightly belated Father’s Day homage “Stay-At-Home Dads Break Stereotypes.” Here, the powerful metaphor of breaking is invoked in an odd way. Odd both in its use as well as in its unfortunate placement as the title of an article by Alex Morrell that not only seeks to praise stay-at-home dads but dispel stereotypes in its discussion of two myths associated with stay-at-home dads: that they aren’t employable and that they are “somehow intrinsically ill-suited to be primary caregivers.”

The value of the content of Morrell’s article notwithstanding, the title seem odd. Morrell might have used other verbs to make his praise of stay-at-home-dads transparent.

Stay-at-home dads CHALLENGE stereotypes

Stay-at-home dads CONTRADICT stereotypes

Stay-at-home dads FIGHT stereotypes

 

Morrell might have invoked an alternate metaphor in his title for the article.

Stay-at-home dads UNCHAIN THEMSELVES FROM stereotypes.

 

Any of these verbs present men as advocates, if unwittingly so, against stereotypes. However, the title, Stay-At-Home Dads BREAK Stereotypes positions men as the wrong doers, perpetrators who have broken something valuable. Stereotypes are untouchable. Stereotypes are porcelain statues on a pedestal. In this way, the title privileges stereotypes over stay-at-home dads and positions readers, albeit inadvertently and subtly, as parents almost asking patronizingly, “what did you do now?” Granted, as you would want in an article title, this teases the reader who may then be curious to find out, if a bit trepidatious, what the stay-at-home dads have done. However, it does so at the cost of perpetuating stereotypes further, as the media often does.

The content of the article, if a person was to read past the title, addresses positive issues in praise of stay-at-home dads noting both the increase of men in this position as well as its benefits. The reader leaves the article admiring the same men they were momentarily lured to chastise.

In sum, Morrell’s content did not move me to write this article; his title did because of its subtle reinforcement of stereotypes. Titles are important because even when an audience is motivated to read an article, say a biomedical researcher reading a relevant scientific journal, “more people will read the title and the abstract than the whole article.”

I like the chain metaphor myself. It’s visual and visceral. It’s easily understood and, yet, invokes deeper meaning. It is accurate because it allows the reader to know clearly how the article content will discuss the topic of stereotypes. And, yet, the word chain need not even be stated in the title for the image to be invoked. Actually, Morrell might have kept his title the same except for adding one more word. An empowering, powerful, poignant word that would have entirely changed the message Morrell sent in his title.

Stay-At-Home Dads Break Free From Stereotypes

 

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