The above is but one example of a very common motif of TV commercial that’ll surely be familiar to you. It comes in many variations, but the premise is simple: the dumb, clueless, inept guy (often a father) bumbles his way through life, while an in-charge, competent, and disappointed girl (often a wife, daughter, or girlfriend) looks on in disbelief. The men are man-child imbeciles who can’t fend for themselves, even in the most elementary of human functions.
In the early 2000s, Carl’s Jr. (Hardee’s) ran a whole campaign predicated on this ineptitude of men. “Without us, some guys would starve” was its tagline, which was voiced-over a multiplicity of bone-head guy scenarios. In one especially blatant spot, a guy is trying to make guacamole. For the whole 30 seconds of the commercial, he blankly stares at two avocado halves rumble around, un-broken, with the seed, in a blender cup. Needless to say, he doesn’t know what’s he doing.
A common variation on this theme depicts the woman performing traditionally masculine functions. The man—usually a weak, timid specimen—is bossed around and obediently obliges.
These commercials, though ubiquitous in their own right, are part of an even larger theme visible in movies and television. Watch any Judd Apatow film and you’ll quickly recognize men—of all races, ages, and stations—being raked across the coals whenever possible. Dogging on men, in short, has become a “safe” joke. Kicking a ball into a guy’s nuts, or depicting him as a clueless moron, offends no one.
This, I’d argue, is part of a bigger cultural emasculation of men–one that’s driven by the feminist imperative to erode male usefulness. Ask yourself a question: would putting a woman in the man’s position in these commercials raise a firestorm of feminist complaints and spark calls for its removal?
Read More: The Myth of Never Hitting a Woman