The other day I heard a radio commercial for UTA (Utah Transit Authority). A Dad is sneaking in to his daughter’s room to raid her piggy bank because he needs exact change for the train. She wakes up and confronts him, telling him with the adorable voice of a tiny girl (audibly missing some teeth) that they now have transit cards that you can load money onto, and furthermore, if he buys one soon he can get 20% off of the normal cash fare to ride the train. The piggy bank remains intact and the Dad, as he goes to leave says, “How do you know all this?” (Let’s be honest, we were all wondering). The daughter replies, “It’s because I’m smarter than you, Mom says everyone is.”

My stomach just dropped.

Call me dramatic (you wouldn’t be the first), but my heart hurt for that Dad who just found out that his wife and now his daughter think so little of his intelligence. A slew of campaigns and magazines and videos and media try to address and combat the issue of the objectification of women. I have yet to find the outcry and the outrage that should have surfaced about the stupid-ification of men.

Now, I am obviously a woman so I am in no-way downplaying the importance of those campaigns for real women. They address an issue that is widespread and continually problematic even with this new awareness, but I find that the latter issue has no awareness whatsoever which makes it all the more insidious in its influence.

I’m sure this radio ad was meant to be playful and frankly, if I started boycotting every company that represented men this way, I’d soon run out of companies that I did support. The family dynamic as it is portrayed in TV and radio advertising always consists of a clever wife and an oaf of a husband. She takes care of the household and he’s just there to forget anniversaries. She sees to every need of the children, and he just always says the wrong thing. AND the RAV4 genie refuses to grant his wishes:

In just the first 20 seconds of this commercial, the father becomes the cruel figure of fun twice. Not only are his wishes not valid enough to be taken seriously, but his daughter’s wishes become a further opportunity to mock his desires. Every other family member gets to have whatever they desire, but ultimately he has to jog just to keep up while everyone else relaxes. I don’t know why that should make me want to buy a car.

Geico’s message has been out there so long that they now have a new ad campaign communicating the idea that, “everyone knows that you can save with Geico, BUT did you know that…” I’ve always been a fan of the creativity of this company’s advertising. I’ve never studied the history of the industry, but by all accounts they revolutionized the nature of the way people approach commercials. One such ad in their new campaign says, “Well, did you know some owls aren’t that wise?”

I understand that it’s a sort of play on words with what you already know about owls. And I appreciate a good pun as much as the next person, but it seems like this ad is saying that it’s just those vacant husband’ owls that aren’t that wise.

I don’t sit around being angry and offended at commercials all the time, but I do spend a lot of time around men that I hope will defy the stereotype when they start their own families. It has become kind of standard practice for husbands and fathers to be portrayed as useless and appetite-driven, and unfortunately that creates of necessity a stereotypical nag for a wife. That portrayal may seem comically accurate to some people, but ultimately it pits the sexes against one another rather than encouraging a partnership where each contributes their unique strengths and compensates for one another’s weaknesses.

I don’t want to live with the expectation of being someone’s future ball-and-chain any more than I want a husband that is “easier fed than understood” (Ball Park Franks slogan, 2012).

Unfortunately, if that bumbling around and being apathetic and continually failing in every regard, is the message we send out as our expectation of men; that is the expectation they’ll live up to. I don’t know whether the ads imitated life or life imitated the ads, but the way I hear women talk about their husbands in real-life social settings isn’t that much better than in these commercials.

“He’s never going to get around to such and such” or “I’m always telling him and he never listens” or “Like he would ever care about that.” I’m not married so I cannot speak to what it’s like, but I would hope that having a wingman for life means having someone to really care deeply about, such that you would want nothing more than to extol his qualities and great strengths in the face of other people just as you would hope he’d do the same for you.

Not to be a couple of show-offs, but to remember that by uniting yourselves in that way you’ve trusted each other with the most sensitive, vulnerable, weak parts of yourselves. Working through those shortcomings with encouragement and a real eye to the potential of that other person just as they should have an eye for you means not using those pitfalls as a topic of playful banter no matter how desperate you are for a conversation piece.

This portrayal of men is not only unfair it’s blatantly inaccurate. Because my own life has taught me that men can be intelligent, sensitive, aware, and caring, I hope that when my future husband asks my daughter how she knows so much she can say, “Because I’m smart just like you, Mom says we all are.”