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June 13, 2014

Father's Day cards make subjects the targets of jokes

(Continued)

Paul Raeburn, author of the new book "Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked," said he's found bungling dad cartoons dating back to the 1920s, long before Homer Simpson began belting out his forehead-slapping "Doh!"

Such jokes, Raeburn said, might have been accurate through the 1960s, when fathers were primarily breadwinners and weren't expected to know how to change a diaper or operate a toaster oven. Now, Raeburn said, he finds them offensive because they perpetuate a stereotype contradicted by studies showing that more men are leaving jobs to raise families or viewing their roles as nurturers more than economic providers.

"I think this is the last gasp of the 'incompetent boob' Father's Day card figure," he said. "It doesn't fit anymore. Humor is based on exaggerations of things we know to be true. . . . But when the exaggeration refers to something that's not really happening anymore, then it's not funny anymore. It's just odd and inappropriate and irrelevant."

Matt Schneider, a "work-at-home" father of two young boys in New York and co-founder of the national City Dads Group, put it more bluntly: "Why do we celebrate mothers and all they do for their families, and we're really denigrating dads? I don't think anyone would send one of those cards to me, because they know I wouldn't find it funny."

So why do dad-bashing cards resonate on a holiday celebrating fatherhood? Because, greeting card companies say, despite the more modern notion of fathers as capable, hands-on caregivers, such jokes exaggerating the do-nothing or dork-dad stereotype still ring true in many families, particularly with older fathers.

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