Survey: 80% of Dads Say Media Portrayals of Fatherhood Wrong

Well this is a pleasant surprise: the media incorrectly depict fathers, according to today’s dads – and, for once, the media agree.

Just in time for Father’s Day, soap brand Dove hired Edelman Berland to survey 1,000 dads for Dove Men+Care. The dads challenged the media’s representation of fathers – with 80 percent agreeing the media fail to portray fathers roles accurately. When asked what attributes describe fathers in the media, dads most frequently responded with "disconnected, bumbling and incompetent.” Videos Below.

In regards to the media, Dove explained, “Three quarters of dads say they are responsible for their child’s emotional well-being, while only 20% of dads see this role reflected in media.” Other findings included: “Dads today are caring for their children's emotional well-being (74%) and taking responsibility for their daily needs (51%).”

The company concluded, “It’s time to acknowledge the caring moments of fatherhood that often go overlooked.”

In response, Dove produced a “Calls for Dad” ad “to overturn antiquated representations of dads and encourage recognition of them as caregivers.” A press release highlighted how the short film, now viral with over 2 million views, “features real moments that children of all ages share with their fathers, most of which are regrettably absent from media depictions of dads today.”

"Dove Men+Care has a history of celebrating real men and we know nothing is more important to men today than caring for their children," commented Unilever Skincare’s (Dove manufacturer) Vice President of Marketing Rob Candelino.

Amazingly, the media aren’t ignoring the criticism – in fact, they’re reporting on it. The ad, deemed “very moving” by NBC’s Willie Geist, aired during “Today” on June 12.  Candelino later spoke with Geist and criticized, “Frankly, they're [dads] seeing their role expand, but advertising, TV and the movies aren't depicting that back to that.” 

He continued: "There's a gap today between what is actually happening at kitchen tables and in backyards across this country and how men are in fact are seeing themselves reflected back in the media. That's what inspired us to create this film, to be honest." 

Continuing the theme, NBC co-host Savannah Guthrie later addressed anchor Al Roker saying, “Al, you've been saying this for as long as I've known you that you always have this image in the media of these bumbling dads and that's not like you or any of the dads we know.” Roker responded, “No, we’re not morons.”

Other media including The Huffington PostTIMEAdWeekThe New YorkerThe Washington PostCelebuzzlocal Fox sites, and  Daily Mail either noted the survey or praised the new ad. 

The survey also appeared in NBC’s “Today” (albeit as a paid advertisement), which summarized the findings as, “In other words, dads want to be portrayed as the capable caregivers they are—and many media portrayals are still getting it wrong.”

To share an appreciation for dads, Dove Men+Care asks dads and families “to submit #RealDadMoments @DoveMenCare on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which will be heralded on www.Dovemencare.com.”

Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center