By Dannah Gresh, founder of True Girl
For too long, men have been the brunt of the jokes in admittedly funny television commercials. Leading brands have been jumping on the "stupid-men" band-wagon, portraying dads in particular as hapless overgrown kids who can't make decisions and manage without a smart woman by their side. This month, General Mills takes an entertaining sideswipe at that mentality with a Cheerio's "How-To-Dad" commercial that made me literally scream out loud when I got to the end and found the dad to be the superhero! (OK, maybe I cheer(io)ed!
The official #HowToDad hashtag is trending heavily, as evidence that both moms and dads are sick of men being portrayed as bumbling idiots. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm poised to contribute to a conversation that says men are good in an effort to dispel the myths perpetuated by lousy commercials that have been the norm for far too long. Move over myths, there's a #HowToDad movement on the prowl complete with advice on how to treat your wife and what to do when your son attempts to scare the tar out of you before your feet hit the ground
The Myths TV Perpetuates
We have a bad boy—as opposed to a good men— mentality in culture. One reason is that the a cultural movement told us they are bad. Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder Of Boys, though seeming to embrace the feminist movement as a whole points out a few devastating myths it introduced to convince our boys that they are “bad.” Here are two that resonate with me:
Myth Number One:
“that masculinity is responsible for the world’s ills and femininity is the world’s salvation.”
Myth Number Two:
“males destroy, females create; males stand in the way of positive spiritual/social values; males are inherently violent.”
Just consider how prevalently these two myths are portrayed in the media. Television alone reinforces them with programs like Modern Family where the guys are sweet, but stupid. (Even the reruns of The Simpsons portray the contrast between bright and beautiful Lisa and stupid and out-of-shape Bart.) Co-ed television commercials often portray the guy as ditzy and the girl as smart. It’s funny. It really is. But how much of it can we expose ourselves to before we believe it? How much can our sons and husbands be exposed to before they plummet into self-fulfilling prophecy mode?
Today’s men as a whole have pretty much rolled over and taken it. But this viral Cheerio ad gives me hope. Hope that boys can be taught to grow up to be good men
Goodness vs. Badness
Robert Coles, a pioneer in the field of moral intelligence, brings clarity to the definitions of goodness and badness when he writes:
“good…boys…have learned to take seriously the very notion, the desireability of goodness—living up to the Golden rule.” Whereas bad boys display a “heightened destructive self-absorption, in all its melancholy stages.” In essence, we go bad when “we lose sight of our obligation to others.”
Goodness is the quality that makes us put others ahead of ourselves. (And this quality is so vibrant and visible in the Cheerio's ad.) Goodness is the moral compass that keeps the world safe, happy, and working. It’s the drive that makes us want to function in families—from waking up with scary horse masks up our nostrils to making coffee for each other— rather than isolation. It’s the internal road sign that takes us away from our own desires and toward the destiny of meeting the needs of others. Without it, we are “bad.” That’s probably why all of us–male and female—are called to goodness.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with goodness.”
The New Testament Greek word for “goodness”—used here and in other places— appears in three forms, all of which are rooted in the Hebrew word “tob”, which meant “usefulness.” Are we bringing up boys who understand their call of duty to be useful contributors to society? One important component of helping boys understand their duty, is portraying it in the mediums of our culture. That's why I think the Cheerio's ad is an epic victory for those of us who believe that men are good.
P.S. Someone go buy some Peanut Butter Cheerios and send a message that we like this message. A lot.
Part of this article is an edited excerpt from Six Ways To Keep The Good In Your Boy by Dannah Gresh.