Have you ever heard of doofy husbands? They’re the guys in commercials who are always incapable of doing anything around the house. They try to do the laundry, clean a room, or cook a meal, always to hilarious failure. Their long-suffering wives come into the room and shake their heads, then proceed to use whatever product is being shilled to accomplish the task with ease.
The concept of doofy husbands is problematic for a couple reasons: it doesn’t give men enough credit, and it perpetuates the idea that men aren’t good at performing many household, traditionally feminine tasks. It implies that these chores must remain in a woman’s domain; it’s a softer stereotype, played on humor instead of patriarchy, but its end result is more or less the same. Doofy husbands do no favors for either men or women.
That being said, the harm in doofy husbands isn’t as severe as in more patriarchal or traditional representations of marriage. Sometimes it can even be fun to joke about our doofy husbands. That’s something I did with my friends yesterday. We all swapped stories of catching our boys doing things around the house that they really shouldn’t have been doing. Most of them involved climbing ladders – from trying to climb ladders days after a surgery and falling, to catching them trying to balance step stools on books in a stairwell – it was fun to have a round of laughs over the doofy things our husbands do.
The difference is that my husband could have similar laughs at my expense, and it wouldn’t be over me attempting yard work or other more traditionally masculine pursuits. I’ve had my own share of gaffs in the kitchen, doing the laundry, and other tasks around the house. I felt a twinge of guilt when joking about my husband with my friends yesterday, not because I felt like I wasn’t supporting him (he admitted what I caught him doing wasn’t a good idea, and like I said, I don’t mind when he shares stories about the times I’ve nearly set myself on fire in the kitchen), but because I was worried that I was feeding too much into the idea of doofy husbands.
The friends with whom I was joking are the same one who are older than me, who have some generational differences in opinions about what their husbands can do. Some of their doofy husband stories relate to their men being useless in the kitchen, something for which I have less sympathy. Because the expectation isn’t, he should be able to do this but he was going about it wrong, but that he’s trying something of which he has no hope of accomplishing.
I think in this, as in all things, balance is the key. We can joke about the silly things our spouses do. But we shouldn’t buy into any lasting ideas about what one gender is or isn’t capable of doing, and we should pay attention to what the media is teaching us.
Do you have any doofy spouse stories? Either in what your spouse has done, or the silliest commercials you’ve seen?
*(The above image by marin is from freedigitalphotos.net).