I have written before about the current trend in mass culture that legitimizes and celebrates male immaturity. Two recent commercials by At&T (I think) fall squarely within this trend and don't cease to amaze me by the incredible double standard they promote.
Commercial I: A man, a woman, and their toddler come to a restaurant. The woman gets up to go to the bathroom. The man looks terrified and bereft. Of course, the idea of being left alone with HIS own child for 5 minutes must be intolerable. The little boy starts whimpering, and the father feels completely lost. Then, he gets a brilliant idea. He whips out his phone, downloads a video and sticks it under the toddler's nose. The child immediately acquires a suitably zombified look and starts staring onto the screen. Problem solved! Can you imagine a commercial where a woman is similarly traumatized by the necessity to spend five minutes alone with her small child? Something tells me that this kind of commercial is not likely to appear any time soon.
Commercial II: A woman, a man and their two children come to an amusement park. The woman stops to check her phone. She needs it to work in case the kids disperse and she needs to find them. The kids are waiting patiently for their mother to figure things out with the phone. The middle-aged father, however, has disappeared. He has run off to take a ride on the merry-go-round, leaving his wife to deal with THEIR children alone. Once again, can you imagine a similar commercial where the gender roles are swapped?
As I stated in my first post on this subject, creating this image of men as inherently inept in the realm of interpersonal communications, romantic relationships, and child-rearing is a way for society to compensate women for infantilizing them in everything that pertains to the public sphere. Women are not supposed to be competent and powerful at work, in politics, or anywhere in the public sphere. Men, in turn, are not expected to be mature, competent, and responsible in the private sphere.
What we get as a result is the perennial division of the public and the private along gender lines.