Family Law | The Hapless Dad Stereotype

A TV advert for Philadelphia cheese has become one of the first to be banned under the gender stereotyping rules, stating that the advert was harmful of gender stereotypes against fathers.

The story: two fathers leave a baby on a buffer restaurant conveyor belt whilst they are distracted by food.

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that it offensively showed the fathers as:

“…somewhat hapless and inattentive, which resulted in them being unable to care for the children effectively.”

Philadelphia argued that it was an unwinnable situation as, if they had used women instead of men for the advert, then the advert would still have been considered stereotypical.

Let’s be honest here – do you really think that the advert would have been made the other way around? I am doubtful that the advert would have shown a clumsy, unable-to-parent mother, who gets so distracted by cheese that she places her child in danger.

Whilst we expect fathers to just be able to babysit (and badly), the advert sees the mothers be flawless and unable to make any mistake.


Whilst some may find the advert humorous, which is understandable, we do need to look deeper into this and the stereotype that mothers are flawless, whilst the father may be neglectful, absent and careless. I believe that there would have been an uproar by mothers if this advert was made the other way around.

Perhaps of this, we have a low expectation of what the law expects from fathers with a “bless him for trying” expectancy which is deeply unfortunate.

If you think about it, all we see is the hapless dad stereotypes who are useless, to both their wives and their children, throughout TV programmes and films – even down to Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin and Ray Barone – teaching us that fathers will get away with being useless, whilst the mother will fix their mistakes and will see to the parenting.

As I have said before – is this because children need their mother more than their father or are because a mother is much more capable of caring for a child? I disagree with both.


As a society, we need to focus on the discrimination fathers are subject to every day. Yes, mother’s rights are important, but they are no more important than a father’s rights.

Let’s stop pushing father’s rights into the dark and make those rights as equal to a mother’s rights, and fight gender inequality.


A father seeking equality does not make them guilty of an anti-feminist movement, but to ensure fairness for the sake of their children.


This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each matter requires careful consideration in our view by a person fully qualified before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.


Emma Aslett

Penn Chambers Solicitors

0207 183 4595


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