The taunt, 'My dad's stronger than your dad,' has been uttered on school playgrounds for decades. Increasingly though, the image of the archetypal father resonates less and less with a modern audience, as society evolves the traditional stereotypical gender roles are being questioned. Dads are no longer only good for sports days and DIY, but as supportive caregivers too.
One of the most interesting parts of my role at Getty Images is looking at how cultural, social and visual trends impact on and influence each other. Last year Getty Images partnered with Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn.Org to create a collection of thousands of authentic and powerful images of women, girls and the communities who support them. Now we've turned our focus onto creating a new collection showing the shift in perception around what it means to be 'masculine'. The findings reveal a clear change in how society views men, and, more specifically, the role of the father.
In 2007 the most downloaded image of fatherhood was a dad playing football with his son. That undoubtedly reinforces the stereotype and is now beginning to feel a little clichéd, it comes as no surprise then that the most downloaded image of a father in 2015 shows a dad reading a tablet with his daughter. As a reflection of a more, let's say 'functional' part of fatherhood, we also noticed that over the last five years there has been a sevenfold increase in searches with the keywords 'dad changing nappy'!
So, as a father myself, and knowing what the real world brings to being a 'Dad', it's reassuring to see a more genuine visual representation of parenthood emerging.
However, I can't help but question whether the shift in perception seen within our images is being mirrored enough across the wider media we consume. One step in the right direction was at the Super Bowl XLIX, or what the industry are commonly referring to as the 'Daddy Bowl.' Major brands such as Dove and Toyota created ads that celebrated what it really means to be a father. Short videos showed the caring side to men and the everyday moments and sacrifices dads share and make for their children. Interestingly, before Dove launched its 'Real Strength' campaign, it conducted a study looking at how men perceive masculinity within the media, and in particular masculinity in relation to fatherhood.
Its findings echoed the idea that the media isn't doing quite enough to reflect changing attitudes: 86% of men say the idea of masculinity has changed compared with their father's generation and nine out of 10 men today see their caring side as a strength. Yet only 7% of men around the world said they relate to the way the media depicts masculinity. Our culture is reflected within the media and images have the power to drive change; therefore it seems only right that if our perception of fatherhood is changing in society, the images we see should also.
Although the Super Bowl was a great start, its message needs to be wider spread. As consumers, we're more influenced by visuals that speak honestly and realistically to us and we're increasingly drawn to products that are marketed to us in authentic ways that reflect our values.
As this trend in imagery leans more towards the softer side of fathers, perhaps we can embrace ourselves as story-tellers and nurturers, as well as the dad that can build the tree-house. We should be questioning the depiction of dads as football crazy, calamity cooks, because as Peter Andre has shown - dads shop at Iceland too!
The changes we've seen in the most downloaded images of fathers in the last few years supports the fact that an evolution is occurring. Businesses, brands and corporations are responding to the change in the portrayal of fatherhood.
It's important that media challenges the perception of modern day gender roles more. The images we're surrounded by, from morning television to the billboards seen on the way into work, should speak for the culture we live in and are striving towards. If we keep moving in the direction of change then that is exactly where we will end up.
With Cannes Lions starting this week, we will be keeping a close eye on gender representation within the campaigns on show and are excited to see how fatherhood will be depicted in another eight years' time. It's one small step for challenging visual stereotypes, one giant leap for dad-kind.