How traditional are Father’s Day cards?

How delighted, do you think, would a “new” father be upon receiving a Father’s Day card thanking him for being the breadwinner, praising him as a great, powerful man? Or do you believe he would prefer being addressed as an emotional, caring and loving parent? There is a big chance that, even if the father wishes to be praised as an emotionally oriented parent, he will most likely receive cards highlighting the traditional breadwinner role, whilst the loving, caring role is usually reserved for mothers.

A study published in the Journal of Family Issues revealed significant differences in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day greeting cards. A total of 442 cards on the Hallmark website consisting of 259 Mother’s Day and 183 Father’s Day cards in the English language were analyzed.

The following are some of the results of the study:

81 percent of Mother’s Day cards highlighted that she made the child feel loved, whereas this was true for only 19 percent of Father’s Day cards.

89 percent of the cards saying that the sender was ”grateful for the recipient“  were Mother’s Day cards and only 11 percent were Father’s Day cards.

Mothers rather than fathers seem to bring ”joy, smiles and laughter“ to the sender and ”make people happy“ as indicated by 75 percent of cards intended for mothers.

Father’s Day cards praised him for being the breadwinner or a great man.

”Teaching children lessons for the future“ is seen as a quality of  fathers as shown by 87 percent of the cards addressed to fathers.

80 percent of humorous cards specifically related to Father’s Day and only about 20 percent to Mother’s Day.

The study also observed objects and pictures depicted on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day cards finding that:

Flowers are for mothers, with only 8 percent of Father’s Day cards being designed with flowers.

Kitchen scenes, laundry, female clothing and children’s artwork were on Mother’s Day cards only.

Father’s Day cards generally displayed tools, scenes of hunting and fishing, cars, crowns, bedtime scenes, toys and grilling.

Fathers are also shown watching television and sitting in an easy chair indicating exemption from engaging in domestic labor.

Color is another distinguishing factor looked at by the study which found that:

Pastel tones are typically for Mother’s Day cards.

Pink and white are predominantly on Mother’s Day cards; green and brown on Father’s Day cards.

In summary, being a strong, great man, a breadwinner who teaches children life lessons were epithets intended for fathers, whereas emotional expressions, caring, making the family happy and the children feeling loved were attributes addressed to mothers.

Is this fine so far?

The roots of traditional roles reach deep, and one cannot blame companies for creating products which reproduce traditional gender roles. If these products did not sell, they would not be produced.

Nobody expects greeting cards to be revolutionary, but they are also not helpful in supporting gender equality. Which Father’s Day card will you give?


Source: Auster, Carol J. & Auster-Gussman, Lisa A. 2016. Contemporary Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Greeting Cards: A Reflection of Traditional Ideologies of Motherhood and Fatherhood? Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 37(9), 1294 – 1326.

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