Homer Simpson has been blamed for reinforcing negative gender stereotypes about “hapless” dads.

Former minister Jo Swinson told MPs during a debate on International Men’s Day that characters like the bumbling Simpson had helped “undermine” men’s roles as fathers.

The Liberal Democrat deputy leader, who is MP for East Dunbartonshire, was supported by Schools Minister Nick Gibb who said that, although light-hearted, television programmes and adverts can “reinforce damaging stereotypes”.

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Ms Swinson said: “We need to go quite early in life to start looking at the stereotypes that are placed on boys from the earliest months and years of their lives.

“We talk about things like ‘boys will be boys’, ‘boys don’t cry’, people get told to ‘man up’ as if showing some kind of emotion is a sign of weakness.”

She added: “Men’s role as fathers is an incredibly important role that has often been dismissed and undermined.

“You just look at some of the stereotypes in popular culture, the Homer Simpson type of dads just being hapless not being able to be up to the job.

“Breast feeding aside, there is nothing that women can do as parents that men cannot do.”

Tory minister Mr Gibb said: “We have all seen adverts showing how men are incapable of doing the dishes, who need a woman to step in to take over.

“Although light-hearted, these adverts can reinforce damaging stereotypes which can affect how we view men’s and women’s roles.”