In this day and age of sexual allegations flying around like fireworks on the 4th of July and movements such as the #MeToo movement gaining such traction, it would seem like a no brainer for individuals, corporations, companies, whoever to join in with support for such movements to speak out against behavior that is less than becoming. But it seems that speaking out, even in a positive way, could possibly result in being vilified and even boycotted by the very group who is being called to a higher standard.
Recently, Gillette, the national brand of shaving supplies, created a commercial playing off of their slogan, “The best a man can get,” by asking, “Is this the best a man can get?” This question is followed by scenes of a group of kids chasing down one kid. A mother consoling her son who seems to have been cyber-bullied. Clips from TV shows showing inappropriate behavior towards women including catcalling and whistling. Finally, a group of dads at a barbecue with their sons who happen to be fighting on the grass in front of them.
As the narration continues over these images, these men respond to the behavior by saying, “Boys will be boys.” A clip of Terry Crews testifying on C-SPAN regarding the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act saying, “Men need to hold other men accountable.” As the commercial plays on, there are scenes of men stepping in and holding others accountable, just as Crews called for in his testimony. The viewer is reminded that, “The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”
As of Wednesday night, the video on YouTube had been viewed over 14 million times with 349k likes and 733k dislikes. A scroll down through the comments beneath the video is not for the faint of heart. While there are a handful of constructive remarks, the majority of them are toxic, hateful, and ignorant.
When news began to break of this commercial, I rushed to find the video to see for myself what could be causing such an uprising among men. Piers Morgan, English journalist and writer, reported on Good Morning Britain that the commercial tells men they need to be “rehabilitated” and that they are “monsters” who need to be taught how to behave. Somehow, Morgan’s interpretation of the commercial (and apparently a whole slew of YouTube viewers’ interpretation as well) is that the negative behavior in the advertisement somehow makes a claim that ALL men are guilty of sexual harassment
Morgan responded with a considerable amount of vitriol, even taking to Twitter with his rantings and engaging with film creator, Jeffrey Reddick, on the subject. Reddick’s response to Morgan was this, “Gillette isn’t saying men and masculinity are bad. Toxic masculinity is when we teach boys that real men don’t cry. Real men don’t show fear. Real men don’t lose. Real men take what they want. Real men solve problems with their fists. It is toxic and it damages men and women.”
Having seen all the hype about the commercial before I had actually watched it, I have to say that in watching the commercial for myself, I had to make sure I had searched and found the correct video. All these accusations that Morgan and others claim, this toxic masculinity that is decried in the video, I struggled to understand just what all the rage was about.
As a father of both sons and a daughter, I am equally conscious of both sides of this discussion. I have constantly tried to instill in my boys that there are certain ways to treat women, no matter who they are. They are young, so I haven’t hit on some of the subjects that the Gillette ad touches on or that Morgan gets to in his reporting, but I expect that those conversations will happen.
At the same time, I fear for my daughter. I know what goes through the mind of a teenage boy as I was one once. I’ve read enough stories about what happens on college campuses that there are times when I would like my daughter to be homeschooled for college. While I wouldn’t do that to her, I think you get the sentiment.
Yes, there has been an excessive amount of press in the past few years about men behaving badly against women. I would also argue that the press in the last few years hardly makes up for the countless years that have gone by in which any stories of this kind of behavior was squashed or eliminated altogether without any reporting at all.
I fail to see how Morgan and others can claim that this ad is somehow an attack on men and masculinity unless, of course, we have a significantly different definition of masculinity.
According to Wikipedia, “Masculinity (also called manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with boys and men. As a social construct, it is distinct from the definition of the male biological sex. Standards of manliness or masculinity vary across different cultures and historical periods.”
I was glad when I asked my ten year old son for the definition of masculine that he stated it was standing up for someone who can’t stand up for themselves. Based on what I see in the video, my son’s definition aligns with this depiction as well.
While some may be offended by the graphic nature of Piers Morgan’s tweet below, I have to agree with the sentiment of the person who responds, “Don’t be a $@%#” seems to be the basic message of the advertisement. If that’s a bad message, then I guess I truly am missing something.
We should be teaching young men and boys to treat everyone with respect, women and men. We should be teaching them that masculinity isn’t about the number of girls you’ve slept with or taken advantage of nor is it about your physicality or physique. Instead, it’s more about character and, despite popular belief, it may involve not only acknowledging your own feelings but also displaying them as well.
We’ve grown accustomed to a distorted view and definition of masculinity that I think Gillette is trying to remedy and correct. Their recommendations on how men should act aren’t offensive to me, but they are to others.
Is there a place for someone to do an advertisement about how women should act? Maybe, but that isn’t the point, is it? The point is, if we’re honest, there has been a lopsided history of bad behavior being suppressed and while there has been somewhat of a culture shift to expose some of this behavior, I think that years of silence weren’t necessarily because of a lack of incidents but rather a fear of little or no response to those incidents.
Yes, Hollywood has responded and the #MeToo movement has taken off, but I can’t help but wonder about some who have been accused, did apologies come because people were caught or because they were legitimately remorseful for the actions that they have done.
Ultimately, I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling men to continue to pursue good behavior. Redefining masculinity away from the toxic ways it has been described or exhibited in the past is not a bad thing either. We need to not only clearly articulate this definition for boys and young men but girls and young women. If girls and young women aren’t taught clearly just what kind of behavior and treatment they should be expecting out of men, we are doing them a major disservice and not moving far enough from the past which has plagued us.
Is it a shaving company’s place to be calling me to this kind of action? No more or less than should it be the place of a Hollywood celebrity to tell us how to vote. Should it really matter from where a call to positive action comes from?