Re: Gillette Ad - Some are insulted, I have some questions...

Since Gillette’s new ad premiered on Monday, the internet has been blowing up! My Facebook feed is full of articles and memes of people applauding Gillette, others condemning them. Some swear they’ll buy all the Gillette products on the shelves, others are boycotting them and calling everyone else to as well.

Now, I have to be honest - I loved the ad.

I also know a lot of people that didn’t. So, I asked what they took issue with. I spoke with different people with different viewpoints - some religious, some not. Then I came across Matt Walsh’s article which actually ran along the same lines that I’d heard from others. So I’m mostly going to be addressing the content of his editorial.

But after listening and trying to understand where my ad-hating peers are coming from, I have some questions.

Do you believe that the ad calls all masculinity toxic?

Let’s start - right off the bat by making sure we’re operating with the same dictionary. There’s nothing worse than spending time talking about a cake when the other person is talking about a sandwich (really though, it happened to me and my husband, that was a confusing few minutes).

“Toxic masculinity” does not mean that being masculine, masculine things, or things related to men and boys is toxic or dangerous. I don’t believe that - I don’t know many people that do. I think that toxic masculinity exists, and the ad absolutely points out examples of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity says “these are things men do because we’re men” and the “things” are usually degrading to others. Some even go so far as to say, “Well, we’re men. We can’t control it.” This idea that men are not in control of their actions is toxic. The idea that demonstrations of violence is the only or even the ideal way to handle a disagreement is toxic. The idea that boys should “man up” and not demonstrate emotions or cry is toxic.

Let’s be honest with each other here - no matter what side of the discussion you fall on we don’t want our boys and young men running around thinking they have no self-control. I don’t believe that’s true, and I have a hard time thinking others do too. We don’t want our boys and young men handling disagreements with fist fights - that leads to assault arrests as adults. We don’t want them to grow up emotionally inept and lacking empathy. I can’t think of anyone who actually wants this for their children. So at least as far as this, I feel we might be on the same page.

The other argument I hear (and one that Walsh made) is that they don’t need a razor ad or the feminist movement to tell them how to act. You are absolutely right. You don’t.

But again - a moment of honesty - isn’t that what ads do? The Old Spice ad said that you’re not manly unless you wear their deodorant and use their body wash. Olay tells me that I’m not pretty unless I use their cream and if I don’t, I’ll become a wrinkly old hag. Ads say “Do this, and buy my product”. That’s literally what they’re made for. I don’t take the Olay ad personally. I don’t know many (any) who took the Old Spice ad personally.

Why are people taking this ad personally when they don’t with others?

A tire ad will tell you that don’t care about your family’s safety if you use other tires. I don’t see people up in arms over that. Yogurt ads tell you that you’re not feeding your children well if you don’t give them that particular brand of yogurt. I don’t see people breaking down and boycotting yogurt companies for that! So if people don’t normally rush out to do exactly what ads tell them to normally, and they don’t get furious at ads for their implications when they choose not to “obey the ad” why is this one such a problem for people?

I posit that it makes us uncomfortable to see it happen, right in front of us. It’s not comfortable to watch a kid chased through the streets by his bullies. It’s not comfortable to see the complacency on the dads faces as they chant “boys will be boys” (which I also know is an issue, we’ll get there), and I think, it makes some uncomfortable to see someone say that leering at a woman walking down the street is “not cool, man” because it’s such a common occurrence.

And really, that’s the other thing. This is so common! I understand that not all men behave like this. I understand that not all men think this is okay. A lot of people know that it’s not all men, but it’s so many men that I don’t know of a single woman that hasn’t been sexually harassed by way of catcalling, unsolicited *ahem* pictures, untoward sexual advances, or even just manhandled. I know, it sounds like more “liberal feminist propaganda”. But here’s what I want to know…

What if it’s not about women, not about feminism? What if this is about mutual respect?

The ad wasn’t about how men treat women. There was a lot of that there, don’t get me wrong. I mean, we make up 50% of the populations. It would stand to reason that a significant portion of interactions would include a woman, but it also addressed bullying and how we raise our boys into young men. So, let’s look at how we handle our children, how we handle men and women both. Let’s treat them with respect. Let’s respect that child being chased through the street enough to stand beside him. Let’s respect that woman walking down the street enough to stand up for her. I don’t believe the goal is the erasure of masculinity, but the revival of mutual respect.

I know a lot of men are already doing this. Gillette does too; they even say it. ;)

But this acknowledgement does not detract from the good men are doing. I, for one, am so glad for the men that stand beside women and stand for our children. So with that in mind…

If we’re reaching for the same goal, if we want our children to grow up well and the people around us treated with respect, why is a national ad an inappropriate way to distribute the message?

If the house is on fire, and I only have a few friends with hoses and buckets helping me put out the fire, I would want everyone to come help, however they could. If Home Depot came by telling people about the fire and selling buckets, the goal is still being met, we’re getting more people to help put out the fire- and they might sell some buckets along the way.

The house is on fire. Let’s get all the help we can get to put it out.

Oh wait, I said I’d address the “boys will be boys” thing. Uhm, next post. Promise!