Don’t look now but a group of a-holes are busily destroying another retail product they’ve already purchased. You might recall the last time this happened when wizards in red hats were smashing their televisions, televisions they already paid for, in protest against something-something-something. This time, they’re destroying their Gillette products because of a new commercial in which the razor manufacturer calls for an end to “toxic masculinity.”
In the ad, we see a series of scenes illustrating various awful actions and behaviors by men — behaviors and actions we’re all aware of, chiefly because it’s all been an ugly part of society for hundreds if not thousands of years: sexual harassment, bullying, misogyny, and of course the “boys will be boys” excuse for all of the above.
Consequently, easily triggered men across the internet are lashing out against the ad suggesting Gillette hates all men, or that Gillette is encouraging men to not be men. And, yeah, many of these guys are concurrently collapsing on their fainting couches while flushing their razors and vowing to never use Gillette products ever again. Apparently, the scenes of bullying and mansplaining in the commercial hit too close to home. After all, the ad wasn’t suggesting that decent men need to change their behavior. The ad was clearly and directly targeting men whose behavior has been the opposite of decent, whether that means bullying of any kind or accosting women sexually, verbally, or emotionally.
Here’s a sample of some of the comments under the video on YouTube:
“I think men should embrace their masculinity. They were born that way. You telling me they should be ashamed? Now if the roles were reversed for women, this would be sexist. So odd how that plays out. ”
Again, no one’s saying we should stop being men. They’re saying the destructive behavior, especially toward women, is long past due to end. Wow, so paranoid and defensive — hysterical, even.
“Gillette has basically degraded masculinity here! They’ve accused all men — their target audience — of sexually assaulting women, bullying, fighting etc.”
Did I miss something? Where does the ad say “all men?” Gillette didn’t accuse “all men” unless this commenter is suggesting all men are sexual predators and bullies, which they’re not. Gillette accused the men who deal in these poisonous behaviors, not every man on the planet, which I would assume include some of the crew who filmed the commercial, not to mention the performers on screen.
“Now do an ad on toxic femininity.”
Well, if alleged toxic femininity were even close to being as pervasive as toxic masculinity, we’d see instance after instance of female-on-male rape, we’d see instances of female-led genocide and war, we’d see an entire roster of female presidents who grabbed men by the penises, as opposed to exactly zero female presidents, partly because until a hundred years ago, women weren’t even allowed to vote in this country thanks to laws passed by men.
Here’s a thought exercise to further underscore my point: Off the top of your head, name one woman who was nominated to serve on the Supreme Court and who was, in the process of being confirmed, accused of sexually assaulting several men. Give up? That’s probably because there aren’t any female jurists who’ve been accused of sexually assaulted men, and it’s also because only handful of women have been nominated. Ever. And you’re telling me there’s such a thing as systemic toxic femininity?
The backlash is the very definition of Queen Gertrude’s interrogative in Hamlet: “Doth protest too much, methinks?”
As a man of 47 years, I watched the commercial and never once felt like I was being personally judged, mainly because I don’t sexually assault anyone, one, and I limit any bullying to a-holes like Donald Trump who, themselves, are the worst of the worst when it comes to bullying. Call it counterbullying. Likewise, if you feel as if the scenes of toxic masculinity in the ad are suggesting that you personally should stop behaving in a certain way, perhaps you should. In other words, there are dozens of manifestations of human maleness that don’t involve abusing others, and exactly none of those other behaviors were lumped into Gillette’s message.
And what’s that message? Simple. For too long, too many men have generally acted like entitled power-addicted jagoffs, routinely subjugating or outright destroying women, not to mention other men deemed to be too “intellectual,” “effeminate,” or generally “weak.” History texts are wall-to-wall with harrowing stories along these lines, and many of our modern lives have been peppered with episodes involving men behaving badly. So, for the purposes of selling razors, Gillette has chosen to amplify the messages of the #MeToo era, applauding men who’ve been enlightened while shaming those who haven’t. Despite the corporate cynicism of piggybacking an otherwise trivial retail product onto a popular activist movement, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting the word out.
All told, this isn’t just my feminism talking. It’s my objective view of the landscape that’s led me to these conclusions. Without a doubt, men have been responsible for innumerable discoveries, heroism, and life-improving achievements throughout recorded time. No one’s denying that. But it’s also true that the vast majority of atrocities on this planet have also been at the hands of men. Full stop. Despite the rise of women’s rights in the past hundred years, most men still run the machinery of politics and economics, and, yes, they’re responsible for everything from female genital mutilation to pedophilia to the prevalence of roofies and date rape. It’s just a statistical reality.
And now, at long last, both women and men are declaring in unity, “Enough.”