"Is this the best a man can get? Is it?”
This is the opening line of the already widely spread and talked about ad from Gillette, telling men to ’shed their toxic masculinity’, in light mostly of the #metoo movement and subsequent allegations and convictions of prominent men for sexual harassment.
“...we can be better, but not by being less masculine, rather by being more masculine."
Firstly, the sentiment is there, of course it isn’t the best a man can get. It never will be, just like any gender or race or religion will never be the best it can be because nothing and no one is perfect. The problem is, this advertisement, while clearly well intentioned, is virtue signalling (unless you look to a shaving company for moral guidance on raising your children), and is also saying that most men are essentially, bad. That we can do so much better. This is true, we can, but not by being less masculine, rather by being more masculine. The positive traits that men follow inherently aren’t to rape women, aren’t to bully each other, rather it’s in our nature to protect one another, to fight for what is right and just, to be strong and stand up for those who need standing up for, and to those who need standing up to. These are masculine traits. Traits, being belittled and battered by society and the modern feminist movement.
This type of virtue signalling is a dangerous road, where young men can become confused about the role they have in society and how they should behave against their masculine instincts.
Early in the ad, we see boys wrestling, and the phrases repeated amongst the actors and is “boys will be boys”, which then cuts straight to the news reports of #metoo and sexual assault content. This is clearly disingenuous. What was wrestling boys got to do with men sexually assaulting women? There is no connection, unless you were to believe this ad, and on that note, yes, boys will be boys. They wrestle, they rumble, they ’toughen up’ as faux pas as that is to say now-a-days. It’s part of growing up and being a strong man, which is what society is built on. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you want men to be less masculine, then prepare for the consequences of a suppressed urge to compete, to succeed, to defend and to fight for what is right - because these are tenants of masculinity that should be lauded not condemned.
The main point of this is that the men who are sexually assaulting women are very small minority. Most men are good men, most men don’t assault or bully, but that’s not what this ad is portraying, along with mainstream media, perpeuating that there is an epidemic of toxic, sexually abusive and violent men. I’m a masculine man, and all these things that they portray good men to do, I do. So do my friends. In fact, so for the vast vast majority - they aren’t sexually assaulting women or belittling them in any way. The ad says some men do these things. As if it’s a rare thing. It isn’t. As I said earlier, the solution to improving this isn’t less masculinity, it’s more, and here’s an example, taken from my blog post, Movie Men
A few months ago I had ventured to see a movie at Fox Studios in Sydney. Little did I know that the most exciting and most disappointing part of the evening was not the trailers (exciting) and the film’s conclusion (typically the most disappointing) but both occurred simultaneously just as the film’s opening credits were rolling.
That evening I learnt a hard truth – that real men are almost all but gone and gentlemanly conduct and standing up for your fellow man are notions that are essentially extinct in today’s age.
My girlfriend and I had arrived early to what was looking to be a sold out session, and we sat immediately around the corner of the entry, in the two seats closest to the partition separating the walkway. The trailers had finished and the only seats left available where lone seats scattered throughout, and a few clusters of seats in the very front rows. Then, he… rather ‘it’, walked in. Your typical, obnoxious looking early twenty something, trash. Joining him were his posse of young trashy harlots. So in he walked, loudly chewing on gum,sporting footy shorts, a loose singlet and a large novelty hat with straws connected to a drink container on it. Completely oblivious to anyone around him, he walked but inches from the people sitting immediately in front of him, pausing, chewing and talking loudly in what seemed to be a vain attempt at English. Clearly blocking the view of numerous paying patrons, he cared not, and no one uttered a word. On he walked with his harem, the talking getting louder. I thought at least, thank God he is at the other end of the cinema… but back he came, searching for seats in what was clearly a full cinema.
The movie had started, and he stood yet again, direct in our line of sight, no attempt at being discreet, but instead laughing rudely to his friends, and then for good measure, he let out a belch. I could hear the discomfort and annoyance of people around me, and my girlfriend next to me – but still no one said a word.
Enough became enough and without realising it I called out for him to move on, somewhat loudly I confess, however, something had to be done as it was clear he has got away with far too much in life and his lack of character and decency is the end result. Shocked, he paused, and then it began. In true trash form, he began yelling and swearing like a spoilt teenager, but all too aggressively. I had blundered. My fear was not of this lanky excuse for a person, but that now I was in a situation where my girlfriend was a few feet from an overly aggressively, uncontrollable tool of a person holding a large coke. I stayed silent thinking to myself “just don’t throw that coke, don’t throw the coke”. I knew if I challenged him, an even bigger scene would be created and nothing would be resolved. Closer he got now, leaning over the partition yelling in my face words that would make a sailor blush. Motioning that he wanted to fight, pouncing forward and back with his empty head as if to indicate somehow we should duke it out in the cinema. While it would have been temporarily enjoyable to whip this boy into further disrepute, it was not an option.
Now eventually, he calmed and took his place in the front row. That event was not the real devastating occurrence, but rather this:
Society is crumbling, I realised. Of the males in the cinema in particular, not one had been man enough to defend the innocent in the face of the guilty. Let me tell you, had just 3 men done nothing more than stood to their feet at the time of these events, just to indicate that they had the back of their fellow man, the little twenty something ‘lad’ would have whimpered down in defeat. Had that been the case, no one would have had to listen to his tirade. It is because everyone today remains quiet, that he acted as he did. No one defends one another anymore, as sad as that truth is.
A lot of people say in their arguments “this is 2012 not the 50’s! Get with the times!”
Sometimes I wish we were back in the 50’s. Where men once stood for something, other than themselves.
In the above example, where were all the toxic masculine men that this ad portrays, ready to jump into a fight with another man? No one stood up to defend me against this guy, and that’s not from too much masculinity, that’s almost for certain. There were dozens of men in that cinema, but arguably, none were ‘man enough’ so to speak, to stand up for what is right. This is where masculinity needs to change, as this is the exception not the rule. Most men oppose belittling women, they stand up for their friends and they fight for what they believe is right. But if we keep battering men and masculinity, we are left with a society of weak, little men who spend too much time assessing their behaviour and not acting when action is needed.
Just take a look at these numbers from the US. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. 85% of all children who show behaviour disorders come from fatherless homes. 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. In single-parent homes, it’s overwhelmingly single mothers raising the boys. In school, the vast majority of teachers are women. So what masculinity is this ad talking about when showing all the men standing by watching their toxic children and friends?
The final line reads. "It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more, that we can get closer to our best.” I agree with this. But not in the sense portrayed. Don’t fight against you masculinity, embrace it. It is what makes a man a man, and men are inherently good.
Finally, imagine an ad where the core theme was some women act right, but you can do better. Or some ‘insert religious minority here’ act right, but you can do better. Clementine Ford, a prominent Australian feminist said this morning that ’not all men are bad’. So don’t cluster us all as bad men who need improvement, because the good men out there are too busy working one and improving themselves, without the aid of a razor company.