Recently, Gillette released an advertisement titled: "We Believe: The Best Men Can Be". In this advertisement, Gillette questioned the famous slogan of the corporation--"Gillette: The Best A Man Can Get". By challenging this popular rhyme, Gillette offered an insight into gender dynamics within the United States, confronting an element of sexism known as "toxic masculinity".
While various interpretations of toxic masculinity exist, the concept can be explained in four simple words: "boys will be boys". Although used playfully, this expression, commonly said by other men, excuses inexcusable behavior that can not only disrespect women but also embarrass a true patriarchal role which men aspire to be. Examples of inexcusable behavior include but are not limited to gender discrimination in the workplace, "locker-room talk", and sexual harassment and assault. Let it be noted that addressing these behaviors as inexcusable does not seek to blame all men for such behavior.
The Gillette advertisement was not centered around blaming all men for "toxic masculinity", but rather calling on men to unite with women, say #TimesUp to puerile excuses that claim "boys will be boys", and progress together towards an equitable future between the sexes.
Immediately after posting a video of the commercial on YouTube, Gillette was flooded with angry messages on social media that argued against the company's 'controversial' stance. Some companies sought an opportunity to thrive based on the controversy. Egard Watches quickly released a rebuttal advertisement titled: "What is a man? A response to Gillette". In this commercial, Egard rebuts Gillette's 'attack on men', including courageous videos of men saving lives as a firefighter and soldier and statistics that actualize the percentage of men affected by homelessness, suicide, drug addiction, etc.
While Egard believed that their advertisement had totally contrasted Gillette's, I interpreted both as complementary to each other. In my interpretation, the Gillette advertisement showed the negatives of a culture of "toxic masculinity". While some examples were extreme, such as the scene with the two boys fighting each other at the barbeque while the fathers laughed it off, saying "boys will be boys". I thought this image did not perpetuate an image of "toxic masculinity" but rather a sign of bad parenting.
However, other scenes in the Gillette advertisement rightfully called attention to important issues of our current society, such as #MeToo and #TimesUP. The images of men looking in the mirror while listening to countless reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment are dynamic since it poses the question: "How can men support a revolutionary movement such as #MeToo without feeling attacked?" #MeToo and #TimesUp are not an attack on men. It is rightful to acknowledge that men can be victims of sexual assault and harassment as well, and I am sure their testimony might be viewed with just as much scrutiny. Yet, women are disproportionately more likely to be sexually assaulted; hence, why #MeToo is primarily a women's movement. That does not mean it cannot have male supporters and allies. But how can men be allies when they believe that #MeToo is just another attempt to 'ruin a man's life'? The responses to how men interpret sexual assault and harassment are important to recognize the emergence of "toxic masculinity". Real men should not be afraid to live their lives in fear of a 'woman getting the wrong idea' and 'ruining his life' as a result.
Men who are taught basic elements of consent are least likely to commit acts of sexual assault. Men who are taught common respect and decency are the least likely to not support their sisters, friends, girlfriends, mothers, and wives. Men who are taught love are the least likely to turn violent and abuse a woman in the household. Men who are taught integrity are the least likely to be toxic.
I suppose all those examples all come back to how an individual, regardless of gender, is not only raised through his or her family but also the values which society upholds as an example.
To all the men who showed outright anger and disgust after the release of the Gillette advertisement, my advice is that you should rather show some curiosity. Ask questions. Find a woman, question her perspective. Have a discussion. Represent your opinions respectfully. Respect her opinion. Come to a compromise. Learn something. Gain an ally.
Bring us one step further towards gender equality and away from toxic masculinity. And women, do the same. This is the best that a man and a woman can get, together.