With over 17 million views, a new Gillette razor ad has taken on a life of its own starting conversations far deeper than an ordinary razor commercial. The ad specifically challenges men to take on toxic masculinity and many of the social woes that have long been ignored: bullying, sexual harassment, and the men who diminish women in the workplace.
What has surprised me the most about the reaction to the ad is the amount of negative feedback it is getting. Feedback I believe is unwarranted.
NPR covered the feedback in a story, “Backlash erupts after Gillette launches a new #MeToo – inspired ad campaign.” They describe most of the negative feedback as being rooted around the idea it paints men in a bad light, or as though it simplifies or stereotypes men. I didn’t get that at all from the ad. I would say every woman, but the truth is everybody, knows men or has seen men like those portrayed as toxic in the commercial. That doesn’t mean every man is bad. Quite the contrary, I believe, as I have written about before, boys/men are inherently good.
That said, the ad has a strong message in calling for those still standing on the sidelines, as we as a nation address toxic masculinity, to get up and do something. It is time for each of us to play our part, men and women, to provide a safe environment for boys and men to accept responsibility for their own actions,, understanding sometimes they may be called upon to correct the behavior around them in a safe and appropriate setting.
As the mother of two young boys, I will teach them to respect themselves, women, and one another while also allowing and encouraging them to be masculine. No, not all masculinity is toxic. Both myself, and the men in my sons lives, have and will encourage them to accept responsibility for themselves and to be a man and all that entails.
Our society needs all types and that includes strong men. We cannot and should not discourage that. It takes strength to take on the a* holes, the bullies and the abusers. It takes strong individuals (men and women) to serve and protect in law enforcement and military.
We need to draw the line between right and wrong not weak and strong when it comes to behavior. A sweet boy is no better than a strong/aggressive boy so long as that aggression is used in the right ways. The phrase “boys will be boys” is not dated boys do have natural tendencies that girls don’t always have. What we need to do is look at a particular behavior and correct it when it’s wrong. Wrestling isn’t inherently wrong. Fighting out of anger and aggression is. These are the nuanced differences this ad should have us discussing.
So here’s to that. Here’s to talking and debating and discussing the things that matter the issues that shape our lives and ultimately our communities and the world.
Here’s to raising and encouraging men to be the best they can be. If you oppose that message, you need to do some deep soul searching.