Men told to shave off masculinity
By Aaron Deering
A recent Gillette ad has sparked controversy amongst men, and rightly so. The ad implies that most men are bad and display toxic masculinity, and that only some men know how to act in the right way.
The ad basically paints all men with the same brush, that we all allow bullying and harassment to take place, when this clearly isn’t the case. This ad by Gillette was nothing short of a PR stunt. Gillette doesn’t care about the #MeToo movement or women’s equality. They have the hypocrisy to highlight the lack of women in boardrooms, and yet the company itself only has two women on its board of nine directors.
This ad uses so many stereotypes about men which include violence and bullying. I’ve never in all my years alive seen any dads stand by and watch two boys fighting and just shrug it off as ‘boys will be boys’. It’s insulting to think that men stand by and do nothing.
With regards to bullying, it applies to both sexes, not just men. Bullying is not just confined to one gender and is a real issue that affects nearly everybody in their life, so for Gillette to imply that it’s a man-only problem is worrying and irresponsible.
I’ve no issue with the #MeToo movement, and I recognise and support the work it is doing to raise women’s issues and promote equality for women. I also condemn sexual harassment by men and the alleged actions of Harvey Weinstein, and he deserves to be locked up for his crimes if he is proven guilty.
The issue is that Gillette have tried to paint a picture that nearly all men are like Weinstein, and only some men act in the right way. This is completely wrong. Most men do act in the right way, and only a small proportion of men engage in wrongful behaviour. We know the difference between right and wrong and we didn’t need the #MeToo movement or this Gillette ad to tell us that.
All this ad has done is infuriate men who already know how to morally behave. It’s easy for some people to say the outrage expressed by men over this ad is an overreaction, but imagine if this ad was flipped around and featured women in a negative light. Imagine using the words ‘toxic femininity’ to describe women, but we wouldn’t because it is disrespectful and degrading, but it’s ok to use this description for men?
This ad does point out the harmful things some men do and there is no denying that, but it also creates an identity crisis for men, particularly young men. This kind of ad does not help the mental health crisis young men are experiencing, as it shows men that being masculine is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed. What if someone wants to be masculine? What is wrong with that? As a society, are we now against freedom of expression?
There were comments by some people in support of this ad, saying that real men cry and open up about their feelings. When was this ever considered not being a real man? I, for one, cry and talk to people about how I am feeling, and it doesn’t make me any less of a man. Similarly, playing football or being competitive doesn’t make me more of a man.
The way this society is going it’s nearly a crime to be a man, and the way Gillette generalises men in this ad creates a serious issue. We now have companies trying to control men. My hope is that this attack on young men stops, and that rather than generalising all men as bad, people work together to stamp out this sort of behaviour, as it is not just confined to men.
Gillette: the best a woman can get
By Áine Kenny
The recent furore over the “controversial” Gillette ad once again proves we have a long way to go before feminist ideas become accepted by mainstream society. The ad, featuring a #MeToo theme, portrays men behaving badly: bullying, catcalling and ‘mansplaining’. Many people have said that this portrays all men in a negative light.
However, this stance is a fatal misunderstanding of the ad. The ad states that some men are already analysing this behaviour, calling out their friends, and teaching their sons to respect women and to express their emotions in a healthy way. Also, nearly half of the ad features men bullying other men. What Gillette is pointing out is that toxic masculinity, as a whole, negatively impacts women and men.
To say that this ad is political correctness gone mad really underestimates the severity of the issues facing men today. Men face a serious amount of bullying, especially aggressive physical bullying. This culture of violence is enshrined in films like Fight Club. More sensitive men are put down, othered, and we wonder why men are facing a mental health crisis. Men account for 80 percent of suicides in Ireland, according to the HSE. All Gillette was trying to do was show the root cause of this issue: the impossible and toxic standards set for men to be considered ‘real men’.
Gillette also point out how systemic sexual harassment is. While I recognise that not all men participate in catcalling, groping and assault, I really don’t think men are being called out enough by their peers. In a survey conducted by NUI Galway, 70 per cent of female students, and 40 per cent of male students had experienced sexual harassment by final year. While both numbers are high, clearly, female students are experiencing harassment on a much larger scale.
Globally, 120 million girls have experienced ‘forced sex’, according to UN Women. What these statistics prove is that these perpetrators are not listening to women. When we say no, we are not heard. This is why it is so important for other men to speak up on our behalf.
How many of us women have been in a nightclub and been approached by a guy? We think ‘I’m sure he’s very nice, but I am not interested.’ But it is not as simple as saying: “no thanks”. What ensues is a complicated game of how to not offend the man, while also extracting yourself from the situation.
Because let’s be real, saying no doesn’t work. Even if you’re nice about it. Some men view no as a challenge, not a final decision. “Why not? That’s so rude, you don’t even know me that well.” Then every woman uses her get out of jail card: the fictitious or real boyfriend. “I have a boyfriend,” you say. Suddenly, the man jumps up. “Oh that’s fine then,” they say, quickly walking off, wishing you well. What this proves is that some men, like the bad men in the Gillette ad, have more respect for a (potentially imaginary) man who isn’t even there, rather than a woman’s right to say no to his unwanted advances.
I can’t count the number of times I have had to ‘rescue’ a friend from this type of situation. And none of the lad’s friends come up and say “listen man, she’s not interested, plenty of other fish in the sea.” In fact, they start trying to convince you to get with their friend too. So, to say that the majority of men are already calling out their friends’ behaviour is not true, at least in my experience. That is why I was so delighted to see this ad.
The cynic in me also sees why Gillette is marketing towards women. Gillette men’s razors are better, sharper and cheaper than any female razor on the market. So, the company are cleverly opening up to a new demographic, women can buy their products while also feeling empowered.
Gillette have said: “It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.”
But this isn’t just empty words. Gillette have also said that as part of The Best Men Can Be campaign, they’ll donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profits who run programmes aimed at helping men “achieve their personal best, and become role models for the next generation.”
So, what is the issue here? Do we really want to live in a world where alleged abusers get away with groping, harassing and assaulting for over twenty years, with no one, including their male friends, willing to speak up? This ad reignited the conversation about men’s role in the #MeToo movement, which for me, can only be a good thing.