Today, I sat down to write an introduction.
You know what I mean … that inaugural blog post that tells the world who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and why they should listen to you. But instead, I’m distracted. You might be too.
This is the day after the Gillette “toxic masculinity” video blew-up and backlashed. I can’t stop thinking about how this video has impacted me as a man, husband, football coach, and father of boys.
Ads like the Gillette ad provoke. They provoke thoughts; they provoke shock; they provoke enlightenment. Whether you support the basic message of the heavily-debated video or not, there’s no denying that new and necessary conversations are taking place. As of 11:30am on January 16, 2019, “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” had over 11 million views, 261,000 likes and a staggering 640,000 dislikes on YouTube.
In the event that you have somehow missed this video, (perhaps your wifi has been down) please have a look:
After watching this piece, I took some time to reflect. My initial reaction: I did not feel that my masculinity was threatened by the video. I wondered if I had missed something. So, I watched it again, and again, and again. Still, I did not feel scrutinized or compromised in any way.
As the father of preteen boys, I think about messages and examples a lot. My job is to help these kids grow into successful young men in a world with a level of social accountability that we have not seen before. How do we teach them to be assertive, confident and empowered, yet kind, inclusive and mindful, at the same time? Do we curb, temper, or dissuade any aggressive traits or tendencies at all?
With these questions rolling around in my mind, I wanted to get back to understanding how I felt about “We Believe: The Best A Man Can Get.” I decided to break the video down, scene-by-scene to get to the heart of this so-called attack on masculinity.
The video opens with men staring in the mirror: a logical start for a commercial from a company that makes razors.
0:20 – A lone boy being chased by a group followed by a boy comforted by his mother after being bullied.
My immediate reaction: “Okay, this is not going to be your typical Gillette ad at all.” Like many parents, I’ve been helping my children navigate bullying for a while. This scene had my attention. We will come back to the boy being chased later.
0:23 – A group of boys watching a show where a man sneaks up and grabs a lady on the butt, while the audience erupts into applause.
I’m in disbelief. How could this scene threaten anyone’s masculinity? Do people believe that the ability to grab an unsuspecting person is their right? Is this perceived right to grab an unsuspecting woman so important that it should be encouraged throughout society? And, do the people who want this right not have mothers, sisters, or daughters?
0:29 – A man at the head of a boardroom table puts his hand on the shoulder of the woman next to him. He then looks to the others table and says: “What I actually think she was trying to say…”.
The man stresses “actually” and doesn’t make eye contact with the woman. She seems to shrink into her chair. Would addressing the person directly, while you ask their viewpoint be too much to ask? Is it necessary to touch her? Would affording a colleague these basic courtesies threaten a person’s masculinity?
0:34 – A bunch of men standing at grills watching two boys wrestle. They do not intervene stating repeatedly “boys will be boys.”
The sentiment of the ad comes through when this scene is revisited at 1:18. A father leaves his grill to say to the boys “this is not how we treat each other” as he breaks them apart.
How else could that have ended? A major injury, a black eye, or a bleeding nose? Should the men have encircled the boys until a clear victor could be crowned? Unless these alternative endings are imperative to your masculinity, why would this scene enrage anybody?
The statement “boys will be boys” gave me a chuckle. I am a youth football coach for kids aged 9 and 10. At this level the young athletes are introduced to contact for the first time. They also learn to balance new skills and control their intensity. We have female participants who not only hold their own in the group, but actually dominate. Perhaps the statement “boys will be boys” does not have the same place it once had in the world.
1:14 – A man holding a young girl in front of a mirror. Working on positive affirmations together, she repeats after him “I am a strong.”
This heart-warming scene could not possibly be threatening anyone’s masculinity, could it?
I said that we would come back to the boy being chased: At 1:24, a father leaves his son behind to go break up the physical altercation between that lone boy and the group of boys that had been chasing him. He asks “are you okay?” His son is watching.
Is this father somehow less of a man for stopping that altercation? Would it have been more manly to watch a lone boy get bullied and beaten? And, if the answer to both of these questions is “no,” then why are people getting so angry about Gillette’s message?
The most important part of this ad lands at 1:27 when it states:
“Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”
They are watching. They are learning … from us. Gillette isn’t giving us original material in this ad. They’re holding up a mirror to what already exists. It can be hard to look in a mirror when we aren’t proud of what’s looking back.
So, my ask is that you be open to the message. That you don’t watch an ad once and demand boycotts because something makes you uncomfortable. That you take a moment to break down the information to decide if it’s really that bad. I appreciate the opinion of anyone who has taken the time to do this, even if that opinion is different than mine.
One Tweet I read stated “I love my masculine manly husband he is too tough for #gillette.” I guess they were insinuating that taking the actions described above makes you less tough. Others are tweeting messages like: “To those who have a problem with this Gillette ad, it was definitely made for you.” No matter which side of the debate you stand on, dialogue and discussion are always needed for positive change.
Gillette feels men can do better. At minute 0:51 the video states “We believe in the best in men.”
Hopefully men on both sides of this debate still do as well.
Pickle Planet is thrilled to welcome Ryan Davison as a regular contributor to the site.
Ryan is a dad, husband, football coach, and a Realtor® with Re/Max Avante in Moncton. He enjoys short walks on the beach, nachos, and vacations at the lake. You can find him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ryandavisonremax Watch for more of Ryan’s writing here in the future!