The Best a Man Can Be: Our Honest, Candid Response to Gillette's New Ad
Most of us have seen Gillette’s recent ad tackling the subject of toxic masculinity in under two minutes. The reviews are mixed. A lot of praise. A lot of anger. Most of what I’ve personally heard about it, I’ve heard from women.
They are relieved. Cautiously hopeful. They are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, abusive relationships. They are mothers to sons. They are mothers to daughters. Many have the same thought I had when I first saw the ad:
It’s about fucking time.
I’m about to go out on an unpopular limb. Since the #metoo movement took off, I’ve heard a lot of this happen in response: #notallmen.
Yes. Yes all men.
We live in a society that caters to men. Believes men. Believes men before women. Holds a man’s intelligence higher than a woman’s, even when the conversation is about a woman, what that woman may already know, even her professional field, etc. (hello, mansplaining).
All men are guilty of participating in toxic masculinity. Don’t believe me? Watch that Gillette ad again.
Men, how many times have you said the phrase, “boys will be boys?”
Men, how many times have you approached a woman, trying to make a move, and you didn’t take “no” for an answer, and instead you saw it as a challenge?
Men, when a story came out on the news about a woman being sexually assaulted, how many times did you ask questions like, “what was she wearing?”
“What was she drinking?”
“Why was she out so late?”
“Why are they only bringing this up now?”
Men, how many times has someone been accused of sexual harassment and you’ve brushed it off because “you know Joe, he’s a great guy, he was just joking around.”
Men, how many times have you turned a blind eye to another man sexually harassing a female co-worker or student?
Men, how many times have you told your son, “man up,” or “be a man,” or “don’t be a sissy,” or “boys don’t cry”?
Men, how many times have you made fun of someone else, speculating on their sexuality because their masculinity just didn’t match up to yours?
Men, how many times have you cut a woman off or inserted yourself into a conversation, believing that you know more about the subject than they do?
How many times have you spoken condescendingly to a woman, dumbing yourself down in mock effort for her to understand, when really, she had no difficulty understanding you at all?
This is a tiny list of examples of toxic masculinity. If you’re a man and checked even one off, you’ve participated in toxic masculinity. Didn’t check anything off? You aren’t being honest.
And here is why honesty and owning up to toxic masculinity is so important: there will be no change if you do not see the problem.
We hear it all the time. In order to overcome, you must first acknowledge there is something to overcome.
Women have been fighting against toxic masculinity long before the #metoo movement. Long before this ad. And most of you haven’t heard us.
You’ve dismissed us as a bunch of girls you wouldn’t take seriously.
You’ve dismissed us because we “couldn’t possibly know what [we’re] talking about.”
You’ve dismissed us because we “asked for it”—by how we dressed, by how we acted, by what we said, by what we were drinking.
You’ve dismissed us by telling us where our place is: serving you.
You’ve dismissed us because you saw us as weak, inferior, unintelligent.
So here’s your chance. A chance for men to take their turn standing up to other men.
A chance to say, “hey, that’s not ok” when you witness your boss making unwelcome advances to your female coworker again.
A chance to speak up when your brother questions the validity of a woman’s story of assault.
A chance to comfort your son when he’s sad or hurt instead of telling him only girls cry.
A chance to let boys be whoever the fuck they want to be. Ballerinas, artists, musicians: they don’t need to throw a football to be a man.
A chance to make room for women to speak.
A chance to hear women.
A chance to believe women.
We wish you would have listened to us first. But we hope you will listen to some of the men around you now and truly be the best a man can be.