The now infamous Gillette ad requesting that men treat women with respect and police the ones who don’t, has accomplished its mission of opening a discussion. It also required us — again — to listen to the sound of a million hissyfits by men who don’t have much to offer after “Hey, baby!”
It’s hardly the death rattle of the culture of toxic masculinity. Clueless men weren’t going to be changed by a shaving cream and razor ad, but that wasn’t really the point. The point was to make them irrelevant by pointing out some men are better and giving people a chance to think about which group they want to identify with.
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) January 16, 2019
Sure, the ad — and its internet partners — gave toxic men another chance to bray — “tedious twaddle,” as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones describes it — about the war on men, proving anew that it was right and it was needed, Christopher Muther of the Boston Globe writes today.
When a teenager is shown running from a pack of boys who eventually catch him and begin beating him, I flashed back to a pack of junior high bullies who slowly started tormenting me with spitballs and eventually worked their way up to punching me in the back of the head whenever they walked past me.
In the eighth grade, I skipped school for three weeks, not because I didn’t like my classes, but because I was scared of the bullies and too ashamed to talk to anyone about it. I have wonderful parents, but I didn’t want to feel as if I was letting them down. I kept quiet.
Instead, an older man who could spot an easy 14-year-old target circled and made a move on me. More shame, more silence, more isolation.
This all took place during the 1980s, which is practically the Dark Ages when it comes to bullying and LGBTQ issues. The world is a more enlightened place. Or at least that’s what I sometimes think. Then, suddenly, a highly evolved advertisement for razors (!) jerks me back to reality. I made the mistake of reading Twitter and YouTube comments and realized that the hate is still there, only it’s expressed behind the cowardice of screen names and shady profiles.
The bullies and creeps of high school grow up to be the bullies and creeps of the office, of the sidewalk and, yes, of the internet — people you have to pass on the way to finding someone or something worth paying attention to.
They’re an indictment of the way they were raised. The ad wasn’t aimed at getting them to understand that which they’re incapable of understanding. It was aimed at those who have a chance to raise boys better, encouraging those with a clue about being better men to further marginalize those who don’t and probably never will.
It was aimed at better men.