The latest bizarre outrage and company boycott/worship fest centres around an advertisement put out by Gillette. The premise of the ad is that men should strive to be better as people and that they should take a more active role in combatting what is today termed ‘toxic masculinity’. The people have spoken, and as always, the people are in conflict.
While I want to mention a few pros and cons about this ad and the reception it has so far received, I feel I should comment briefly on ‘toxic masculinity’. As a male myself and, as some of my friends would probably joke, not exactly a ‘masculine’ kind of guy, I find myself having no real opinion on the phrase at all. I don’t find it offensive nor particularly necessary, and that in discourse on the issues that surround it find it the equivalent to talking to a brick wall on all sides. It is merely another buzzword that has, for good or ill, reasonable or not, gained traction in the global debate about the behaviour of men.
For starters, the behaviour that is given the label ‘toxic masculinity’ is, in my view, simply the progression of our society. Actions that were normal, or at least occurred without consequence, before are no longer acceptable in the current age. This is good, and in the case of sexist behaviour towards women a step in the right direction for gender equality. This evolution in our social interactions is no different to previous instances where we have progressed as human beings. I would say that it is not necessarily the ‘masculinity’ (or toxicity of it) that is the issue, but that of an inability to conceive one’s own lack of decency as a human being as pertained by modern standards.
While I find it ironic that those who complain that ‘snowflakes’ are sensitive about everything are the ones currently finding an advertisement by a razor company offensive, to play the devil’s advocate I don’t think repeating the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ will help in its eradication. Instead, seeing it as a behavioural evolution would be much more beneficial. Recognising and calling out behaviour that is incorrect by modern standards is necessary and admirable, but we also need to recognise that progress on a societal level is slow – it will not occur overnight. As such, it must be acknowledged that there will be those who will defy this change and those who have grown up with the understanding it is acceptable behaviour. That is not to condone them acting in such ways, but simply to add a bit of understanding and context to an issue that is very emotionally driven. The approach to change, as always, must be through education, compassion and maybe a touch of humility.
I digress, however, and will begin with the cons about the advertisement itself. My concern with it is not the content of the advertisement, but that it has become a trend for big brands to latch onto social and political issues. Cynical, for sure, but I would be quite certain that Gillette or Nike are more interested in their increased profits as a result of their ad campaign than about the actual success of the campaign. I commend them for creating a voice, but simply doubt their motives are as pure as their image would like to portray. I don’t know of any Gillette scandals, but Nike’s attempt at supporting people of colour in America while running what are essentially slave labour factories in third world countries seems a bit forced and “public relation-y”. To a much lesser extent, Gillette only now joining a movement that has been going on for about two years also appears contrived, an attempt to garner positive publicity easily.
As for pros, the content of the advertisement, as I said above, I have no qualms with it. It is a worthwhile message to spread, regardless of the mouthpiece (so long as people understand the reasoning behind it). Progress will be slow, but seeing the societal shift in action is quite satisfying. Despite my distrust of corporate involvement in social and political issues, insofar as they help push movements without having abuses of their own hidden in the background, companies like Gillette should be commended for making a stand. Time will tell just how much effect they truly have.
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