You might have heard there’s a new Gillette commercial about “toxic masculinity.” The commercial has garnered a lot of attention, both positive and negative. Since masculinity is a cornerstone topic in this community, we thought we’d enter the conversation, too. Did we like the Gillette commercial? Hate it? Want more of it? Check out the following conversation with several of our featured authors.
TOM: So, let’s get everyone’s quick takes. Here at Your Other Brothers, we’re all men with a unique cultural vantage point on masculinity. What did you think of Gillette’s “toxic masculinity” commercial? For/against/neutral?
MATT: I’m actually against the commercial. It paints a picture that all straight men are misogynist or have been at one point. That’s not true! I know many men, including my father, who grew up with the “traditional masculinity,” and they’re hardly “toxic.” Sure, they’ve had flaws, but that’s basic humanity right there!
No one is ever going to have the perfect father, and if someone did have an abusive father, I’m sorry he had to go through that.
The Gillette commercial assumes that every straight male has favor with society to get what he wants.
That’s not true! I have two friends who have fought or are continuing to fight to get custody of their kids, and the courts automatically favor the mothers because they’re women!
And I bet there’s a lot of other stuff women get away with because they’re females. Straight males have to get the bad end of the stick just because they’re trying to do the right thing and be great men in the process.
Here’s the thing: Gillette used to be misogynistic and sexist for the longest time, and now they’ve had a change of heart? I don’t buy that crap at all! I wouldn’t be surprised if they used this commercial to pull on society’s heartstrings to make us think they care.
But all they care for is profit. How do you make profit? By playing with people’s emotions.
TOM: Andddd we’re off and running with our resident Enneagram Type 8. Other thoughts?
MARSHALL: I would say I am between positive and neutral on that commercial. On the surface it had its good points, like opposing bullying and discouraging the harassment of women. My only concern is the underlying hints that all “traditional masculinity” is bad, although that is never directly stated.
EUGENE: I’m with Marshall, between positive and neutral here as well. I agree wholeheartedly with a lot of the messages presented. Rigid gender norms and toxic masculinity are things to be addressed. Especially when men sexually assaulting women is seen as “boys will be boys” while guys like us are considered the worst sinners ever.
But I think it takes some cheap jabs at stereotypical American men like all the dads gathered at the barbecues, like it’s a bad thing. I actually kind of like that stereotype . . .
MATT: That whole “boys will be boys” concept pissed me off! My dad or anyone else’s dad would have never said that of their own children, including me. If someone got in a fight in front of a dad, he would break it up, and the kid would be punished by his own dad for ever starting a fight for no reason.
DEAN: I’m definitely for the commercial. Someone saying “boys will be boys” lets me know that a person pretty much has little value for women, considers masculinity something evident by a rigid set of do’s and don’t’s, and views sexual prowess as the dominant expression of manhood.
I have no room in my life for toxic masculinity or anyone defending it.
I had zero issues with the commercial. As someone who grew up a victim to bullying and abuse, I could have used real men in my life standing up to those who hurt me as I was crushed beneath them.
TOM: It sounds like most people opposed to the commercial have assumed Gillette is blaming all men. It’s the primary pushback against “toxic masculinity” in general — that all men bully and sexually harass and are evil.
But I’ve never interpreted the commercial or the concept that way.
Men hold the power in today’s society, and anytime the majority is called to any kind of accountability, it feels like an attack on the entire system.
Of course, there are awful women out there who do heinous things. But this conversation isn’t about women. It’s about who holds the power. Men.
There are male bullies. There are male sexual assaulters. There are men who scoff at sensitivity and creativity. There are evil men.
There are also amazing, godly, truly model men. Of course there are. But this commercial isn’t about them. It’s about the others.
I don’t doubt that there was absolutely an economic incentive to this commercial (it’s a commercial). Gillette knew this would give them a lot of airtime and brand recognition; of course they did. But does that mean money was their only motivation? Who are we to know this?
If nothing else, this commercial started a larger conversation that I’m grateful to see happening. One that I’m glad we’re talking about here at YOB.
TOM: What do you make of the backlash against the Gillette commercial’s take on “toxic masculinity,” especially from conservative/Christian circles?
MATT: I think it’s stupid on both sides. Here you have conservative Christians trying to defend the stereotypically masculine version of manhood from the fifties and sixties, and if anyone does anything to harm that model, they think that they’re p***ies.
On the other hand, I’m starting to hate the term “toxic masculinity.” Just because someone grew up more effeminate than the average straight male doesn’t mean everything he does represents “toxic masculinity.”
Dude, just be happy and confident in who you are! Some men know who they are already, and we need to respect them if they don’t want to be forced to be “effeminate.” Leave them alone!
We need that balance in society!
Don’t be afraid to explore the masculine side of yourself! Maybe your average straight male needs to explore his sensitive side more, and maybe you need to explore your more “masculine” side!
TOM: That’s fair; there needs to be a balance, both sides exploring the “masculine” and “effeminate,” for lack of better terms. But the attack here isn’t on barbecues and football or even less sensitive men. It’s on bullying and assault and chalking it up to testosterone. Again, I think it comes down to whether you think the commercial paints a gruesome image across all men or certain subsets.
EUGENE: I think a lot of people interpret the Gillette commercial as saying “all straight white men suck” rather than addressing a current cultural problem with American masculinity. I see a lot of comments from guys saying, “Not all men are horny perverts!”
This can sometimes be an unintentional perception in movies dealing with real-world issues like race and prejudice. Often in such films, 99% of white folks will be portrayed as racist jerks minus the one heroic mighty-whitey character who “goes native to fight the American military” metaphor.
Of course, the film isn’t trying to say all white people suck; it’s just a message of anti-racism and anti-prejudice.
The problem is that films portray this as so cartoonishly black-and-white that a well-intentioned message gets skewed. One could argue this is a similar problem with the Gillette commercial.
Another reason for the toxic masculinity backlash is that I think people have lumped such issues into sociopolitical stigmas — things like feminism, SJWs, political correctness, #MeToo, etc. Not sure if there’s much the commercial could’ve done to avoid this. It tends to be the broad brush of perception many people have these days.
MARSHALL: I have read some of the evangelical criticisms of this advertisement, and I believe the backlash is largely due to jumping to conclusions and overreacting. One writer poked fun at men who like “frothy drinks,” “salad bars,” and “soft mannerisms.” He then said:
“Our society celebrates what Paul calls literally ‘soft men’ (Greek malakoi), a group that will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).”
Yes, this writer implied that men who are “un-masculine” go to hell! It sounds like he is lumping all men together who don’t fit the traditional gender norms and condemning them. By the way, I believe this scripture actually refers to men who commit the practice of a type of gay sex, not to all men who don’t fit the expected male stereotype.
DEAN: The backlash made me hate the Church, if I’m being honest. I was embarrassed to be a Christian, and I just wanted these people to sit down and be quiet for once. I am tired of all the “not all _____” when something like this happens.
We’re aware it’s not everyone — but we are aware that far too many people are this way.
You may recall that I was once criticized by a man for taking a bath. It was a freaking bath. I was literally just trying to wipe dirt off my body while feeling ill. Why does the avenue of such an act become gendered?
Additionally, the article Marshall referenced made me sick to my stomach. It basically made me lose what little respect I still had left for that particular organization. If your exegesis of Paul’s writing means that you believe men with less stereotypically masculine mannerisms are not saved, you are a complete and utter moron. Do us a favor and never speak again.
TOM: Did you have any personal standout scenes or lines from the Gillette commercial? What was personally meaningful about them to you?
MARSHALL: The scene with one boy beating up another boy. I was not bullied much as a child, but that scene reminded me of my regrets as a teenager, not stopping bullies from attacking others.
EUGENE: Even though I didn’t like the stereotypical imagery of dads at barbecues, I liked the emphasis on the “boys will be boys” thing. I’ve written about that in past blogs, that some bad behavior by boys gets tolerated while we in this community are judged more harshly for our sexualities.
DEAN: The scene with the boy crying as his mom held him. I resonated with this not because it happened to me (my mom never got involved), but because it’s what I wanted as a child.
When I got bullied, abused, tormented, and mistreated, I just wanted someone to hold me close so I could cry on them. I wanted to know that someone else saw, someone was present, and someone cared.
I didn’t have that — but I have hope that some boys do, at least. And perhaps that scene can help other boys see that it’s ok to cry and seek comfort.
TOM: Something about the dad encouraging his toddler daughter to look in the mirror and say, “I am strong.” That gave me chills. A similar scenario might have been a dad telling his young son, “I am sensitive,” and it’s okay. It’s okay to be strong and sensitive, regardless of gender.
TOM: Last question . . . who here even uses a disposable razor? Or am I just a lonely electric guy?
EUGENE: I use a disposable razor! I have an electric one, but that has uses for *ahem* elsewhere. I’m sorry, TMI?
MARSHALL: Haha, I have used an electric razor for decades.
DEAN: I hate shaving. But, oddly enough, I do have a Gillette razor that I got a decade ago for light grooming (cleaning up edges, eyebrows, etc.). And I have electric barber trimmers that I occasionally use to trim up the beard.
MATT: Disposable razor here. It’s cheap and doesn’t need batteries.
TOM: Wait, you mean you actually shave that baby face?
What did you think of Gillette’s “toxic masculinity” commercial? What scene or line stood out most to you? How do you interpret this new concept of “toxic masculinity”?