Everyone has something to say about the Gillette commercial, thank goodness. While I’m not really sure why some folks are displeased with this commercial, I’m glad they’re talking about it. When people are unhappy with something, they’re more likely to start a conversation about it (ask anyone in retail, customers always want to complain about something). People talking about how the Gillette commercial angers them lets everyone else know something important about them: they are a prisoner to toxic masculinity.
I know, the term prisoner seems extreme, but level with me. Let’s treat the issue of toxic masculinity like the Allegory of the Cave (you know, that story you were supposed to read but didn’t for your intro to philosophy class). There are prisoners in a cave who spend their lives looking at a wall where they can see shadows. To them, this is the only reality they know, so they accept it as such. They don’t know that there’s more than the shadows on the wall. Once a prisoner is free and goes into the world and sees everything for what it truly is, initially there’s shock, but then the prisoner realizes that seeing things for how they truly are is better than being trapped in the cave. The prisoner then wants to share this new world with their fellow prisoners, who resist because they do not want change.
Folks who have come to an understanding of toxic masculinity, left the cave, while folks who resist education about toxic masculinity are stuck in the cave. Simple enough analogy, no?
We live in a society that dictates how certain behaviors look, then forgives those behaviors (“boys being boys”). When we come to understand how language like that leads to a damaging reality, we can take steps to fix it. Unfortunately, not everyone cares to understand the impact of language and actions stemming from toxic masculinity because it rattles the status quo. God forbid we hold people accountable to the misogynistic behaviors that they’ve been able to get away with for their entire lives. That can be a tough pill to swallow – here you are going through your life not considering the consequences to your actions and then all of a sudden someone calls you out for something. We’ve all been there, but some of us can take that feedback and change our behavior. Not making that “you (verb) like a girl” comment to put someone down. Accepting when someone says “no” they mean it, and moving on with your life. Embracing how other men exhibit masculinity, even if it challenges our cultural idea of masculinity (it is a social construct after all).
Keep talking about the Gillette commercial, they just dropped a marketing grenade that will have a lasting affect. Right now it’s cool and sexy for marketers to take the side of feminism, but hopefully that means in 20 or 50 years toxic masculinity becomes a thing of the past (it’s a stretch, I know).