By: Audrey Schmidt
Toxic masculinity is not a new concept. It’s an issue which has permeated society since, quite literally, the dawn of time. But in today’s world- after movements like Me Too, a general education about feminism, and women’s rights in and out of the workplace – it seems like we are finally moving onward and upward from this overbearing patriarchal idea. Wrong. So wrong. And it seems like it took a razor commercial in order to figure this out.
Gillette recently released an ad which centers around the notion that men can be better than violence and sexual assault. The fact that the company used such a significant topic in order to skyrocket their marketing is problematic, of course. Gillette shouldn’t be making money off of the plights of women or asserting that they have historically promoted women’s rights in any way. However, the content of the ad is what is on the forefront of people’s minds and what needs to be further unpacked.
The commercial depicts that, in light of recent events, it’s more important than ever for men to be held responsible for their actions and be made accountable for oppressing women. Sounds like a valid point to make, right? Well, that’s not how many men felt. They took to outlets like Twitter to defend toxic masculinity and the negative actions that the commercial demonstrates. Piers Morgan for example, a talk show host, wrote on Twitter that the ad is eager to “fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity” and to “let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.”
Peter Lloyd, a journalist, wrote “Dear Gillette,/ I am not toxic/ the amazing men in my life are not toxic/ masculinity is not toxic.”
This is a blatant erasure of all of the implications which have historically resulted from men being in the ultimate position of power. Women have not been credited for their discoveries, they have suffered unemployment, been raped, been sexualized, and been looked down upon for the large majority of modern human existence. Toxic masculinity is an issue- even if a man doesn’t do these things, he still reaps the benefits of being a man and must speak up for those who are not being listened to.
Yet, there was a response to the ad which was even more surprising than the backlash of these men. Some women took to the internet to profess that they too hated the commercial and felt that it was making a harsh and discrediting generalization of all men. In an article she published on Fox News, Karol Markowicz wrote, “…I’m a woman, and I hated the commercial, because I’m tired of the boy-bashing that has become all too common on our screens and in our world.” (Marcowicz) This argument follows the logic of those who contest the Black Lives Matter movement by saying that all lives matter. Of course they do. Just like there are good men out there. But what’s important is to focus on the historically marginalized groups whose oppression is still an ongoing aspect of life. The issues surrounding these groups, such as women, need to be specifically highlighted and addressed. Women are finally being able to publicly speak up against our detrimental system of patriarchy and outline systematic oppression- which can be contrived as boy-bashing if one does not fully grasp the greater issue. If we hope to work against toxic masculinity, grand movements need to be put in place against the general scope of men in order to get anything done.
But the ad isn’t actually talking down to men at all. It’s talking down to centuries of toxic masculinity which permeate the mentalities and behavior of men. It wants men to be better, and acknowledges that they have the innate ability to do so. Thus, the male- and even female- resistance to the ad is simply an ironic demonstration that toxic masculinity is not gone. It has never been gone.
Markowicz, Karol. “Well, America, Gillette’s Idiotic Ad May have Finally Turned the Tide on Toxic Masculinity.” Fox News, 21 January 2019. foxnews.com