If you’ve seen or even heard about the new Gillette commercial, you’ve likely had either a positive or negative reaction to it. You might have seen it as an important conversation starter, a step towards combating toxic masculinity, or a source of motivation for men to set a higher standard for themselves. If that sentence made you cringe, you probably had a more negative response. You‘re not alone. In fact, you’re among the majority—the official YouTube video has more than double the number of dislikes than likes. You also likely agree with the top comments which describe the commercial as “blatant sexism,” “feminist propaganda,” and fuel for the “war on men.”
Personally, I was shocked to see the negative response towards this ad as well as the sheer volume of hate. But as I continued to read the criticism I started to see why people, almost all men, had interpreted this ad differently. If you are one of those people, I hope that this article helps you see another side to all of this.
First of all, I just want to say that I get it. Most men are good people. You are probably a good person. You likely don’t bully others or harass women or are violent when unprovoked. When a news story breaks about a sexual assault or domestic violence incident, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “not all men.” And it’s true. Not all men would do such barbaric things, and many wouldn’t even be able to fathom it. However, when someone says “not all men,” it’s typically a man directing those words towards women. Women need to stop demonizing men and thinking they are all bad because “not all men,” right? The truth is, though, most women have experienced some level of harm or profound disrespect from men—81%, to be exact, according to NPR.
Maybe most men are good, but enough of them are not good to worry us. These incidents are so common that a typical woman’s routine involves some way to protect themselves from men, whether it be keeping a mini bottle of pepper spray on our keychain, learning to never set our drink down or telling a friend where we’ll be and who we’ll be with before going out. Simply put, it’s safer for us to be cautious with everyone. Women know that not all men are bad, but we are not wrong to be cautious just in case something happens or to speak up when something does. Instead of suggesting that women should change our mindset, this is an issue that should be addressed by guys telling other guys to change the way they treat others.
Unfortunately, the guys who are bad make every other man look bad by association. They most likely won’t listen to victims for the same reason they target them: a lack of respect. But they might listen to someone they do respect, like a friend or a parent or simply another man. And that is what I believe the Gillette commercial was trying to get at. It’s not saying that all men are bad—it’s saying that some men are harmful, yet this continues to be ignored and excused. And that behavior is not the best a man can be. Through toleration, even starting at a young age and especially using the infamous “boys will be boys” defense, we are setting the standard low for men and making it clear that they aren’t expected to do much better than that. That’s a pretty huge diss to the male population, don’t you think?
But by stopping an act of violence, or expressing disapproval of disrespect towards women, or by holding other men accountable for their actions, we hold men to a higher standard. Admittedly, it’s easier said than done, especially when it’s your coworker or a buddy or a complete stranger who’s the one being crude. Maybe it’s not your business, maybe you don’t want to get involved, maybe it’s not a big deal; an “accidental” tap on the butt, a whistle, grabbing her arm just a little too forcefully. It’s easier to turn around and to let it happen, but allowing this only enforces our current culture at the expense of the victim. It’s this culture of tolerance that makes a statement like Gillette’s so necessary in the first place. It’s time for men to tell each other, “You are better than this.” Because men are better than that.
So, yes, you are probably a good guy. You might even be a great guy. But too many of your fellow men are not. You might not see it every day, you may be so used to the bad behavior that you don’t even recognize it. I know you may not be directly affected, but others are. You have an important role here, and we need you to step up. We need you to help us make a difference.
Because being noble, courageous, and compassionate…that’s The Best A Man Can Be.