Youth Blog: Don’t Worry Guys, Gillette Won’t Oppress You

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This blog post is by James Biggers, a member of OSBHA Student Health Advocates

Hello beautiful readers. The last time I wrote something like this was around five years ago when I wrote about the negative impact social media has on relationships. And by the numbers I actually did a pretty bang-up job. For a time it was the most viewed page on our entire website. In writing that blog post I drew upon some of my own experiences for the content I needed and this time I wanted to do the same. However writing about social issues when you’re a cishet white guy living in America can be a little funky. I consider myself to be fairly well-versed in social justice and an ally in all regards so I don’t want to patronize those who are marginalized by writing about their struggles when I have never experienced them. Besides, there are plenty of representative writers who have a lot of great things to say. So what experiences do I have to draw from in order to write about the injustices of the world? Well quite simply the oppression of modern men by the corporate entity Gillette and by association their parent company Proctor and Gamble.
Or perhaps more accurately, the incorrectly perceived oppression of modern men by the corporate entity Gillette and by association their parent company Proctor and Gamble.
Ok so what exactly am I going on about here? If you aren’t aware of what I can’t believe I’m calling controversy, Gillette put out a new commercial recently addressing toxic masculinity in our society. The commercial touches on a few different issues like bullying, violence, belittling women in the workplace and sexual assault. The commercial unveils their new slogan “The Best Men Can Be”. If you don’t want to spend the two minutes watching the commercial the general idea is “be better”. It’s a call to action asking men to step in and stop negative behavior when we see it in order to foster a better society. And in doing so we can teach the boys of our world how to be the best person possible. As a whole it seems like a reasonable request. However at this point in time it has about 1.3 million dislikes on YouTube compared to about 750 thousand likes. People are kind of pissed. But maybe I’ve missed something here. According to those critical of the commercial Gillette is alienating its customer base by telling us that we are bad people and we need to change ourselves. Gillette is pointing at all of us men and saying “Being a man is wrong and you should feel ashamed of yourself. Now go sit in the corner and think about what you did”. The thing about that interpretation is that it completely ignores nuance so that the critics can have complaint equity. Neither myself, Gillette, or any reasonably human being will ever say that all men are terrible while not being obviously facetious. Most people are at least decent. Anyone who wants to discuss toxic masculinity is probably not talking about literally you in particular and isn’t trying to make you feel bad about yourself. They’re not even talking about masculinity as a whole. It is perfectly fine to be a masculine person and being masculine means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Perhaps at another time I’ll write something up that more broadly encompasses the idea of modern masculinity. However when these discussions occur it is addressing the problems as whole within our society and the bad eggs who cause the problems as an abstract. And those problems are specifically things that can hurt other people. The real issues with toxic masculinity don’t come from being strong or tough or successful, they come from people hurting other people in order to protect some twisted sense of manhood. And after those people hurt others they are either ignored or worse even encouraged to continue their behavior because they somehow proved themselves as a man.

If you’re a decent person these conversations aren’t being critical of you. You probably know right from wrong and treat people with a reasonable level of respect. Most people shouldn’t feel called out because I believe that most people aren’t actively engaging in being toxic. But is there room to be better? We live in a civilized society with rules both written and unwritten that govern our lives. We also luckily have the ability to change those rules and how they function. The burden of creating a better society falls on everyone and things don’t change until we begin to say something about it. Don’t let people get away with harmful behavior. I believe being masculine involves being both physically and mentally strong, committing to your ideals, and being a confident person who is ready to defend your ideals. Calling out and confronting people being toxic and making the rest of us look bad is manly as hell.
Until next time,