My Thoughts On The Toxic Masculinity Gillette Ad


Here are my thoughts on the Gillette ad everyone’s been talking about over the past couple of days:
  • The title of the video (“We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”) brought to mind 1 Corinthians 16:13-14:  “…act like men.  Be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.”  That’s the best a man can be.
  • The video asks “Is this the best a man can get?” immediately after bringing up in short sound bites “sexual harassment,” the #metoo movement, and showing bullies chasing a kid.  The obvious answer to the question is no.  It brings back to mind 1 Cor. 16:13-14.
  • Hebrews 12:3-12 came to mind while I was watching the kid running from bullies, the mother comforting her bullied son, and the insults given in text.  My own childhood came to mind also.  I was bullied a lot in junior high, although it stopped in high school.  It was a bad experience.  I hated it while it was happening.  I did a lot of crying in my parent’s arms myself because of bullying.  I ran from bullies and got into fights with bullies who picked on me, and I lost some of those fights while winning others.  I was called all of these names and it hurt and hurt badly.  If I had my way, it wouldn’t happen to anyone.  Yet, looking back on it, I must say in the end I’m glad it happened to me because it made me stronger and better prepared me for the hard situations I would find myself in as an adult.  That’s how the world is and always has been.  Bad people do bad things to people.  When bad things happen to you, they can make you stronger if you allow them to do so (Heb. 12:3-12).
  • I’m glad more attention is being given to sexual harassment and demeaning of women.  I was glad to see the shots of news accounts of sexual harassment, especially the one where the man on the TV basically said, “We men need to hold other men accountable.”  It was good to see attention being given to sitcoms that have men treating women as sexual objects, the wolf whistles, etc. 
  • With that said, I also noticed the shot of boys watching women dressed in bikinis on TV.  This is one of the contributors of boys growing up to be men who sexually objectify women: when women allow themselves to be viewed as objects of sexual desire by men as a whole by dressing sexually provocatively.  Following God’s plan for women to be modest and save their sexuality solely for their husbands (1 Tim. 2:9-10; Heb. 13:4; Song of Solomon) is a part of the solution to this problem.  It is not the only needed solution, for men are responsible too.  Yet it does play a part and needs to be said.  Men do need to keep other men accountable.  Women need to keep other women accountable too.  In truth, we all need to keep each other accountable (Gal. 6:1).
  • The man putting a hand on the woman’s shoulder in the business meeting and “mansplaining” her is sexist, true, and I’m glad attention was given to it.  Yet to me it reeks of pride, selfishness, and condescension even more.  The thing that I don’t see brought out about those latter evil attributes is that they are not relegated solely to, or even primarily to, the male gender.  Attention needs to be brought to all the times women “womansplain” their men in our society.  I’m talking about the sitcoms from the days of Home Improvement and Everybody Loves Raymond up to today where the husband and father is portrayed as the lovable, ignorant doofus whose longsuffering wife has to continually rebuke him for his foolish social faux pas.  I’m talking about the commercials where men are commonly portrayed as not even knowing how to make themselves a bowl of cereal because that’s how dumb men are.  I’m talking about the numerous cases I’ve both read that marriage counselors encounter and have personally seen as a minister where couples come to me and the husband expresses to me his wish that his wife would treat him as an equal instead of “talking down to him” and nagging him all the time.  In the end, treating others the way you would want to be treated — with respect and dignity — is the best any man OR woman could get, and many men AND women need to learn this (Matt. 7:12).
  • The scene in which a kid is choking out another kid in the backyard while literally a line of at least 18 barbequing fathers simply stood there behind their grills with their arms folded, simply watching the fight without doing a thing to stop it, and repeatedly saying in unison, “Boys will be boys,” was completely unrealistic and inflammatorily judgmental of men in general.  It portrayed the majority of men as being apathetic about violence being done to their children.  To me, that scene alone is probably the biggest reason the Gillette ad is offensive to so many, and with good reason.  I’ve yet to meet a single man who would even come close to acting like those fathers.  The majority of the literally hundreds of men I have known in my 42 years on this earth — men both in and out of the church — would be like the father at the end of the ad who stepped in and stopped the fight.
  • I appreciate the men in the video who stepped up and stopped the other men from demeaning those women.  From what I gathered in the video, one of the men being rebuked had called the woman, “Sweetie,” while the other one had seen an attractive woman walking by and had leeringly started to follow her before the other guy stopped him and said, “Not cool.”  From the video, it’s clear those guys were sexually objectifying those women.  So it’s good that they were rebuked.  With that said, it is not wrong for a single man to find a single woman attractive and be motivated by that attraction to ask her out on a date in which he treats her respectfully as a lady.  If an attractive single woman’s appearance causes a single man to do a double-take and want to pursue her in a way that is courteous and respectful to her and she wishes to be pursued by that man, well, without that happening marriage will never take place and neither will the continuation of the human race.  Men, treat women you find attractive (and women you don’t find attractive) with respect and gentlemanliness.  Ladies, let a man who finds you attractive treat you in such ways and don’t discourage him from doing so.
  • The best part of the video to me was that daddy holding up his little girl and saying, “I am strong,” with her repeating, “I am strong.”  Maybe that’s because I’m a daddy to two little girls.
  • “The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”  Very, very true.  I loved the end of the ad which showed fathers exemplifying to their children what being a real man was all about.  It was the best way to conclude the ad.

I believe this was a good ad that could have been better.  I believe some have reacted badly to it because they perceived it as yet another attack on men and masculinity in a long line of attacks on men and masculinity in our culture in recent years, and I don’t blame them for thinking that.  Indeed, I believe not nearly as many would have had that perception if the ad had simply not had that one scene with the long line of barbequing fathers simply watching a boy choke another boy apathetically.  As it stands, especially in the context in which the video was release in which masculinity as a whole in our culture has been increasingly demeaned, I believe the ad has a good message with good intentions that got drowned out by a few poor choices in how it was presented.

In fact, I believe hardly anyone would have been upset with the ad if it had focused not just on men, but also on women.  If both men and women’s bad behavior towards each other and towards the opposite gender were equally shown alongside shots of men and women doing the right thing — if the end of the ad had both boys and girls watching while we heard, “The boys and girls watching today will be the men and women of tomorrow” — I think the ad would be applauded by the overwhelming majority.

In the end, bad behavior is a human trait that is not limited to a specific gender.  The solution will be found by both men and women, boys and girls, learning to treat each other with the respect and dignity God demands we show to each other.

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