The new Gillette ad causes a lot of outrage. So far, it has more than 25 million views and the majority of YouTube voters pressed the dislike button. Many of them argue that the multi-million dollar company Gillette has no right to criticize the behavior of men and boys. It is not a legitimate moral authority. Although I am aware that Gillette is a profit-driven company and it is owned by Procter and Gamble, a company promoting unrealistic beauty standards for women AND men and which is accused of child work and animal testing, it also started an important debate on masculinity.
I rather use the term masculinities because there are various forms of masculinity. It is also important to consider that masculinity is not equal to men. It is an abstract concept and describes a hierarchy in the social world. Raewyn Connell, the most well-known researcher in this field, argues:
“There is abundant evidence that masculinities are multiple, with internal complexities and even contradictions; also that masculinities change in history, and that women have a considerable role in making them, in interaction with boys and men.” Source: Link
This statement includes two more aspects: Masculinities change over time and women influence them. For instance, the feminist movement demands a change of masculine and feminine norms because they are harmful. The Gillette ad only shows the negative effects of toxic masculinity, a form of aggressive masculine behavior which is harmful to men and boys.
The ad does not talk about the influence of women on men. As long as women support aggressive behavior and a hierarchical world, they support toxic masculinity. They can even go as far as to become more masculine than many men. For instance, there are female politicians and investment bankers who support wars, offshore banking, and other harmful practices.
The effects of Toxic Masculinity
As a feminist peace activist, I advocate for a more peaceful world. I speak out against militarization. It is probably the most devastating practice of toxic masculinity and can lead to war, ethnic cleansing and genocide. At the moment, many governments increase their military budget. They invest in killer robots, surveillance technologies, and walls. These developments do certainly not promise a better future. According to a study, Germany is the only country among the top 10 military spenders that also ranks among the top 10 countries with the best quality of life.
The systematic consequences of colonialism, ethnic and religious tensions, the exploitative capitalistic system and the unequal status of women lower the life quality of people around the globe. Europe and the US cannot change these factors with a war on terror and fences around their territories. Although fewer migrants enter into Europe at the moment, there are not fewer people on the way. Many of them end up in Lybia, a country which was systematically destroyed by powerful Western governments and their allies. Many migrants are stuck on the route and join militant groups because they offer them a salary and a purpose. The cycle of war and terror continues. Many migrants get raped, killed, or end up as slaves. Western politicians should listen to the voices of African civil society. There are many bright people who have good ideas and who want to see their countries develop in a peaceful way. Let’s be clear about that: the biggest amount of casualties, caused by wars and other conflicts, are men.
A Gillette ad will not talk about these devastating effects of toxic masculinity. However, the huge amount of negative comments and the intensity of hate speech targeting the company are a symptom of toxic masculinity. Aggressive behavior is still celebrated as a good trait as well as the best way to go through life. Nowadays, women should follow this example as well.
The message of the Gillette ad is simple: Reflect. Think about your own behavior and your state of mind. How do you treat others and yourself? And how do you want to be treated? In what kind of world do you want to live in? And what can you do to make it better?
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- A Dangerous Immigration Crackdown in West Africa. Europe wants to slow migration from Niger, but could wind up destabilizing an entire region in the process, by Peter Tinti
- New Gillette Ad Seems To Support The #MeToo Movement—But Let’s Look At Its Parent Company, by Erika W. Smith
- Masculinities, by R.W. Connell. A & U Academic