So look, turns out The Mens are a bit cross about an advert. It misrepresents them apparently.
For a start, don’t even begin to try to explain to us how annoying it must feel to be clumped together with your whole gender and viewed in a certain way; society has been telling women for years that we’re too fat, too thin, too old, too hairy, too messy, too sweaty, too bloody. That we don’t want sex enough (what are you? Frigid?) or that we want it too much (you slut). We’re constantly being told to get our tits out, but woah, not like that! Go and feed that baby in the toilet, you animal, but smile while you do it. So forgive us if we’re a little bit rolling our eyes.
The ad plays with the well known Gillette tagline ‘The best a man can get’ by showing examples of bullying and sexual harassment, of women being objectified, and it asks if this is the best a man can be. It mentions the #Metoo movement and encourages men to hold each other to account. It’s corny, yes, it plays on our emotions with the right music and cute looking kids. But it’s an ad, that’s what it’s supposed to do, that’s how they work.
The irony is that the men who are complaining don’t quite understand that if they’re feeling like that ad is having a go at them, they’re probably exactly the kind of man the ad is aimed at. Also, if you’re going to be pissed off, get pissed off because your wives and daughters and sisters and mums don’t feel safe walking home at night, get pissed off because upskirting is so common now that it’s been made a criminal offence. Don’t get pissed off by someone telling you to be nice.
Quite a few men instantly declared that they are going to throw away their razor. Yeah, you go, beard man, you show ‘em! Don’t forget, men get to choose whether or not they get to keep their body hair, without being shamed for it, without being put on a front cover accused of making a ‘statement’. Because we make statements whatever we do. You’re making one right now with the length of your skirt, the tightness of your top, the redness of your lipstick. Apparently you can tell what a woman is like in bed by what she’s wearing *looks down at tracksuit bottoms* (Shit.)
But back to the upset men. They feel degraded and upset and they’re wondering what will be next. Because now it looks like you can’t even approach a woman on the street and the world is going to END! (Can we just define ‘approach’? Because shouting at our tits in the street is not part of normal social interaction, a man would not start a conversation with another man by shouting ‘Nice nads, bro!’ and winking).
But this ad is not so much about being anti-male, but about being pro-not-being-an-arse. It’s about changing the way we see, talk about and portray masculinity, it’s thinking about how we’re modelling being a man for our sons and friends.
The phrase ‘Toxic Femininity’ has been used quite a lot but let’s just get something straight. It’s not toxic femininity that’s causing a rise in male suicide. It’s not toxic femininity that’s created a climate where women are only now coming forward to report sexual harassment cases that go back for years, and are still not being believed. It’s not toxic femininity that has drip fed men a sense of superiority and arrogance over women. It’s not toxic femininity that tells men that emotions are weak, that the only acceptable emotion is anger.
We need better male role models, and while we have someone like Trump in such a prominent position of power, getting away with all the things he’s getting away with, we need them more than ever. The world is a mess, days after this ad came out we saw a video (that they filmed themselves) of a group of teenage boys from a private Catholic school in the US taunting a Native American man, chanting ‘build that wall’, while wearing Make America Great Again hats. There’s one shot that’s everywhere of a boy stood in front of him, smiling. And it’s that smile that sums up the whole over-privileged, arrogant nonsense that needs to stop.
Imagine if we could channel all that passion and energy into doing something that could make a difference.
So the moral of the story is: men, don’t get cross with the ad, that just makes you look like a bit of a dick.