The Gillette Ad: How to make real change and protect your mental health
Before expressing my opinion, I would like to clarify that I don’t really care about Gillette. Due to my absolute lack of facial hair, I may have been left out of the beard chat in my younger adolescent years but I never needed a razor. And nonetheless, my exclusion was quickly shunned when I realised the amount of time I saved by not having to shave my face everyday. The joys of non-hegemonic masculinity.
In case anyone hasn’t seen it, the new Gillette ad, has teamed up with the ‘metoo’ movement to replace their tagline of “the best a man can get” to “the best a man can be” as they challenge men to move away from toxic masculinity. Ironically, some believe the feminist movement and the metoo campaign are using the same methods on men that they were first subjected to. They are painting several men as evil, women hating and disrespectful. But of course, not all men are not like that. And this was the main backlash to the ad. And while the ad does acknowledge this “We believe in the best in men: To say the right thing, to act the right way. Some already are in ways big and small. But some is not enough.”, it creates a divide by gender. An us vs them culture. And this is why you are seeing men shouting abuse at woman on twitter. Therefore, I would like to illustrate that I am a fan of the message behind the ad, but I do disagree with people in favour of the ad saying that men are against it because they are trying to promote hegemonic masculinity. There is something much more unconscious going on here.
Without getting into gender politics, there is absolutely no problem with identifying as a man but there is a risk with how much you identify as a man. When you identify with something very strongly, you end up taking responsibility for other people who also identify the same way. Unfortunately, there are men that are disrespectful and woman hating. But you are not one of them. If you feel you have to fight against how someone else sees men because it has insulted you, then you are identifying too strongly. By doing so, you are discarding the fact that men are made up of millions of different personal circumstances. By not having the flexibility to see man as a simple way of categorising, you are allowing outside influences to determine how you feel. Take the die hard West Ham football fan for example. West Ham supporters identify as West Ham fans more than they identify as anything else. When West Ham win, they feel great but when they lose, they feel negative. Therefore, how they feel is determined by something completely out of their control, and this is emotional Russian roulette. Alternatively, what if someone says they are a football fan? Then they are openly categorising themselves but only to an extent.
Of course, this is not a black and white discussion. After all, I speak with hypocrisy when I say that I am a huge Irish sports supporter. And while we are one of the best rugby teams in the world, the soccer team can not boast the same accolade. However, I have successfully seen die hard Irish soccer supporters unconsciously take care of their mental health while they experience misery after misery. How? Well they firstly reappraise their situation before the game even starts. We will happily admit that we are shite, but that’s ok, and we will support regardless. And if we lose, we will be disappointed, but we focus on the positives “at least it wasn’t 6-0” and we move on. So why can’t hegemonic males do the same? Watch the Gillette ad and say “some males do act incorrectly”. And when someone insults you because you’re a male, remind yourself that they didn’t insult you because of who you are but rather what your category or label is. Remember, you can identify as a human rather than a man. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King commented “This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity”.
And this point applies to men, women, homosexuals, any minorities. If you react to every insult towards your label, it will destroy your mental health. And reaction is what the opposition want. The best way to make change on the societal level is to make change on the individual level. And if you’re not able to take care of your mental health, then you won’t be there to represent your label. People are trying to challenge inequalities by saying it is all minorities vs men, or all minorities vs heterosexuals. But if this continues, nothing will change. As we mentioned in the transactional analysis blog, we need to listen to the other side. So don’t create an us vs them. Just see all as people. Martin Luther king never once mentioned that he was against white people. Instead, he found the commonality of religion and he appealed to ‘his white Christian brothers and sisters.’ You then enter a community and then you can start talking about your difficulties. So stop being insulted if someone sees you as different to how you see yourself. And if you insist on being identified a certain way, understand that others have a completely different understanding of what it is to be a male, a woman, a minority. Educate them if they are ready to listen but if not, take a step back and be careful of how strongly you attach yourself to labels. And this isn’t me saying we should be gender fluid or whatever people are saying nowadays. Labels are ok. They help us understand the world. But don’t judge somebody because of a label, and don’t get insulted when someone challenges your label. If you can realise that people are made up of individual characteristics rather than how society understand labels, then you are showing signs of emotional intelligence. The best a person can get.
Yours Sincerely, The Motus Movement.