Well, a father of a thirteen-year-old boy, I think I can respond, Elle. On first look the ad is great, it tells men to be better people, who could argue?
The problem I see is that it naively walks into the “boys are defective girls” trap that young boys today are so resentful of.
Most of a young boy’s teachers are female. Having raised two children, I have seen time and time again that these school teachers often treat the boys as though they are “defective” and the girls as though they are “good.”
Anyone who has lived on planet earth knows that women are capable of being less than good and men are capable of being not-defective.
The images of dads rushing to stop boys wrestling, for instance. Of course, the ad might have been trying to portray the wrestling as dangerous, or bullying, but it looked like wrestling to me.
Boys need to wrestle.
Female teachers don’t like them to wrestle.
Boys feel attacked today by ads like these, and by girls. They just do. Should they be? Maybe.
Is calling it toxic masculinity not offensive? It posits maleness as a universally dangerous pathogen that can go awry all by itself. Of course that’s wrong. Maleness doesn’t become toxic by itself — maleness is not the cause of sociopathy. Serious psychological problems are the cause of bullying and sexual crime.
I saw this in NY Magazine: “Let’s not call that toxic masculinity. Saying ‘toxic masculinity’ implies that masculinity is the core problem here, and suggests that a tiny bit of masculinity might also be a tiny bit poisonous. Using the word masculinity suggests that all men have a toxic core. I don’t buy that.”
This ad posits masculinity as wild and criminal. The shot of boys running through the house as though they were dangerous wild animals.
Sorry, boys need to run through the house.
I don’t have any argument with the shots of grown men being singled out for grabbing or sexualizing or mansplaining grown women.
I do have an issue with the criminalization of boyhood.
It’s not Gillette’s fault, though.
Primarily it’s teachers’ faults. And administrators and educators. And popular culture. Ads like these.
That is why boys today are absolutely crazy, crazy I tell you, about this thing called Prager University.
This Youtube channel purports to expose the excesses of feminism, I guess. I’m sorry, I haven’t watched it, but all my son’s friends gobble it up. It has zillions of subscribers, most of them “defective girls.”
My son’s friends (trust me, they are all sons of very very very NPR loving liberal Silver Lake Los Angelenos) and who is their hero?
You will be quite shocked to hear this: Ben Shapiro.
The more Gillette criminalizes boyhood, the more things like Prager University and Ben Shapiro will have their audience.
There is a great book called Raising Cain which much more intelligently calls for emotional healing of boys, by not only freeing them from the manhood box, but by reforming our education system. A criticism the book makes is that elementary schools reward the early readers — girls — and punish the boys — not enough recess time, physical activity, etc.
The hypocrisy of this ad is that its supposedly urging the boys to be respectful while it’s actually being profoundly disrespectful of those things that do separate the genders — the need to wrestle for instance. To girls have a need to wrestle? No? Why not? Is that because of our constructed discourse on wrestling and femininity or is it because of biology? Yes, I said it — essentialism.
This is simply more evidence that the pendulum swings. It swings too far in one direction and too far in the other. This is called the dialectic, if I might mainsplain it. It is in fact the engine of history, in a Hegelian sense. The question is, does the dialectic move toward truth, as Hegel proposed, or does it move toward destruction?
Ultimately, I do think the Gillette ad is destructive of boyhood.
If boys don’t have a boyhood they will never become men.
My son is not a defective girl. I love my son, with all his puberty-entering masculine confusion. Of course I want him to respect girls. But if I were to call for girls to respect him back I would be laughed at and ignored.
The bullies on campus today, in real life, Elle, I’m very sorry to say this. They are the girls. They smell blood. And they abuse the boys. What are we going to do, report a girl to the Principal for bullying? The Principal is a female. She would laugh us out of her office.