Our response to Gillette’s #metoo commercial is defined by our choices

The negative responses to Gillette #metoo or “We Believe” commercial on YouTube were quite visceral. Some doth protest too much. Some wished that feminists would just change and they’d be happy. Some issued a stirring defense of men and masculinity, as if masculinity included the behavior called out by Gillette’s commercial.

I found the range of responses very interesting and noted that the thumbs down were 2:1 against the thumbs up votes. It is clear that the majority of viewers didn’t like Gillette’s commercial.

If you were one of those thumbs down people, you might consider the possibility that your response was defined by the choices you have made. If you found Gillette’s commercial to be offensive to your tastes, well, that’s because of the choices you made and has nothing to do with the commercial.

I found Gillette’s commercial to be positive myself. Their commercial presented real world situations and provided some examples of how we can make better choices in response to abuse perpetrated by men and boys. It should be noted that “bad behavior” is learned from someone, and doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Gillette chose to call out bad behavior, and in so doing, did not say that all men are bad. The message from the video is simple. We can do better. We can all do better.

Yet, hundreds of thousands of comments defended the men of today. They expressed anger, hate and victimhood. Yes, men are saying that they’re victims in this debacle. They were blindsided by Gillette. “But I’ve been doing so good.” I can hear the men saying. And “Yes, but…” with the likes of Grim Jim.

I’m here to expand the scope of debate. I’m not here to take inventory on people. I’m simply here to say that there is more to the ongoing debate about what it means to be a man. And what it means to be a man has been changing as the human race matures, as we find the need for old roles diminished or eliminated, we must find new roles and new meaning. I’m a man, and I should know this, but I am still learning.

Here is an interesting report by the office Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), pointing out that the share of prime age men who are out of work and don’t want a job has been increasing over the last few decades:

Consistent with other survey data, the NESARC-III indicates that in 2013, 11 percent of prime-age men were outside the labor force. Roughly 45 percent of them indicate that their current situation involves illness or disability. Roughly 15 percent of inactive men are in school, 5 to 10 percent are retired, and another 5 to 10 percent are homemakers or caregivers. About a quarter of prime-age inactive men do not fit any of these categories. Contrary to the common view that most of these men have “dropped out” of the labor force after becoming discouraged by the job market, few prime-age inactive men indicate this to be true, and only 12 percent of able-bodied prime-age inactive men indicate in household surveys that they want a job or are open to taking one. (emphasis mine)

Prime age men are American men between the ages of 25 and 54, and as of 2013, 11% of all prime age men were out of work and not seeking work. Notice that 5–10% of those men are homemakers and/or caregivers, something unheard of in the 1940’s and 50’s. And now I am flashing on movies like Mr. Mom and Daddy Daycare among others, that reflect changing gender roles in American society.

Our roles are changing as we evolve. The roles that men play are changing and interchanging with the roles that women play. And as a father, husband and a man, I can tell you the roles I play in my family can change from day to day, year to year.

I also found that Gillette’s ad elicited a few response “commercials”, and here’s an example from Egard Watches:

The question asked by the Egard Watches’ video is: What is a man? In the video, short clips and scenes of heroes and down and out men are shown. Several scenes are captioned with statistics:

93% of workplace fatalities are men
97% of war fatalities are men
79% of all homicide victims are male
~50% of all fathers without visitation rights still send child support payments
80% of suicide victims are men

Then they show the face of a “broken” homeless man, but omit one very interesting statistic: 51% of homeless people are men. The other half are women and children. Who made those women and children homeless? Men almost certainly played a part in it. It takes two to tango.

Now I realize that Egard Watches is responding to a very professional commercial produced by a huge multinational conglomerate. Yet, I have to say that Gillette has made a better assessment of the situation than Egard Watches’ commercial. Egard Watches made a fine commercial, and I too, see the good in men. But if we look at all the stats provided by their video, every one of them is a result of a choice made.

Men are responsible for their choices when it comes to the workplace. Men are an overwhelming influence in any decision to go to war. Men kill each other. Men make choices that lead to divorce and separation from their kids. Men choose to commit suicide. Nobody ever tells them to do that to themselves. And men also choose to be homeless.

Conversely, men can choose to adhere to and write safety regulations on the job. Men can choose not to engage in war. Men can choose to do no harm. Men can seek marriage and family counseling. Men can choose to live. Men choose not to ask for help. You can tell me all day about how society says that men should not ask for help, but men can think for themselves. They have a brain.

Similarly, I saw another video on YouTube showing responses from news talk shows, how #boycottgillette is trending and how some people are tossing their Gillette products. The common theme across responses that I’ve seen so far is that Gillette’s video makes men feel so bad about themselves. Says who? These are choices that people make. We choose to agree or disagree. We choose to be angry or sad or happy or neutral. We often get to choose our response to the stimulus before us.

For those who hated Gillette’s video, they’re making a choice to hate. They’re making a choice to feel angry when they could just consider the source. The haters refuse to acknowledge that Gillette’s commercial takes notice of and show examples of both good and bad in men and boys. Those who did not like the commercial also chose to focus on the negative before the positive, sometimes completely discounting the positive aspects of men and boys presented by Gillette’s commercial.

But there is something else to this debate. When people express a sense of victimhood from the Gillette commercial, they are speaking in the passive tense. Men are victims of Gillette’s commercial? That would imply that men can’t think for themselves. Is that so?

I’m a man and I’m middle aged to boot. I watched Gillette’s commercial several times, and I felt zero threat from Gillette’s commercial. As I watched each scene in their commercial, I was making my own assessment about the value of each example. I’ve been teased. I’ve been bullied. I have in the past pursued women. When I was a construction worker many years ago, I made a catcall at a woman with the other guys while working on a construction site, just to see if it fit me, and it did not sit right with me. I was already thinking about this debate, but not discussing it. I was already thinking for myself, decades ago.

I suppose it might have helped that I’m partially deaf. If you have ever known someone who is partially deaf, you might find that we tend to go inside for peace. We can hear our own voices better.

To get to this place where I am now, I did years of therapy, support groups and the like. I needed to do this work to have empathy for women if I was ever going to have a family of my own. Even now, I perform introspection every day, for an unexamined life is not worth living.

These experiences made it easy for me to appreciate Gillette’s commercial. Whenever an adult male, or father, intervened to help, I was cheering them on in my head. I’ve won and lost fights at school. I know what it is like to be chased by a group of boys on the way home from school. I changed my route just to avoid them. Those experiences also made it easier for me to appreciate Gillette’s commercial.

What is missing from this debate is the fact that men can think for themselves. But if they can’t then they haven’t learned that skill and they need to gin up on their skills. They need to read up. They need to start writing and talking about how they’re thinking and feeling. They need to go to a safe place where they can share what they’re thinking and feeling. These are choices that men can make.

The Gillette commercial is not a reason to respond with vengeance. It is a call to action. A call to all men, to do better.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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