HomeCultureThe Consequences of Toxic Masculinity (And a Solution)

The Consequences of Toxic Masculinity (And a Solution)

“We are all affected by the assumptions and stereotypes about who people get to be based on their gender identity. Sexual violence is preventable and we all have a role and responsibility in preventing it.”

Megan Foster

The Gillette Ad, Toxic Masculinity & A Simple Solution

Remember the controversial Gillette Ad? On January 14, Gillette put out a video addressing toxic masculinity and all of the destruction that goes along with it: the need for a #metoo movement, bullying, the “boys will be boys” parenting approach. In the video, you see boys and men across the age and racial spectrum both participating in and suffering the consequences of living in a society that promotes and supports unhealthy stereotypes of what it means to be a man. The message is clear: we can do better than this.

I cried watching the short film. As a rape survivor and mother of a 9-year-old boy, Gillette’s ad was deeply impactful.

I’m not going to lie, over the past several years I’ve found it difficult to feel hopeful about our society’s future. I worry constantly about my children’s wellbeing—both my son’s and daughters’. It seems to me that for every woman who comes forward to talk about her sexual assault and take on her perpetrator, there are twice as many men and women waiting to rebuke her. And while we do need women to keep stepping up, it takes accountability and action from men to make any real strides towards a more equal society that is safe for girls and boys and men and women.

The Immediate Reaction

So why was the immediate reaction to the Gillette ad from some negative? That seems to be the question.

Think about it. The instant reaction that Gillette received reflects exactly what women who come forward with their #metoo stories experience.

Toxic masculinity isn’t going to die quietly folks. It has engrained a defensiveness in both men and women that goes deep. Rooted in ignorance it feeds an inherent misunderstanding of what it means to be male or female and a fear of what will happen if the definitions that exist change.

The Consequences Of Toxic Masculinity

Megan Foster, prevention program coordinator for the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Taskforce, points out that the assumptions about who men are supposed to be are everywhere: on television, and in movies, the media and the news. She says, “Especially when it comes to sex and relationships, men are supposed to be the aggressors, take charge and want sex all of the time.” These assumptions are harmful to everyone, including boys. They dictate who they get to be, and the task force’s position is that we are raising boys to be men who sexually assault.

“…the action we take today, will be seen by the men of tomorrow.”

Gillette Ad

During an interview with me for an article in The Source Weekly, Foster stated, “We are all affected by the assumptions and stereotypes about who people get to be based on their gender identity. Sexual violence is preventable and we all have a role and responsibility in preventing it.”

The Gillette Ad & Setting An Example

And isn’t Gillette’s ad a wonderful example of a company attempting to take responsibility and play a positive role?

So, what happens if a man shows compassion and the ability to be soft when softness is required? What does that take away from women? And conversely, what happens women demonstrate that they are just as strong as men? What does that take from men? Jobs? Money? Power?

The truth is, that in a world where equality reigns, everyone benefits emotionally, physically, and economically.

The Threat & A Simple Solution

Many of the men reacting the ad are threatening to not buy Gillette’s products anymore and to instead use some other razor or shave their chinny-chin-chins. (Boo Hoo).

Here is what I know. Unfortunately, men don’t shave nearly as much as women do. You know, with the whole overgrown beard fad and women being urged to shave their armpits, legs, vaginas, and sometimes even their arms!

Women use products designed for shaving way more than the men who are currently worried about the “war on men” and we really don’t care which gender the products were made for. We totally have the buying power.

So, I am urging all the women out there who want to see more ads that are aimed at men, and appreciate the Gillette ad’s efforts, to check their current brand of their razors and shaving cream and either switch to, or keep on buying Gillette.

Gillette Ad

Now, look at the other brands you buy? Where do they stand? Put your money where it can make the most difference.

Working together, women and men can put an end to toxic masculinity. We can give our sons the opportunity to be the best versions of themselves: kind, compassionate, bold, loving, artistic, strong, caring. But it’s going to take a lot of work and standing up for what’s right. It’s going to take championing people and companies like Gillette who are willing to use their voices and platform for making the world a better place for everyone. And it will be worthwhile, because like Gillette’s ad says, “…the action we take today, will be seen by the men of tomorrow.”

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.