By Ally Sigurdson

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re already aware of the Gillette commercial against toxic masculinity. You’re probably also aware of the explosion that is the internet around the topic.

If you missed it, let me bring you up to speed.

The Gillette ad titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be,” begins by showing boys bullying other boys, women being harassed and cat-called, and a group of men excusing all of it as “boys will be boys.” Gillette then asks if this is “the best a man can get.” The rest of the ad portrays men pushing back against other men’s bad behavior.

The advertisement has many very strong reviews on both sides.

It faced criticism. Lots of it.

As an advertising major at Red River College, I wasn’t surprised by the backlash. We all saw what happened with the Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick rolled out. Most of the time, companies prepare for backlash, even if you don’t think they do.

(I say most of the time because we can’t ever forget about Kylie Jenner and Pepsi…)

In 2019, people are wanting brands to take a stand. They want the brands they like to line up with what they believe in, and some people get offended when they don’t. This isn’t breaking news.

(Don’t believe me? Check out the hashtag #BurnNike)

But, I’m not here to talk to you about advertising. I’m here to talk to you about toxic masculinity.

Gillette released their ad right in the middle of a tense time. The #MeToo movement is on the rise, especially with Christine Blasey Ford speaking out against Brett Kavanagh. For Winnipeg in particular, the #NotMyStellas movement is barely months old.

It’s a time when people are coming forward. I always considered it as an empowering time for people. It’s people not hiding their pain and calling out for change. It’s hope for better days ahead.

Not everyone has my reaction.

A lot of men got mad. A lot of men got, like… REALLY mad.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s also a little scary.

My father, who is a brilliant man and kind beyond words, just shrugged at the advertisement. He didn’t get the issue.

My favourite quote to come of this is “accountability feels like an attack when you’re not ready to acknowledge how your behaviour harms others.”

Maybe that is where this anger is coming from. I can’t and shouldn’t make blanket statements, but it’s a thought that has entered my mind.

Are some men out there angry because they got called out?

Did something shown in that ad that hit a nerve? Did it call attention to behaviour that has been accepted in their daily lives? Are they not ready to change that behaviour?

Did it make them feel guilty?

Because it’s not always in the life-altering moments. Sometimes it’s the small things that seem harmless. Sometimes it’s in passing. Sometimes it’s from a family member or friend.

As a woman, I appreciated the ad. I’m in my mid-twenties now, and I can honestly say that I have yet to meet a female who has not been cat-called, harassed, sexuality assaulted, forced… the list goes on and on.

It’s horrifying.

The worst part is that some of my female friends aren’t even aware that these behaviours are not acceptable.

If you’re told something enough, you start to believe it.

Like, for example, boys will be boys.

When it comes to the topic of toxic masculinity, it’s not saying all masculinity is toxic. I think that’s where people become confused.

People have searched for an accurate definition for a while now. To me, it’s a set of behaviours and beliefs that include suppressing emotions, maintaining an appearance of hardness and using violence as an indicator of power (also known as “tough-guy” behaviour).

In other words: toxic masculinity is what can happen when we teach boys that they can’t express emotion openly. It’s what happens when tell boys that they have to be “tough all the time”; that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or “weak” or “pathetic.”

And no, it doesn’t mean that all men are inherently toxic. It never meant that.

My father is a pretty masculine man. He’s a builder, a worker, a teacher. He also wasn’t offended by the ad, because it wasn’t targeted at people who aren’t exhibiting that behaviour.

A big part of this issue is men AND women not being aware of the harm they are causing. It’s not fair to assume only men can cat-call, harass or assault someone. This isn’t true.

However, the victim numbers are staggering. For not just women; but for non-binary, transgender and men too.  

We still have a long way to go.

Along-side the ad, Gillette stated it would donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations designed to help men become role models for the next generation by inspiring respect and accountability.

Personally, I applaud them.

You don’t have to agree with Gillette. You don’t have to buy their razors anymore or retweet the video to show your support.

I’m hoping more videos like this will highlight the real issue. The importance of being kind and aware of our own actions.

Because we have to remember that the boys of today will become men someday. They’ll be faced with choices.

I can only hope that they choose to not harm others.