On January 13th, Gillette ran a short film titled “We Believe”, which has earned extensive media coverage. The short film addresses the #MeToo era shift away from “toxic masculinity”, and urges men to act as role models for younger generations of men and boys by standing up against “toxic masculinity.” The film was wonderfully made, and I urge any who have not yet seen it to find it on Youtube. Unsurprisingly, the film received immediate backlash, garnering 1.4 million dislikes on Youtube.
The first misconception people have is that the film is about how masculinity, and men in general, are bad. The #BoycottGillette movement was a product of the idea that “toxic masculinity” is the same as masculinity. Many people feel as though Gillette is commenting on the toxic nature of masculinity, and is asking men to give theirs up. Those who think that harassment and bullying are the foundation of masculinity are the reason that this short film was released. “Toxic masculinity” is not masculinity at its core; it is toxicity that is often times confused with masculinity. Further, the film was not about masculinity. The film was about toxicity. The film did show men acting badly because that is a thing that happens sometimes, but halfway through, the tone shifted: “we believe in the best in men.” The film showed men standing up for women and other men. It showed that real masculinity is about acting with integrity and instilling that in future generations. Anyone who identified with the men standing up for others didn’t have a problem with the film; it was only those who identified with the antagonists of the film that felt attacked. The Twitter mob has taken to arms to defend masculinity saying things like, “Should the men who stormed the beach of Normandy be ashamed of themselves for practicing ‘toxic masculinity’?” The men who stormed the beach of Normandy most definitely displayed certain masculine characteristics, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The important distinction is that these men were not fighting for the sake of violence. They were fighting for their country, and to liberate victims of genocide. To act as if the Gillette short is saying that good men don’t exist, and that all men are evil sexually harassing boogeymen is incredibly dense. The film is essentially saying, “Don’t be a terrible person.”
People were also outraged that a company had aired an ad that had nothing to do with their product. An important thing to realize is that Gillette posted the film on Youtube titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film)”. The “advertisement” was not an advertisement at all; it was a short film. Gillette used its platform to bring a message to the people where it did exactly as intended: it started a conversation.
I don’t really think that “toxic masculinity” exists. I think that there is toxicity, and there is masculinity, and oftentimes they either coexist or are confused for one another. The hateful behavior shown in the film is not about masculinity, it is about a lack of empathy and human decency. By labeling it “toxic masculinity,” the connotation is that toxicity is largely a male phenomenon when it is not. All sorts of people do all sorts of bad things.
From the leftmost left to the rightmost right, people are angry. Every single day there is a new outrage. Whether it be that a film showed men not being super great, or that someone said something offensive a couple years back, people are itching for an excuse to be outraged. In order to learn anything you have to risk meeting people who have different opinions, and you have to risk being offended. Taking to social media to dismiss people with differing opinions as ignorant has never changed anyone’s mind.
By Henry Dupont