Gillette Urges Customers to 'Shave Off Toxic Masculinity' in Controversial New Ad

The ad features multiple male stereotypes and has raked up almost 700,000 dislikes on YouTube since its release on Sunday

1/16/19, 8:51 pm EST

By John Corry, photo from GQ

This past Sunday, one of the biggest men’s grooming companies in the country, Gillette, released an ad addressing the ever-prevalent concept of ‘toxic masculinity’. Listed above, it goes through several well-known stereotypes, from the assertion that the average male reaction to any contention between men is simply ‘boys will be boys’ to the fact that some men don’t know when not to touch a lady at work (pretty much never /> just go out for happy hour or some shit (or become the Vice President)). Some of its assertions have merit, but whether they constitute the ‘epidemic’ narrative we’re so used to seeing thrown around these days as regards this issue, remains to be seen.

Actually: No. No, they don’t.

I’m doing this thing where I try to be more assertive and less of a pushover. I’m not sure how it’s going…

Here’s why that narrative is tired:

The modern concept ‘toxic masculinity’ has no differentiation between that and ‘traditional masculinity’, save that ‘toxic masculinity’ decries any indication of assertiveness, confidence, or strong will–all virtues known to be generally good, and generally ‘traditionally masculine’–as bad /> so long as it’s from a man. It assumes specific gender-profiling over all factors as legitimate–and as the foundation of its entire existence as a concept–and subjugates all qualities known as ‘masculine’ as inherently bad, for no other reason than ‘men are bad’, ‘f men are bad, then all qualities known to be inherent in ‘being a man’ are also bad’. Certain men might be bad sometimes, but not all men are bad, and if the argument is that the excesses of those masculine qualities are bad, then an assumption of gender wouldn’t be so fundamental. A ‘patriarchy’ assumes a natural hierarchy between men and women (to clarify: this is in ontological terms /> not political (or in a any way power-based (if everything is power-based, you’re assuming a necessary hierarchy even more than conservatives )), the reality (of ‘the world) is that men and women can not, and could not, exist without each other (or: men and women of the human variety, at least).

To put it in simpler terms: just because somebody has a penis and is confident in what she’s doing doesn’t automatically make her a bad person, or unwilling to listen to someone, no matter how many times we may think we’ve seen it.

To put it in better terms:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

Real men just don’t act like the men in this ad act. Plain and simple. The values associated with ‘traditional masculinity’–like assertiveness, confidence, and an emphasis on fact over emotion in certain circumstances–are good values (in moderation, of course). Because values like nurture, unconditional love, and an emphasis on emotion over fact in certain situations are all associated with ‘traditional femininity’ (or: bitchiness?? (yeah, how’d that one feel?)), should I be insulted when someone uses them to describe me? Those are good values in themselves. If I can take the gender part out of it, and the values remain exactly the same, we’re not talking about gender anymore, we’re talking about values, and values transcend gender (see that MLK quote above^). Add the word ‘blind’ to any of those values and you have another ‘bad value’ (in addition to excess) the likes of which I would also imagine many people may think of when they think ‘toxic masculinity’, but which only enforces the fact that it’s not the gender we have a problem with, but the values, and specifically: the values not as they are or in themselves, but in either excess or through a kind of subconscious, blind obedience.

Which is certainly something to make an argument against, but when that argument is laid down in terms so similar to ‘traditional’ terms which have so constituted such a big part of human life throughout its history, and with such fervor over any kind of assumed sympathy or open-mindedness, the argument loses any center, and so any potential for understanding. It ends up with everyone just shouting at each other, waiting for someone to come in easily change the subject to something less controversial, or more basic.

Like a shoe salesman.

Many ‘men’ feel as though there is a ‘war coming’ (ooooooh, man), and one which may end with all of those ‘masculine’ qualities listed above SHOVED out the window for a more ‘loving’ world, however ignorant of the fact that there is danger in it, and so subject to destruction simply through ignorance. This rhetoric is passive aggressive at best, and flat out warmongering at worst (or: the male version of catcalling?), but it’s there. If there are differences between the ways people think, would biology–man’s oldest psychology–have any possibility for a better understood recourse? Not even to assert that that’s nearly the only possible one, but that it might be able to help just a little?? We’re all trying to do what’s best, or most of us at least… This is not to hark on the offensive nature of this stance, but the fact that people are so angry and divided right now is no reason to justify becoming more angry and divided right now. The truth of the matter is that most men are decent, and this partisan rhetoric defiling the sexes only works to further radicalize those already radicalized, and, worse, to draw those in the middle further to the extremes. It does nothing to get those in the middle to waver towards more understanding, only to get pissed off at the apparent fact that no matter what anybody says anymore, my ‘gender’ (or any arbitrary part of my ‘identity’) is all anyone cares about, not me as an actual, individual person who makes decisions and judgments based more on thought and not outside forces /> so fuck it. And of course that’s only if we’re willing to forgo any disagreements we may have at the outset (of course).

Since 2000, suicide rates for young girls has tripled, while for boys it’s remained relatively the same. Men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women. Some argue (including in that first link there) that the culprit behind that first fact is the way girls interact with one another on social media (meaning, more specifically: because boys tend to bully each other through physical means, and girls through relationships and manipulations of social status, social media is going to have a much bigger affect on how girls interact with each other. For the second fact that middle aged white men have nothing to live for, but does it even matter? Can’t we just agree that suicide is bad, and that until someone gives a real, concrete reason to assume their motives as malevolent, they’re probably just being stupid. It was men we were talking about at the start of this… I once put a CD in a microwave specifically because I’d heard that it might catch fire…

But that was passive. I’m trying to be assertive now, and the assertive John knew damn well what he was doing when he put that CD in that microwave last week and set the timer to ten hours:

Pushing buttons just for the sake of it.