Let’s get a few things out of the way first – I’ve never been a big fan of Gillette Razors and I’m not likely to rush out and buy/not buy them because I like/dislike an advertising campaign. Razor brands (or any brands at all) have very little to do with masculinity or femininity and if you think they do – you’re sort of stupid. There – we got that out of the way.
Next thing to get out of the way. I’m a former Marine, I played football and wrestled in school, and generally people don’t give me any shit – but when I was growing up – I was bullied. When I was in the Marines – I was bullied. And I have seen enough toxic masculinity to last several lifetimes. I have seen it directed at women I care about, friends who don’t fit the American bullshit masculine mold, and at myself. Sadly, and this isn’t easy to admit – I’ve engaged in toxic masculinity in the past as well. I was never a bully, but I’ve treated some incredible women to some incredibly bad bahviour. There is no excuse for that – yes, I was conforming to toxic masculine behaviour I was taught and expected to conform to – but I knew better when I was doing it and it was bullshit. There is no fixing what is already done, but know this – I was wrong and I know I was wrong. I’m a better man today and if anything, the change in my outlook and behaviour should be seen as a positve indicator that we can live in a better world and that men can be better than they were taught to be.
That’s a lot of stuff to get out of the way. Now, in case you haven’t seen it, I’d like to share the Gillette advertisement that has been causing so much controversey among toxic males and their toxic female defenders:
Let me summarize the message of this commercial – “Hey men, stop being assholes to each other and to women” – That’s it. I’m not sure what kind of person gets offended by this – but my suspicion is that in general – people who engage or have engaged in the awful behaviour shown in this ad are the ones who are offended by it – i.e. toxic males are offended that their toxic behaviour has been called out. What kind of toxic behaviour? Here’s a list and some personal examples from my life.
Kids bullying and physically abusing one another.
I was born with a birth defect. I had to wear a helmet during my first year in school because I had a skull fracture when I was five. I wasn’t able to participate in all the sport or active play during that time. I became a more bookish and inward looking person. I was bullied for all of that. I was bullied for my good grades and for enjoying school. I was bullied because I was smaller than most kids. I spent most of my childhood (and much of my adult life) trying to prove that I was as good as other boys and men. I developed fairly severe emotional and psychological problems that took me years to overcome as a result of the bullying, the beatings, and the bullshit. Why? Because I was small and because I was different.
Men bullying, objectifying, and abusing women (or each other)
My mother was physically, emotionally, and verbally abused by men much bigger than her during much of my childhood. We had neighbors who tried to corner and rape her. I remember a family friend sitting in conversation with my mother on our deck and ‘accidentally’ allowing his erect dick to slip out of his shorts. Every woman I know has stories of being sexually harrassed, assaulted, or abused. Many of the men I know have similar stories. I have those stories. I remember an asshole of a roommate in the Marines who bullied me and our other roommate mercilessly – he was older and bigger and baited us into physical confrontations – I remember this prick dragging our roommate out of bed in his underwear after a night of drinking and other guys (like me) standing around laughing and giving approval. Not cool at all. I’m ashamed that I said nothing and was so insecure that I sought this jerk’s approval.
I went to school in the 1970s and 1980s. We rarely knew if kids were gay or trans but if someone found out, they were ostracized and punished by every insecure male in the school. I was called queer, gay, faggot, homo, and more – not because I was gay but because I wasn’t interested in acting like a fucking jerk or didn’t want to commit crimes, destroy property, or put myself or others in danger. Homophobia goes way beyond just treating LGBTQ people badly – it’s root lies in toxic male insecurity.
Mysogeny and Sexual Harrassment (treating women like they are less than equal)
I have grabbed women’s asses, cat-called, leered, harrassed, and said rude things to women who weren’t interested in me. Nearly every man I know did the same things. We were encouraged in this behaviour by our fathers, brothers, coworkers, and peers. We were essentially taught that women were there for us to fuck and if they weren’t going to fuck us, they had no value. My behaviour and that of all the other men who have engaged in this kind of bullshit was toxic. I am deeply ashamed of my past behaviour and I own it. Women are equal to men in every way and no one deserves to have their body, their work, their ideas, their personhood or their lives disturbed and harassed.
Condoning toxic behaviour like those above
I can think of countless times I witnessed bullshit like what I’ve listed above and said nothing because I was afraid of being judged by the men around me. I’ve heard men engage in the most foul and offensive ‘locker room’ talk and not objected or even left the room because I didn’t want to lose status. I’ve seen this bullshit encouraged by countless men, by the father’s and grandfathers of friends, and by strangers.
The root of all of this is toxic insecurity. I’m serious. The guys who engage in this behaviour are the weakest and most self-hating people in the world. They focus their power on hurting those with less power and then they reap the rewards of fear and condonement by those around them. I don’t know if there is any way to fix them – but those of us who are aware of it can do a couple of things to change the behaviour 1) Do as in the video and stand up to right wrongs when we see them, don’t turn a blind eye, don’t laugh at this bullshit, and don’t give the toxic male bahaviour the approval it seeks 2) If that is too much, simply walk away – don’t silently participate, don’t hear it and let it go, don’t write it off as ‘boys will be boys’
We can live in a better world. We’ve all fucked up somewhere. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all watched silently when awful things happen. We don’t have to anymore.