What could possibly make an advert for razors garner over 1 million dislikes on YouTube? In the case of Gillette’s new short film, challenging toxic masculinity proved to be an extremely unpopular move. Whether you think it’s a truly heartfelt message or just a corporation trying to cash in on social justice issues, I think the response has been very revealing. Gillette’s advert exposes our unwillingness to face problems in our society.
Starting with the man in the mirror
Facing up to the reality of your privilege isn’t an easy or enjoyable thing to do. I remember going through such an experience when I was preparing to volunteer overseas with Tearfund back in 2013. During the pre-departure training we were asked about the factors that lead to poverty. When it was revealed that gender was one of the largest factors, I remember feeling personally attacked. ‘Just because I’m a man, it doesn’t mean I’ve contributed to poverty!’ I thought to myself. But that’s an incredibly fragile, self-centred way to view a worldwide problem.
A passive stare is the same as a deathly glare
As a man I’ve been granted a certain level of societal privilege. I’ve learnt not to see this as a personal indictment against my character, but rather to understand how masculinity is entangled in systems that perpetuate poverty. It’s no secret that women are more likely to suffer gender-based violence at the hands of men. So when I see the Gillette advert, I don’t get defensive. Instead, I see the problem and understand that as a man I can be part of the solution. Those who refuse to use their privilege to challenge injustice are complicit in allowing it to grow and fester.
A clean cut
So what are men to do? I’m not saying we all have to become a face of a movement or film big-budget adverts to highlight issues. But I think at the very least, when we’re confronted with inequality on a local or global scale, we respond with humility and an earnestness to progress society forward. Like in the advert, this may simply be calling things out when you see them. Sitting on the sidelines and shouting ‘I’m not part of the problem’ is not the same as creating a solution. Jesus radically went against the conventions of society when he stopped a woman being stoned in John 8. For women to be treated fairly requires men to acknowledge the sexism in our culture and like Jesus, actively go against the grain.
This is not a fight for women, this a fight with women. There’s so much great work already underway that we can get behind. Charities like Restore work tirelessly to educate about gender-based violence, whilst finding real solutions. Check them out and see how you can get behind their work.
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