We Can Do Better: A Response to the Gillette Ad
February 3, 2019
Every year, Super Bowl season reminds me of my own experiences playing football as a young kid. Aside from teaching me that I should perhaps turn away from athletics (whoops!), my time on the field also taught me a valuable lesson: never stop improving.
This idea is part of every long scrimmage, each vigorous tackle and every methodical play—it’s a central aspect of sports culture. But it also relates to the way that we should address life off the field. So when Gillette’s new ad, which challenges men to tackle toxic masculinity, runs during the showdown between the Rams and the Patriots, I won’t bat an eye.
Why? First, let’s define toxic masculinity.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, toxic masculinity can include “suppressing emotions or masking distress, maintaining an appearance of hardness, [and] violence as an indicator of power (think: ‘tough guy’ behavior).” The author goes on to say that toxic masculinity can come from “teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly” and that they have to, above all, be “tough all the time” and not “‘feminine’ or weak.”
The Gillette advertisement, recently released via social media in advance of the big game, tackles a variety of issues associated with toxic masculinity, ranging from sexual harassment, bullying and even violence. What stands out most to me, however, is a section that features a line of men explaining, “Boys will be boys will be boys” in response to some roughhousing.
While many have negatively responded to the ad, I don’t find it to be an attack on men. It seems to be, rather, an empowering message to all boys and men. We have the ability to defy the idea of toxic masculinity. The idea that “boys will be boys will be boys” is not only demeaning, but it’s wrong. We’ve advanced past a time where these behaviors—bullying, catcalling, violence, all of it—are even remotely acceptable. This ad empowers us to uphold a new, higher standard.
The commercial will be playing during a massively popular game for which players are investing their blood, sweat and tears to win. I expect no less. As they step up their game on the field, we are implored to do the same and channel the spirit of the sport—to live up to a higher expectation.
May we call each other out, consider our personal biases and rethink our vision for the future. Because we can do better.
Image source: Gillette ad