I am sure by now everyone has seen the new Gillette commercial. I thought it was fantastic. My son and his friends were discussing it in their Discord server last night and listening/reading it was quite enlightening. A little bit about this group…it consists of IRL friends, online friends, friends of friends, and even a few friends of friends of friends. They range in age from 12 to 19. There are gay, straight, bi, non-binary, male, female, English native speakers, learning English speakers, and they come from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Japan, Russia, and Eastern Europe. There are a handful of racists who get called out, but not kicked out of the group – they hope they’ll learn.
Son posted the commercial and a lot had already seen it. Oddly enough the ones who hated it the most were also the racist ones. Not really surprising there as racism is about perceived status and worth. The commercial does attack the perceived status of the so-called alpha-male, because there is no such thing as an alpha-male. It’s a stereotype that has been passed around modern media so much that it has become the “standard”.
Back to the kids. One common response was “it’s about time.” In a world, like school, where students are divided and treated differently by administration based on their interests, it is easy to feel rejected. A few of the people in the group chat play sports, but many do not. That does not mean they are “soy-boys” or “not a man” or “sissy.” These are kids who program computers, create music, write, draw, cook, and more.
None of the kids are “bullied” per se at school because over the years, they have shared mechanisms to not be a target. For the most part, they work. They don’t purposefully exclude people, but they don’t tolerate online bullying in their group. When people don’t get the hint, or attack personally, they ban them. This is a world they created, but it really is a naturally inclusive world.
Here are some of the things they said about the commercial:
- It’s about time
- I don’t know why people are so pissed at it – it’s telling the truth
- Coach says shit like that at practice
- I am tired of being told to “be a man” – what does that even mean?
- I never get told to “be a woman”
- Man up means to be a dick
- Science teacher called guys who don’t fight defects in the gene pool
- Dad said that women only survived because men hunted
- Mom said that she doesn’t want some soy-boy hippie screwing her
- I wish people stepped in when there’s a fight
- I loved that dad with his daughter
- I am so sick of people saying I’m not a man because I don’t like sports
- Coach pays players to toughen up other players
- Dad said women belong in the kitchen
- Dad called me a pussy because I like to draw
- Dad loved the commercial and cried
- English teacher said it was written by a sissy
- Business teacher laughed and said it was going to cost them money
- I liked the message – what’s wrong with being nice
This conversation literally went on for over an hour. It hit home for a lot of them who struggle with unsupportive parents. I should probably say at this point that I have never been involved with any of his friends online, but know each of them because I maintain access to all my son’s online accounts and activity. I am a silent observer. It allows him and I to talk about things that are going on in his life without him having to tell me the backstory. Believe it or not, it opens more doors.
Oddly enough, the ones whose parents hated the commercial are also the ones who struggle with their child’s sexuality. Rather than accepting people as humans, they derive a small sense of self-worth and value through their child’s beliefs. One young adult who lives in the US was convinced by the group to call a suicide hotline while they listened and supported them. When he came out, his father beat him and his mother screamed about how that was going to look to the other mom’s at church. Many of his friends in the group struggle with emotions, sexuality, and family relationships.
There are a lot of things being said online about the commercial, but the truth is, things said in the commercial are said every day across the nation. Violence, in all forms, has become common place and replaced a general sense of common decency.
What are some things we don’t here very often:
- Woman up
- Girls will be girls
- Put your big girl pants on
- Take your pussy out of your husband’s wallet
- Girl’s can’t help themselves, it’s in their genes
- Did someone steal your vagina
- Tell your husband to give you your vagina back
- She must have vagina envy
- She’s just a big vagina
Those sound absolutely asinine. But, that doesn’t mean that girls are not told equally harmful things to creating an equitable environment where people are treated as humans, capable of taking care of themselves and each other.
Some things girls hear and say:
- You want to look pretty for school
- Those jobs are for boys
- Girl’s shouldn’t play that sport, its bad for their body
- I’m too pretty for homework
- I don’t need to learn this – that’s for ugly girls
- You need to look pretty for the boss
- Be smart, but not too smart
- Be assertive but not pushy
- Speak up but make sure others agree with you first
One thing that Gillette advertisement has accomplished quite well, is it has people talking about stereotypes, perceived roles, and how we view ourselves and others. Now it’s a matter of whether people will listen.
Those who respond with phrases like “soy boy” are nothing more than adult bullies. But, with a bully in the White House, promoting that behavior, it will be a while longer before the message gets through.
A quick trip through history will show just how much men, and women, have changed through the centuries. Some things have improved, other things, not so much.
It is all up to the individual to decide if they are going to listen.