Is #GilletteAd Degrading to Men?
By Rita Risser Chai
Gillette produced an ad this week encouraging men to speak up if they see other men acting badly towards women. The ad says, “We believe in the best in men. We need to hold other men accountable, to say the right thing, to act the right way. Some already are.” That is, some men already are holding other men accountable.
According to various commentators, this ad is demeaning to men. I’m going to quote from an article by conservative commentator Matt Walsh, who I follow on Twitter because I often find myself agreeing with him, despite our different perspectives. But not this time. He wrote in the Daily Wire, “The ad says that ‘some men’ act the right way. Can you in your wildest and most fevered dreams even imagine the reaction to an ad that spoke about women in these terms? Imagine an ad for Dove body wash that shows women doing stereotypically negative things like gossiping and nagging and shopping too much, and then the narrator comes on: ‘Sure, some women act the right way.’ Feminists would be rioting in the street. … But no such ad would or could ever exist. Women are not lectured and scolded this way. This sort of treatment is reserved for men.”
Maybe we’re not lectured or scolded “this way” but we are constantly told that we are not young enough, thin enough, or beautiful enough in every cosmetic ad that has ever been made. Outside of ads, in the real world, we’re told we can’t be hired or promoted because we either act too much like men or too much like women. Or we’re too young or too old. Men rule the world (still) so yeah, we can’t discriminate against them. All we’ve got left is lecturing and scolding—though this ad is neither.
Walsh equates men harassing and raping women to women “gossiping and nagging and shopping too much.” These are not morally equivalent.
Walsh also wrote, “The Me Too movement didn’t ‘change’ anything for most of us. It is obviously insulting, not to mention absurd, to suggest that men, as a whole, experienced some sort of great awakening when Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Kevin Spacey got in trouble. We already knew that it’s wrong to rape. We were already well aware that harassment is not okay. … But the vast majority of men are not rapists or harassers and were, prior to this past year, already staunchly opposed to both activities. There was nothing epiphanic or revolutionary about Me Too for us. To insinuate that we learned that rape and assault are bad, or that we needed to learn such a lesson, is patronizing in the extreme.”
The ad doesn’t insinuate that men didn’t know that harassment was bad. What it says is that “men need to hold men accountable.” Some men may have been “staunchly opposed” to harassment before Me Too, but the reporting shows that many men were aware of the activities of Weinstein, Cosby, and Spacey and didn’t do anything to stop them. The men on Weinstein’s board renewed his contract, even though they had heard numerous reports about him.
It also has been reported that many men over-reacted to the Me Too movement. Some are refusing to mentor women because they are afraid of being falsely accused. Others have said they are less likely to promote women. So there is still much work to be done for men and women to work together.
I still believe the vast majority of men are good guys. I also believe the Gillette ad celebrates them. So thanks, Gillette.
PS For a different perspective that makes some good points, see this article.
PPS I have no idea if Gillette treats all its women employees fairly. If not, that will be the subject of another post.