It’s been eleven days since Gillette launched their hugely viral The Best Men Can Be ad, but it feels like eleven years. The ad infuriated a lot of people by suggesting that some men could try a little harder to not be gross and terrible, which apparently is both way too hard and not at all necessary.
A popular way to be offended by the ad has been to decide that it is saying all men are bad, and masculinity is also bad.
It is not, of course. Saying “All men can live up to a certain standard of behaviour” is not saying “No men are currently living up to this standard of behaviour”. (Terry Crews is, for one thing.)
But people who are mad have decided that it is, and specifically, they’ve seized on the phrase “toxic masculinity” as proof that The Feminists are trying to round up every cis dude in the world and put them in reeducation camps to have Clementine Ford’s disapproving face tattooed on their junk.
“You're conflating toxic masculinity and masculinity” Bridie Jabour hits back at Miranda Devine for saying Gillette’s ad campaign is “demonising little boys” as “incipient wife bashers” #TheDrum pic.twitter.com/RA2dw860By
— ABC The Drum (@ABCthedrum) January 16, 2019
Of course, “toxic masculinity” means “[the kind of] masculinity that is toxic”, not “masculinity, which is [all] toxic”.
Burger = A burger.
Cheese burger = There is a version of a burger that has cheese. It’s not a statement that all burgers have cheese, but that 1 variation of a burger has cheese.
Masculinity = Masculinity
Toxic Masculinity = There is a version of masculinity that is toxic. It is not a statement that all masculinity is toxic, but that 1 variation of masculinity is toxic.
If someone says “I don’t like cheeseburgers, because I’m lactose intolerant and they make me s**t myself violently”, they are not saying that all burgers are disgusting and terrible and they would never eat one.
They’re saying that they don’t like the specific kind of burger that has cheese on it, because violent pooping is extremely unpleasant.
Now, if cheeseburgers were the main kind of burger in the world, because everyone insisted that cheeseburgers are the ideal burger, they would probably not be a big fan of eating burgers. That would be understandable.
But if someone then made them a burger that had no cheese, but did have lettuce and tomato and special sauce, so that they could experience how delicious and pleasant a burger can be when you are not s**tting yourself violently, they might suggest that more burgers should be made without cheese, so that there would be less violent s**tting in the world overall.
When people say that toxic masculinity is bad, they’re saying that they’d really prefer more cheeseless burgers – not no burgers at all.
Toxic masculinity means stuff like telling men not to express their emotions, or making anger the only acceptable “masculine” emotion; it means defining “manliness” with violence, or treating women like objects, and defending those behaviours as somehow central to masculinity.
The comments under the @Gillette toxic masculinity ad is a living document of how desperately society needs things like the Gillette toxic masculinity ad.
Seriously: if your masculinity is THAT threatened by an ad that says we should be nicer then you're doing masculinity wrong.
— Andrew P Street (@AndrewPStreet) January 15, 2019
So next time some chud says “Oh, so masculinity is toxic now?” you have an easy analogy to try and explain how subcategories work.
Or you can just log off and go get a burger. Whatever kind you like.