Toxic masculinity

On the coat tails of what’s currently trending, in no small part due to shaving dynamo Gillette’s new ad campaign “Is the best a man can be”, many people are left wondering what toxic masculinity actually means.

Gillette has experienced a huge backlash from thousands of men (and women) worldwide, taking to twitter and other social platforms with the hashtag #boycottgillette. Some of the memes that accompanied the hashtag are admittedly quite clever and some even go as far to point out that the company has used women in an exploitative manner in previous promotions for the brand.

Some of the best zingers go like this:

“#BoycottGillette feminists made up toxic masculinity its not a real thing. Feminists are the toxic force in society now. They will not be happy until men act like women. Female supremacy is their true goal and bigotry!”

“That’s right just call ALL men perverts. No wonder the suicide rate in men is way higher than females when you have this shit going about! #BoycottGillette “

“You can use Gillette razors to keep shaving your vaginas, but im not shaving my face as a man with another Gilette razor until Gilette grows a pair and apologizes to all men for this ridiculous generalized insult. #BoycottGillette”

Watch the video here >>>>


Upon watching the controversial ad campaign, many men have risen up, as if to take personal offence to the message of the video. They felt like the ad was saying they were predators and bullies, ironically the narcissistic response being well reaffirming the very edict of the campaign.

But this campaign has only really roused a deep reaction in so many people, because it is questioning behavior that has long been tolerated as the norm. No-one likes when their behavior or ego is challenged. It stirs a fear response, in which the reaction is to defend themselves. It ultimately means taking a deeper look at their own attitudes toward their current belief system.

The first big rumblings happened last year, with the #Metoo movement, which saw hundreds of women coming forward to share and discus their own experiences in dealing with “toxic masculinity.” It began to change the conversation around what is acceptable etiquette and what is crossing a line into something far more sinister. Something that is quite commonly brought up with the rise of the #metoo movement is “why didn’t these women come forward sooner?”

When you listen to many women’s stories, they speak of incidents that occurred decades ago or up until recently and all of them start to reveal a common thread. The behavior they experienced was often at the hands of a man who was in a higher position of power to them, the incidents often occurred when there were few or no witnesses and it would ultimately become he said/she said. Many women express fears of coming forward because they felt they wouldn’t be believed, fired from their jobs or weren’t sure that they hadn’t “done” something to warrant the attention.

When the MeToo movement gained some traction, it was time for those women to finally raise their voice and have people listen and respect what they had gone through.

Addressing toxic masculinity is the next step in the evolution of this conversation. For the longest time women have been blamed, shamed and stalled because of the behavior of SOME men. Women should have the right to wear whatever they like without being harassed, women should be able to say no without question or fear of repercussion and they should be confident enough to call our bad behavior when it happens.

Toxic masculinity is an outdated mindset and it has to go.

Masculinity is a social construct and is fragile, simply because every culture has their own acceptable interpretation of what it means. But generally speaking, to be masculine, is to be a man and an aspiration. To be called feminine as a man is of great insult.

But how wrong we have gotten it.

Masculine traits include:

  • Protectiveness
  • Assertive
  • Leadership
  • Competitive
  • Strong
  • Confident
  • Passionate
  • Strong libido
  • Dominance

There are many more associations with the word and many of these traits have been skewed to depend on what the individual’s interpretation of them are. But the truth is, masculine cannot exist without the balance of feminine. And this is not a metaphor for man and women, but as actuality of balance within a person.

One of the arguments brought up in boycott of Gillette, is that men have a higher suicide rate than women, due to the difficulties men face in today’s society. One could argue that when taken into account that many men are only embracing their “masculinity” then its little wonder they have no outlet for expressing their emotions.

That’s where toxic masculinity has people tricked.

It tells us that men should be aggressive, domineering, physically strong, superior, unfeeling and sometimes abusive. If men are taught this from a young age, then to allow any type of feminine balance to be expressed through nurturing, creativity or softness, is to be labelled as weak and un-manly.

A great example of toxic masculinity in recent times, is the emergence of the questionably written “50 shades of gray” novels and movie. It glamorized Christian Gray, a billionaire tycoon, who was sexually domineering, abusive, manipulative and damaged. The protagonist was Ana Steele, a weak, frail, virginal, inexperienced girl, who allowed herself to be submissive to this strong, demanding character. It portrayed masculinity as desirable and femininity as meek.

In no way did this help men embrace their softer attributes and perpetuated a stereo-type that is no longer productively contributing to our culture.

At this point, there is no reason to journey into how men have seldom created equality for women through-out history. We are all aware of it and it’s done. But now we have the opportunity to learn from our historical short-comings.

The people arguing that women are trying to enforce their feminist agenda are misinformed.

No doubt, there are women out in the world who do not imbue the ideals of equality, but women who are asking for men to recognize their importance in society, in the community and in the work-place are not radical feminists. They are your wives, sisters, mothers.

When perspective is offered, most men would be appalled to think that another man would sexualize, exploit, belittle or harass a woman they care for and this entire boycott would be a positive conversation to move forward.

It would be difficult to believe that the majority of men would not want their sons and daughters to grow up feeling empowered and unified in equality. Equality does not mean that women are ever going to be as physically strong as men, but they can grow and birth a child, something a man can never do.

Strength is subjective.

No. Equality in the essence of the word is that we can someday balance out the masculine and feminine within ourselves and that whether we are born a boy or a girl, anatomy won’t be a determining factor in how we treat one another.

One day, we will actually see people based on merit and treat them with respect.