Joe Otte observed the oddity:
Wow. Could you have predicted 97 replies in 24 hours on this, of all topics?
The “this” of which he writes is the “toxic masculinity” Gillette commercial. As for the specific number of comments, as well as some of the contentiousness, it’s hard to predict, but had I not thought it worthy of note, I wouldn’t have posted it.
But why, as Joe asks, did it generate such a response. Oskar von Aln took his swipe by replying “The frailty of men is hilarious,” a position he first sought to weasel out of until, when pressed, he put on his big boy pants and came out with it:
Yup. Getting worked up about an ad is being frail to me. Should have been more precise though, I should have written;
Men going apeshit over an ad and the attacks on “men” are frail and snowflakey.
Are men “frail and snowflakey”? If not, then why bother with a silly advertisement, more likely proffered to play the social-conscience marketing game than actually make a serious point. After all, the company doing the advertisement hadn’t minded its rather shameless pandering in the past.
My speculation is that this commercial, coming on top of the plethora of op-eds about toxic masculinity, the #MeToo denigration of men for being rapist-lite, if not actualy rapists, building over the past few years, brought the attack into the open with something as banal as a TV commercial. It was too flagrant, too obvious, to ignore.
It’s bad enough that there is a never-ending stream of collegiate coverage of bad man stuff, and the anti-male bias of Title IX convictions and explusions. This shoved it in the face of ordinary guys cooking at grills, and ordinary boys wrestling and roughhousing, directly connecting it to more concrete gender offenses.
So what if we never cat-called, inappropriately touched a woman’s shoulder or raped anyone. Even if you didn’t do it, didn’t someone within earshot? What did you do about it? If you don’t tell your friends it’s “not cool,” then he’s not the only bad dude. You’re a bad dude too.* If we’re not actively defending virtuous womanhood, we’re still rapists, one step removed.
But that doesn’t really answer the question of what makes this “toxic masculinity” attack a bad thing. Some on twitter noted that men are complaining about a commercial that merely tells them to be “respectful and compassionate” to women. What’s wrong with that?
That’s a good question. What is wrong with that?
My answer is that there’s nothing wrong with being respectful and compassionate at all. What’s wrong is being told by self-proclaimed arbiters of moral propriety how to be the way they feel you should be. What touches a nerve isn’t that we should be good people, good men, but that other people believe themselves entitled to dictate what being a good man means.
We may be fine with being respectful and compassionate, but we’re not fine with a TV commercial, or random people on social media, telling us that if we don’t behave the way they tell us to behave, then we’re evil or doing it all wrong.
Is that the problem? Is there some other problem? Or are we, as the intrepid Swede contends, just “frail and snowflakey”?
*As an aside, if the fellow who was told his conduct was “not cool” took issue with his moral interlocuter because he disagreed about what was and was not “cool,” what should happen next?