The fine folks at Gillette recently decided to take a break from peddling overpriced razors and instead focus on insulting their entire customer base. Presumably taking the advice of a marketing agency staffed exclusively by pink-haired feminists, Gillette released an ad this week which encourages men to stop raping and bullying and doing all of the other things that men will inevitably do until their shaving cream tells them not to.
The video, which has racked up an impressive 313 thousand dislikes on YouTube, opens with various scenes of men and boys doing various obnoxious and awful things. It is implied that we men have excused these behaviors by shrugging and muttering "boys will be boys." The ad makes this point very subtly, by showing a line of men saying "boys will be boys" in unison as they watch two other boys fight.
But then! "Something finally changed," the narrator tells us. "There will be no going back," we are assured. What changed? The Me Too movement. This, according to Gillette, was the seminal moment when men realized that they aren't supposed to rape, assault, harass, or bully. We learned to "act the right way." Though, the narrator allows, "some already are." Then we are shown various examples of men doing really basic, human things, like encouraging their children and breaking up fights.
Feminists love the ad and apparently cannot understand why so many men have reacted negatively to it. I thought I would help them out by offering a mansplaination:
1) 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. There is not a single man on Earth who watched a news report about Weinstein, slapped his forehead, and said, "Oh! So we're not supposed to do that? Alright then! My mistake!" Even the men who do those things already knew they weren't supposed to do them. They do the things anyway because they are evil, and that's what evil people do.
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 needed to learn such a lesson, is patronizing in the extreme.
2) "Boys will be boys" is not a rationale for bad behavior. In my entire life I have never once heard anyone, ever, offer "boys will be boys" as an excuse for rape or bullying. I have never seen a bunch of men standing around watching a kid pummel another kid while they all nod in approval and say "boys will be boys" to one another, like programed automatons. Have the people at Gillette ever even met an actual human man before? Perhaps not. Maybe that's why they think we need a razor with 14 blades to shave in the morning, as if our beards are made from the steel bristles of a wire brush.
In any case, "boys will be boys" does not generally function as an excuse. It is a cliche but, like many cliches, it contains great wisdom. Boys will indeed be boys, and should be boys, and should be allowed to be boys without their natural boy-ness being constantly suppressed. Boys are energetic, aggressive, creative, competitive. They need safe and accepting outlets for these impulses. Incidentally, rolling around and roughhousing is one such outlet. The ad shows an enlightened man swooping in to stop a couple of young boys from wrestling around in the grass, which is exactly the wrong approach. As long as it's all in good fun, and nobody is getting seriously hurt, and it is not a case of assault or actual bullying, then the fatherly instinct to step back and let the boys be boys is correct.
There are only, in the end, two options. Either we let boys act like boys or we force them to act like girls. But the latter option makes as much sense as forcing girls to act like boys. You wouldn't demand that your daughter stop playing with dolls and go out and wrestle in the grass instead. Why should we demand the reverse of boys? That's the point of "boys will be boys," and God help the boys cursed with parents who don't understand this point.
3) 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. They'd storm Dove headquarters and stone the head of marketing to death with loofahs dipped in cement.
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. And men are tired of it. We've heard it enough. We're terrible; we're horrible; we've ruined the world. Okay, we get it. Thank you. Now shut up and sell your 14-bladed razors and leave us alone.
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