Thanks for the mention. As further commentary, I’m adding in my reply to a male Medium friend who I asked to tell me what he thought of the ad. The gist of his reply was that it was poking at a lot of underlying male wounding which comes out of being constrained by the “Man Box” — the set of rules around what it means to be a “real man” which are continually being policed and reinforced with things like bullying. Here’s what I said to him in response:
“There’s a lot you say here that makes sense, particularly about men’s underlying wounds — but those are all wounds at the hands of patriarchy (since the Man Box is a function of that). This ad is not about #MeToo so much as it’s about that. Much of what was shown in the ad was around boys bullying other boys. From my perspective, this was about 2/3 of the ad with only 1/3 focused on behavior towards women. Harassment and belittling (as shown in the office scene, “I think what she really means here…..”) are also bullying behaviors.
In other words, the ad was addressing the source of much of this male wounding, but doing it in an indirect way. Patriarchy is a dominance hierarchy — and it’s performative, particularly for men, which means that you don’t ever “arrive” at a certain status. You have to be constantly jockying for position by showing who is toughest, meanest, most independent, most confident, etc. Mostly this is done by victimizing others as a show of worth to climb the ladder of the hierarchy. In our society, the most ruthless one gets elevated, and I give you Donald Trump as the poster child to illustrate this concept.
This ad was not a “gender wars” piece in the least, except that many wounded men seem to be making it into that. Mostly what I saw was fathers teaching their sons not to fight as a show of dominance, intervening in bullying (modeling good character for the son who was looking on as it happened) and checking their friend’s behavior when they were acting like jerks. This ad was all about how men can participate in helping to co-create a better society for everyone, including boys and men, which is why it showed the bullied boy being comforted by his mother. It was attempting to address Man Box issues. I do like the term empathy-impaired masculinity (rather than toxic masculinity) although many men will balk at that too. Because part of the Man Box is having a facade of complete competence and control. Admitting that there’s even any issue is a breach of that and that’s what I nearly always come up against when trying to talk about this with men.
So, I sort of get what you are saying, but also feel that we’ve been trying to talk about this in more gentle ways for several years now (even before #MeToo broke), with a lot of push back. I’ve heard a lot of what’s essentially, “We don’t want women telling us how to be” and so here is the message coming from other men, and it’s still not acceptable. Which is also born out by organizations like The Good Men Project, which is by and for men. They are trying to address these underlying wounds that you’ve been speaking of and get a lot of vilification and name calling for their trouble, although I’m sure that they do reach some men.
To me, this ad was the bigger picture! It clearly said that “There will be no going back because we believe in the best in men!” Also it ended with another aspirational phrase, “It is only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best.” If wounds are being triggered by phrases like those, it’s only because there is an underlying acknowledgement that men (societally, not necessarily as individuals) are not currently being their best and they resent having it pointed out to them. To me, this is the core of what all the pushback and outrage is about. “I don’t like having it brought out into the public eye that I’m less than perfect.”