So much has happened in 2020, people have probably forgotten about the Gillette advert controversy at the very start of the year. In case you missed it, Gillette has teamed up with the ‘metoo’ movement to replace their tagline of “the best a man can get” to “the best a man can be” as they challenge men to move away from toxic masculinity. The ad was hit with criticism because some believe that Gillette, the feminist movement and the metoo campaign are using the same methods on men that they were first subjected to: Generalisation and the accusation that they are painting all men as evil, women hating and disrespectful. And while the ad does acknowledge this “We believe in the best in men: To say the right thing, to act the right way. Some already are in ways big and small. But some is not enough.”, it still creates a divide by gender. An us vs them culture. And this is why the ad resulted in keyboard warriors abusing women on twitter. There is something much more unconscious going on here.
The Problem: Overidentifying with a label
Without getting into gender politics, there is absolutely no problem with identifying as a man but there is a risk with how much you identify as a man. When you identify with something very strongly, you end up taking responsibility for other people who also identify the same way. Unfortunately, there are men who are disrespectful and woman hating, but take note; That doesn’t mean that you are one of them. If you feel you have to fight against how someone else sees men because it has insulted you, then you are identifying too strongly. By doing so, you are discarding the fact that men are made up of millions of different personal circumstances. By not having the flexibility to see man as a simple way of categorisation, you are allowing outside influences to determine how you feel. Take the die hard West Ham football fan for example. West Ham supporters identify as West Ham fans more than they identify as anything else. When West Ham win, they feel great but when they lose, they feel negative. Therefore, how they feel is determined by something completely out of their control, and this is emotional Russian roulette. Alternatively, what if someone says they are a football fan? Then they are openly categorising themselves but only to an extent.
The Solution: Identifying as a Human and not a Male
Of course, this is not a black and white discussion. After all, I speak with hypocrisy when I say that I am a huge Irish sports supporter. And while we are one of the best rugby teams in the world, the soccer team can not boast the same accolade. However, I have successfully seen die hard Irish soccer supporters unconsciously take care of their mental health while they experience misery after misery. How? Well they firstly reappraise their situation before the game even starts. We will happily admit that we are shite, but that’s ok, and we will support regardless. And if we lose, we will be disappointed, but we focus on the positives “at least it wasn’t 6-0” and we move on. So why can’t men do the same? Watch the Gillette ad and say “some males do act incorrectly”. And when someone insults you because you’re male, remind yourself that they didn’t insult you because of who you are but rather what your category or label is. Remember that you can identify as a human rather than a man. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King commented “This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity”.
And this point applies to men, women, homosexuals or any minorities. If you react to every insult towards your label, it will destroy your mental health. Reaction is what the opposition want. The best way to make change on the societal level is to make change on the individual level. And if you’re not able to take care of your mental health, then you won’t be there to represent your label. People are trying to challenge inequalities by saying it is all minorities vs men, or all minorities vs heterosexuals. But if this continues, nothing will change. We need to listen to the other side and not create an us vs them. Just see everyone as people. Martin Luther king never once mentioned that he was against white people. Instead, he found the commonality of religion and appealed to ‘his white Christian brothers and sisters.’ Within a community where different opinions are acknowledged, change can happen. So stop being insulted if someone sees you as different to how you see yourself. If you insist on being identified a certain way, understand that others have a completely different understanding of what it is to be a male, a female, or a minority. Educate them if they are ready to listen but if not, take a step back and be careful of how strongly you attach yourself to labels. Labels are helpful because they help us understand the world but don’t judge somebody because of a label, and don’t get insulted when someone challenges your label. If you can realise that people are made up of individual characteristics rather than how society understand labels, then you are showing signs of emotional intelligence. The best a person can get.
The Motus Movement.