Enlightened Masculinity – A guest blog by Adam Deal
In January of this year Gillette released a commercial entitled “We Believe” that sparked a lot of controversy. In a play on its own slogan, Gillette asked, “Is this the best a man can get?” What followed was a series of examples of the bullying, harassing behaviour often ignored or excused in men, with references to how long this has been going on. It then followed with a call to action, showing more positive examples of behaviour before concluding by reminding us that “The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”
A lot of people really did not like this ad. For many it seemed like just another company using a popular debate to sell their product, to others it felt like beating a dead horse. For some, like myself, it was a welcome change to the hyper masculinity rhetoric we are so used to seeing. Because the truth of the matter is that we can do better. Better for our children, better for each other.
The ad focuses a lot on the phrase “boys will be boys,” which is probably where it earns a good portion of the hate directed at it. This has long been a contention in the United States and elsewhere, a phrase tossed around to excuse all manner behavior, from the benign to the criminal. “Boys will be boys” is fine when you are talking about a child eating dirt, or a group of guys debating sports.
When it comes to the basis of how we treat ourselves and others, boys do not have to be boys. We do not have to accept the narrow view that is placed upon us. We are not simply wild animals incapable of controlling our urges, not automatons unable to experience the most basic emotions. We feel deeply. We care deeply. To say otherwise is to deny who we are. To pretend otherwise is to deny to yourself the experiences and sensations that make it truly worth it to be alive.
“We feel deeply. We care deeply. To say otherwise is to deny who we are. To pretend otherwise is to deny to yourself the experiences and sensations that make it truly worth it to be alive.”
There are many in the world today that would have us focus only on what appears to be masculine. They would have us be like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, that is, a book no thicker than the front cover. Gaston focused only on the superficial qualities in life. He was obsessed with his own strength, skill, and looks. Anyone that did not match up was beneath him
Even with Belle he focused only on the superficial, i.e. she looked the part. She looked like the picturesque trophy wife he had always imagined, that was all that mattered. Never mind that she was arguably the smartest person in the village, certainly the bravest. And yet, as awful as Gaston is, and as terrible as the things he does are, we see his exact character flaws promoted as the ideal throughout the world today. This is not masculinity.
Masculinity is ultimately about inner strength, self-control, and personal courage. It is looking beyond the physical to see the beauty within and around. It is about experiencing emotion without becoming a slave to it, to hold it in check without cutting yourself off completely. It is empathy, compassion. It is about having the courage to lead, and the wisdom to know when you do not have all the answers. To distil this down into a single, perfect example is likely impossible. However if we are to use media as a vessel, there are better examples.
“Masculinity is ultimately about inner strength, self-control, and personal courage.
It is about experiencing emotion without becoming a slave to it, to hold it in check without cutting yourself off completely.
It is empathy, compassion. It is about having the courage to lead, and the wisdom to know when you do not have all the answers.”
Take Newt Scamander from 2016’s ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’. Newt is quiet, unassuming, and a touch socially awkward. He’s the complete opposite of what you would expect, yet he’s clearly the hero. He wins the loyalty of his friends not through swaggering bravado or intimidation, but instead through compassion, love, and care. It is because he is not the classic image of the male hero that we are endeared all the more to him.
Kratos from 2018’s ‘God of War’ reboot is another example of masculinity. This may seem like an odd choice until you delve into the story. Kratos is wracked with grief, however he cannot afford to openly show this. Instead he must prepare his son for a journey neither of them is truly ready to make. We are lead to believe the hardships will be physical, but the emotional toll is far heavier. Eventually we see that the journey was not so much about giving the son the skills he will need to survive a world he barely understands, but enabling him to become a better man than his father was.
“Don’t be sorry, be better.” This is one of the most impactful lines in the entire game. It reminds us that it is not enough to simply admit fault. We must seek change. Boys may be boys, but they can grow into so much more. They can be better than we were, and paving the way for them makes for a better world for us all.
“Boys may be boys, but they can grow into so much more. They can be better than we were, and paving the way for them makes for a better world for us all.”