On Men Doing Better 1/17/19

By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.

Although typically I try to avoid trade names, yesterday the men’s grooming company @Gillette calling for men to “do better”. The commercial calls out sexual harassment and bullying, and shows men helping each other out. It also raises the importance of raising boys to act properly, because “the boys watching [our behavior] today will be the men of tomorrow.” As of the writing of this blog, the YouTube rating for this short film is 460K likes, and 888K dislikes.

Let’s be a little bit real about this. Men have impulses and instincts. No doubt, this is an evolutionary trait. No doubt, when humans were three weeks from the trees, sexual aggression helped ensure reproduction and display of prowess among other men was a means of demonstrating “alpha” behavior. But is this all we are?

We dare call ourselves a “civilized” when this kind of behavior is still so prevalent. We are well over 8,000 years from Mesopotamia, and it is high time that we evolve beyond our basic instincts. This does not mean we will never have these impulses disappear, but it is high time that we learn that we don’t have to act on them.

This is the difference between an evolved human being and one who is not evolved at all. So how is it that the Gillette video has twice as many dislikes as it has likes? Are men really so intimidated that they cannot conceive of being better?

I was raised in a family of outdated values. When my uncle had a child with a black woman, I was subjected to listening to “zebra” jokes. As the youngest in the family, still in middle school in the ’70’s, I stood up to my entire family enclosed in car on a trip and asked them to stop. This was not easy for me, as I was arguably bullied even by members of my family. They didn’t listen to me, of course, but I would do it again if I had a choice. I was not athletic, scrawny, outnumbered, and still a child, and yet I had more courage than the nearly 900,000 people who are frightened by a commercial calling for men to do better and take responsibility for each other.

And, yes, I just equated racism to a form of bullying.

It has not escaped me that the rise of the “#MeToo” movement has risen more or less simultaneously with the reemergence of the bully. This doesn’t surprise me, as I believe it reflects the fear inherent in bullies and racists to avoid change. Sadly, bullying does not end in adulthood. I recently found myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to stand up to a supervisor whose bully tactics were all toowell-known within and outside of the institution for which I worked. Again, it came to no avail (worse, actually, as he eventually used his authority to have me fired), but I’m proud of my efforts nonetheless.

Right now, there is an uphill battle that must be fought. As the ratio of likes to dislikes demonstrates, there are far more many men who are trying to “protect their turf” than those of us trying to further our evolution. There is no way to tell the genders of the “likes” and “dislikes”, but my guess is that it’s worse than it appears as many of the “likes” are likely women as they are the primary target of such inappropriate behaviors.

So if my hypothesis is correct, the question becomes if it is even possible to successfully modify male behavior? Maybe this doesn’t matter. I’ve fought many lost causes, and they’ve hit me hard, but these are often the battles that mean the most. I believe that women, minorities and other disenfranchised groups to keep the pressure up, and those men who have evolved to continue to help the rest see the light. We are fractured, and weaker as a result. We are discounting and discounting the strengths of far too many people, and that hurts us all. This fracturing is not caused by the #MeToo movement, as they have merely called our attention to it, but it is caused by those far too many people who try to belittle and ostracize others based on petty and meaningless differences between us (gender, race, religion, etc.). As a society, we will be stronger, and better, if we can stop this toxic fracturing of our society and learn to respect and work with one another.

I applaud the efforts of @Gillette on their efforts to join in the struggle.

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