What does it mean to be a man? If one bases this answer off stereotypes, men are not emotional, men provide for their families, men are strong, powerful and dependable. Men take charge.
Recently, men have been getting a bad reputation in the news and media. With high profile sexual assault cases becoming increasingly common and women being urged to be more and more careful, men are now being seen as a threat. Safety precautions such as never walking alone, refraining from wearing one’s hair in ponytails or braids, only accepting drinks that have to be opened or that were seen being made, and always carrying some form of protection are constantly promoted. But is this justified?
While sexual assault against men is a very real issue, statistics from the National Sexual Resource Center show that crimes against adult women are unproportionally high, making up 91 percent of yearly cases. While crimes against children show more of a statistical balance between girls and boys, and 96 percent of abusers in those cases are men. According to Vox Media, 263 high profile public figures have been accused of sexual assault since April of 2017, the majority of which being male.
The numbers are concerning, but instead of trying to only deal with the consequences, there are some who want to target what may be the root of the problem. Toxic masculinity and the standards of being a man.
This past January, Gillette released an ad focused around the unhealthy expectations and behaviors men tolerate. Demonstrating not only inappropriate behavior men show toward women, the short film also addresses excused bullying and the dismissal of violence in the sake of, “Boys will be boys.”
The ad has sparked considerable controversy and has left some outraged, claiming that the video devalues men, portrays them as indecent, and promotes a softening of manhood. Additionally, many say that the ad is merely jumping on the bandwagon of the #MeToo movement. Whether or not Gillette really was just aiming for pure publicity, the attention being paid to male issues may be needed.
Masculinity is not necessarily a bad thing. Promoting characteristics such as leadership, responsibility, resilience and good work ethic could be done more today. However, the way these lessons are being taught are the problem. There is a difference between teaching positive lessons based on life experiences and ignoring harmful situations in order to build character. But what does this difference in learning style lead to?
Quick research concerning males yields worrisome finds. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention published studies showing that men are 3.54 times more likely to commit suicide in the United States with white males accounting for 77.97 percent of all suicides. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 93 percent of inmates are male and ScienceDirect states that males tend to be more frequently targeted in bullying and are also more often the perpetrators of bullying.
While it is statistically undeniable that there is a history of inexcusable sexual behavior from men, other statistics such as these should not be ignored. Male mental health and young violent behavior are under discussed. By focusing on the causes behind problems such as these and fixing them, other statistics may change as well.
Even if Gillette only wanted publicity, the idea that men as a whole need to improve is not entirely uncalled for, just not in the way initially implied.