In an age of extremes, the nuance of this article is going to be what helps us understand what we are truly seeing in terms of the challenges we face and how we can solve them without generating a strong opinion on these issues. I encourage you all to carefully read this article as if we want to help move away from things like “toxic masculinity,” “toxic femininity,” racism and so forth, but we must do so wisely by truly understanding the depth of what is being said.
Before I continue on, I want to say that in many cases, when talking about issues regarding men, women, or any particular race as politics and media often do today, we must remember that what is talked about does not represent the whole of any group. In fact, in many cases, it only represents a very small percentage of the group being discussed.
As a result of aspects of our consciousness, which we will discuss further in this article, there is no shortage of extremism in society right now when it comes to the discussion of gender. The #MeToo movement helped the greater population recognize that sexism is a huge problem within prominent industries, like music and film, where women are being harassed or abused sexually by men. This then extended to a greater discussion about sexual abuse in society in general, which I feel anyone can agree is an important topic to bring awareness to. In fact, I don’t know if I have ever come across anyone who actually opposes putting a stop to something like this, yet due to extreme positions, many are being wrongfully accused of such opposition. This is where we need to have a deeper discussion.
By now we know it happens, we don’t need another article exposing it, we need one talking about solutions, so that is what I’m going to focus on.
We exist in very polarized states of consciousness, and because we are a society who has not put a large focus on emotional intelligence, many issues that come to the forefront go through a long period of extremism before/if we become grounded again in order to truly understand what’s going on.
Of course, what I am talking about doesn’t relate only to what occurred after the #MeToo movement began, but with anything, including people’s views on government conspiracies, race, politics and other societal issues. In short, we attempt to apply blanket statements to issues instead of viewing things on a case by case basis or through the properly grounded facts that we do have about an issue.
As Stefan Molyneux puts it,
“The general leftist approach is that all disparities in group outcomes are the result of prejudice, of racism, of sexism, of colonialism, of exploitation of generally bad white male behaviour.”
Ultimately he goes on to say that if you choose not to look at the larger reasons as to why certain things are happening in our world, you will always be stuck blaming racism, sexism, the patriarchy, men, women, or any particular race. We must preface our discussion with this gnosis before discussing what’s next because it is only in the grounded understandings of our world that we actually can tell where we are at.
Gillette Aims To Help Raise Awareness About “Toxic Masculinity”
I’ve put the terms toxic masculinity and toxic femininity in quotations both times thus far because many people have very different ideas of what those things look like and mean. In fact, some people don’t even think “toxic femininity” exists, similar to the way they feel only white people are capable of being racist.
For the purposes of this article, I refer to the term toxic masculinity as partaking in a destructive form of male culture that does not operate on the basis of respect, equality and self-responsibility, and that will often exude overly strong behaviours of sexualizing women and competing with others to maintain egoic power. In short, much of what we have seen as male culture through pop culture, movies, music, and so forth can tinker on promoting this form of masculinity. It’s seen in situations where a female is marginalized down to simply being a sex object or situations where male dominance is valued and strived for.
Let’s have a look at this Gillette ad before we continue the conversation.
As Gillette accurately illustrates in its new ad, justifying certain behaviours that are not self-responsible and that do not create a harmonious world with statements like “boys will be boys,” is not something we can continue to do if we want to create a better world. Furthermore, leading by example and being able to speak up about behaviours you observe in others is important. It’s important not to do so in a condescending and judgemental tone, but rather by using a compassionate tone instead that truly questions the behaviour and allows you to empathize with how the other may feel in a situation. Further to that, we must recognize what this ad fails to point out, these behaviours don’t and haven’t come from all males, likely not even the majority.
As Gillette brand director Pankaj Bhalla told the Wall Street Journal,
“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own, … “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘boys will be boys’ is not an excuse. We want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and hope all the men we serve will come along on that journey to find our ‘best’ together.”
I have been in a number of situations where I’m in an all-male setting and one or two males are talking disrespectfully about females and I will observe other males join in simply so they feel included in the conversation or so that the other men don’t judge them. I personally know the men who joined in on the conversation don’t actually agree with the others, but do so because they feel they have to. Or better put, they do not know themselves or are comfortable enough with themselves to take the potential backlash that can sometimes come from not joining in.
This is why I say the way through these challenges is not by creating an enemy, judging their behaviour, and casting them out like many are doing, but instead by helping people question what they are doing and encouraging a culture of self-responsibility, empathy, and a deeper relationship with self. These sorts of conversations can be openly had, but it’s challenging because of our societal norms. Instead, our culture is often either that of the ‘toxic masculinity’ in question or that of extreme judgement towards unfavorable behaviours. Both are extremes, and neither help change the individual in a deep manner.
To be clear, any gender, any race and any person from a socio-economic class can take part in the disconnected behaviours mentioned above. It is not just men.
This is also where the nuance comes in. It’s important to recognize that not all men represent characteristics of “toxic masculinity.” Male pop culture might, and male pop culture does affect a certain subset of people, but it is not representative of the whole. This leads to my one small issue with the Gillette commercial. It, like many people today seem to be doing, is throwing the baby out with the bath water, i.e. not paying attention to nuance. In the case of #MeToo and this commercial, this behaviour does not apply to all men, perhaps not even to most men. We must remember that societal issues don’t apply to everyone within any particular subset of people, yet that is what people often focus on. This is also why so many enemies are being created. It’s like how some will view all Muslims as terrorists, for example.
Let’s recall the quote from Stefan Molyneux above, “The general leftist approach is that all disparities in group outcomes are the result of prejudice, of racism, of sexism, of colonialism, of exploitation of generally bad white male behaviour.” He is absolutely right in pointing out that the reasons for these things are not as simple as people want them to be, and thus we run in circles of extremes. I bring this point up not to turn the focus away from men, but because I actually care about seeing our culture change. I’ve spent enough time coming to understand that people have become outright extreme and misinformed about issues because we are too focused on an enemy and choosing sides. Thus, we have no clue where we actually stand. This is about changing how we live and operate as humans, not just of any particular race or gender.
If there are feelings of wanting to say or utilize some of the classic deflections of today including “easy for you to say from a white male privileged standpoint,” please save it. Let’s have the courage to have mature, grounded conversations, ones that can help us solve the challenges we face together.
If Not Careful, Our Unchecked Behaviour Divides Us
Like with any movement that begins, it often starts on a positive and helpful note. In this case, bringing awareness to sexual abuse of women is important to address. But the movement has come under fire to some extent as it appears to be going too far. The reasons for this include sweeping judgments, assumptions, and a lack of understanding of things that are said or what’s happening.
This has caused great divides amongst people whereby gender happens to be the card played when any issue is brought forth, even when gender truly has nothing to do with it. We are similarly seeing this with race.
This has given rise to grounded voices like Candace Owens, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, and Cassie Jaye, to name a few, who are discussing gender inequality in a way that is helping us to diagnose the problem more clearly and ultimately understand how to move forward. This is, of course, in contrast to the extremism out there where you begin to see women hating men or men hating women simply because we are always attempting to blame people for problems.
Cassie Jaye talks a lot about humanizing your ‘enemy.’ In her case, her enemy was males. As she discusses in her TEDx talk, when she released her movie The Red Pill, she received a great deal of backlash from feminists as her film explored The Men’s Right’s movement from her perspective as a feminist. As you might imagine, in her film, Cassie decided to go and speak to people directly. She learned about the people she was fighting against, and in some cases hated, only to realize that in most cases the issues and people involved were not quite who she thought they were.
She goes onto discuss that the greatest issue and challenge she faced was “having to peel back the layers of my own bias.” She goes deeper saying “it turned out I did meet my enemy while filming. It was my ego saying that I was right, and they were subhuman.”
Near the close of her talk she states “It’s no secret now that I no longer call myself a feminist, but I must clarify, I am not anti-feminist, and I am not a men’s rights activist. I still support women’s rights, and I now care about men’s rights as well. However, I believe if we want to honestly discuss gender equality, we need to invite all voices to the table. Yet this is not what is happening. Men’s groups are continually vilified, falsely referred to as hate groups and their voices are systematically silenced.”
The point here is not to pit men’s groups against women’s groups and see who is right, the point is that we have to stop creating sides and enemies. We instead must create a culture where we truly see one another beyond the physical realm. We also must see that in our own ways, we experience challenges from a system that truly does not support our growth.
When her film was released, the media entered into the popular groupthink of our modern times when it comes to gender politics, causing her to become one of the most hated filmmakers at the time. All she did in her film was explore the truth, beyond the fight of side vs side. She instead chose to see things for that they truly are, and this led to what I like to call an upheaval of emotions in viewers that struggle with neutral viewpoints, and instead are addicted to the fight and having an enemy.
This is where I believe many of us exist today. We live in a world where we’re encouraged to choose a side, accept limiting beliefs about what is going on, and ultimately become addicted to the drama of having an enemy to fight… even when they are not doing what you think they are doing.
What benefit truly comes from identifying as a certain form of activist? I’m not talking about simply saying “I’m an environmentalist” so people understand you care about the environment, I’m talking about when we identify so deeply as an environmentalist that we now filter everything we hear and learn through that lens, thus blocking us from not only hearing the truth but understanding where we stand as a collective. What benefit does that serve other than to show us what disconnection looks like?
I feel it’s time we pay attention to the nuance, the facts and the feelings within our hearts and stop working so hard to find or even create an enemy.