By Simone Delochan, firstname.lastname@example.org
The week of January 13 to 21 was a particularly active week on social media with two things trending: the ‘confrontation’ between the white teenager and an elderly Native American man (and we are still not sure whom to believe) and a Gillette advertisement which was released on January 13.
The ad, briefly, explores the idea of toxic masculine behaviours—bullying, sexual harassment, mansplaining—and how men themselves can stop their brothers when enacting these; the tagline is ‘The best men can be’. Upon its release the comment sections on Facebook and YouTube went crazy, literally. The ad on Gillette’s channel garnered, at the point of writing this, 1.2 million dislikes and 709, 000 likes.
Opinion—not dissimilar to the way people feel about cats—was divided between absolutely hating the ad or absolutely loving it. Women and some men were in full support. Others felt that Gillette was merely being opportunistic, tagging what was formerly a hypermasculine approach to their ads to the #MeToo movement. Overwhelmingly, other men called for a boycott of the company because of the attack on men and the perceived generalisation that toxic masculinity defines what all men are.
One comment reads: Just curios, is it ok now to… Make ads telling single mothers not to raise psychopaths? Make ads telling black community to stop selling drugs? Make ads telling women not to take men’s kids off them in custody battles? No, that’s all not okay… but this is? Right. I get it.
And I heaved a sigh at how incredibly complicated gender relations have become.
A few years ago, I was introduced to the Men’s Human Rights Movement (or MRM as it is familiarly known) by a close friend. The MRM activist he introduced me to was Karen Straughan and her video, ‘Feminism and the Disposable Male’. I can’t say that I disagreed with anything she said and it is worth a watch.
At that time, I descended into the rabbit hole of MRM activism, and saw, when I walked (metaphorically) in men’s loafers how this also-essential gender for world functioning, has been feeling in a context where a toxic type of feminism has emerged (Third Wave feminism).
Then things got difficult for me with the subsets: the PUAs (pick-up artists); the INCELS (involuntary celibates); the labelling of other men who support feminism as ‘manginas’ and ‘white knights’ etc, indeed calling their masculinity into question.
On the side of contemporary feminism, I saw equally toxic behaviours. The MRM in Canada held a forum in 2015 to discuss male suicide (which is an important issue) and a feminist group—men and women—protested, hurling imprecations and blocking men who were attempting to attend. One in particular stood out, known as ‘Big Red’, Chanty Binx was filmed verbally abusing attendees and decrying men and the movement.
You can tell when a feminist is writing about the MRM; the language used dismisses any concern men have, either with female behaviour or a court system which can place men in a disadvantaged position with regard to divorce and family matters. Trinidad and Tobago’s own Single Father’s Association was formed out of the court inequities. The underlying feminist arguments against the MRM is their representation of a privileged patriarchal system that has long oppressed women.
Then we have the SJWs, the Social Justice Warriors, who highlight and protest any evidence of male privilege in all spheres. They have been become associated with radical feminism. For the MRM, they are troublemakers and represent the worst of feminism; to feminism, they are essential in highlighting the many areas of ‘male privilege’ taken for granted.
It is exhausting but don’t think that the ostensibly non-aligned remain untouched because there appears to be a growing group of cis-gendered men and women (that is when sexual orientation/gender identification matches the biological sex you were born with) utterly disinterested in pursuing long-term relationships out of a burgeoning distrust—and disgust—with their hetero counterparts. Thus emerges the ‘hook-up’ culture. Sometimes, I feel as though civilisation just needs a complete reboot.
I had a 14-year-old female, a self-proclaimed supporter of LGBTQI rights comment that she felt feminists were attempting to make men irrelevant. Fourteen! And I thought about the complex world of social relationships our children are growing up in: having to identify whether they are ‘cis-gendered’ or gay; seeing and hearing the mutual suspicion between men and women; reading about sexual harassment and abuse etc. Can you imagine how overwhelming and confusing (whether they would admit as such) these are to them?
The conversation I had with the young girl and her friend afforded the opportunity to discuss the Catholic position on sex, marriage, gay rights and then I asked the question: Don’t you all discuss these kinds of things in your Religious Education classes? The answer was ‘No!’.
This generation of children are even more digital natives than their millennial counterparts and they are eager to discuss what one generation may term ‘grown-up topics’. But this is what they are exposed to and guidance is necessary at every point; these topics can no longer be taboo in a Church setting. The ultimate lessons, which have to be conveyed are respect and the value of listening and sensible discussion.
The Church’s ‘Theology of the Body’ is useful to any teaching of sexuality, and to help concerned parents along, check out Christopher West on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0mX8cyrCQY.