Posted by Damo
“Boys will be boys. Boys will be boys.” Children getting pushed around, men pinching womens’ butts, objectifying them, mansplaining, the #MeToo movement, and more were featured in Gillette’s latest advertisement, titled We Believe. Gillette’s attempt to address these issues was commendable, and they received their fair share of praise.
However, social media was ablaze with insecure men (which is a lot of men) seething with anger and flushing razors down their toilets. How dare a company that caters to men try to support a women’s movement? How dare a company tell them how to live their life? Stop bullying each other? Stop objectifying women? Start holding other men accountable? What outlandish expectations.
Digging Up My Past
All sarcasm aside, the content of We Believe hit closer to home than I was comfortable with. My imagination drew parallels between the video and my own life, and I felt repressed old memories stirring in the darkness of my mind. It’s exceptionally hard for me to write this because I actively tried to forget most of the experiences I had in my transformative years, but my hope is that this will be a means of catharsis for me. I also hope that anyone who reads this and relates to it, finds comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone in their struggles.
Also read: Boyhood And The Dangers Of Toxic Masculinity
As a kid, I heard the same mantras recited around me as everyone else – Boys don’t cry. Keep your hair short. Only girls cry. Don’t play with girls. Boys. Don’t. Cry. I internalised what I was told, and for the longest time, I never ever questioned it. I got into fights, I called other boys girly or gay to assert my own superiority, I laughed at every emotion that a boy expressed, and I suppressed all of my own feelings. Somewhere along the line though, a switch flipped.
A Wayward Friendship
In 10th grade, I took decided that I would cycle to school everyday instead of taking the school bus. One of the girls in my class took the public bus home instead of the school bus, and often walked alone till the bus stop. Since the path to the bus stop wasn’t very scenic, and cycling wasn’t the most captivating of activities in a congested city, we soon started walking together. The teachers tried to segregate the boys and girls, and we rarely had the space to interact. Even when we did, we were surrounded by our peers and I had to keep up my manly act, so the other boys would think I was cool.
I internalised what I was told, and for the longest time, I never ever questioned it.
But, between the school gate and the bus stop, I finally had the space to come out of my shell. Every single girl I had met before this, I had thought of them as lesser than me. Girls were either girlfriends or enemies, and there was no in-between. But this one girl, she lent me the space I needed to open up, and I could finally just be myself. This seems like such an insignificant thing but it was a pivotal moment in my life. The fact is that very few boys get this kind of space at all in their lives. Many of those who do will ignore the opportunity because of the toxic masculinity they’ve internalised.
I Don’t Want to Be Masculine, Mom!
My high school years were full of sexual exploration that I carefully hid from my family. I questioned the gender roles around me, and I questioned my sexuality. I realised that the words that my family considered taboo were the words that described me the best. I met more people like myself that didn’t want to fit into conventional gender roles, and I unlearned all the toxicity that society had filled me with.
I won’t lie though. I wasn’t perfect, and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. It took a very long time for me to stop objectifying women, and I was still extremely wary of the queer community. My queer friends were few and far between at the time, and I often still used queer terms and slurs as insults Careful discourse and introspection helped me understand where I was going astray, and I did my best to correct myself.
Today I’m a male presenting 20 year old, but it’s not always by choice. Mother would throw tantrums because I’d borrow eyeliner at school and put it on, and I’d sometimes return home without washing it off. I’d be met with stonewalled silence from my father. I was reprimanded by schools, colleges, and my relatives for having long hair. I was sexually harassed on an SETC bus. I’ve been catcalled countless times, and I obviously don’t feel very welcome at home either. My own brother, in response to my telling him I was writing about Gillette’s ad, said, “What a buttload of nonsense dude.” He then proceeded to send me a ‘meme’ with the express intent of triggering me. True kinship.
Toxic masculinity still pervades my life, but I am making every effort I can to fight it.
Toxic masculinity still pervades my life, but I am making every effort I can to fight it. My parents refuse to rethink their archaic beliefs and therefore I have no choice but to move on and construct a new life for myself. I’ve figured out that I’m non-binary and bisexual, even though I’m hiding it under a cover until the day I leave my home. And on that wonderful day, I will scream good riddance.
In Addition, Capitalism Sucks
While I agree with the main message of the ad campaign, we must not forget that we are dealing with a capitalist, multinational organisation. Gillette has had its fair share of controversy with issues such as the pink tax, extreme price markups, and their business ties with Wilmar – a company that has been probed for child labour and illegal deforestation.
Gillette must be criticised for promoting such things in the First World, while being complicit in the exploitation of children and natural resources in other countries. All patriarchal structures must be torn down, regardless of who they are affecting.
Featured Image Source: Irish Times