A Neomasculist Defence of Gillette

I write this article with a heavy heart, a subtle sense of dismay. Never in the world did I imagine myself writing in the defense of a shaving brand. Sigh. Yet, here we are: stuck at gender. In the eleventh hour of existential risks and issues of unimaginable scope, we’re at junior high. We suddenly turn away from terrifying depths, wuthering heights and expanding horizons… to consider dicks and pussies and gender identity. And cheap commercials and shaving. But if that’s where we’re at, so be it.

“If we are going for mass extinction, let’s not do it because we got distracted by our junior high issues.”

Okay, let’s go through this, but then let’s be done with it and be on to something at least vaguely dignified. If we are going for mass extinction, let’s not do it because we got distracted by our junior high issues. Let’s go down with a *little* more dignity, shall we? Finest hour, anyone? How’s that for manhood.

The Video that Shook the World of Men

By now, my readers will know the story: the razor brand Gillette (not really a good-guy company by “politically correct” standards, charging women more for equal products, etc., owned by Swiss giant Procter & Gamble) released a video with a “progressive man” message, commenting on the #metoo movement. The ad also depicts some not-very-masculine boys and adolescents as protagonists. The ad was made by some left-leaning women in marketing. Here’s the video:

This video has been viewed and felt as highly offensive by many men and some (chiefly conservative) women. At the moment is has a million dislikes on YouTube (vs .6 million likes). A boycott was issued, folks filmed themselves throwing away Gillette products. News pundits exploded. YouTuber commentators exploded – among them Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan (or the latter rather laughed at the issue and said it was “disturbing”). There are many more. This is what I hear them saying:

* The commercial is anti-male (misandrist), depicting all men as bad and masculinity as inherently negative.
* The commercial is patronizing to men by explaining to us how we should be.
* The commercial is preaching obvious and boring things.
* It’s not the place of a shaving company to carry forward norms of society.
* The commercial tells it wrong, men don’t speak for women; rather it’s the other way around.

So first thing’s first. What do I feel when I watch it?

Nothing really. Neutral. Slight positive because it lifts some issues such as bullying and sexual harassment. Slight disgust at capitalist opportunism disguised as idealism. Thinking I’ve seen all of the situations in the ad and do recognize that most men in most situations do indeed not stand up and call folks out. Still it all comes out a bit silly, as commercials generally do.

“To the offended party: I think you’re all wrong, folks.”

To the offended party: I think you’re all wrong, folks. And I think that your reaction says more about yourselves than about the commercial. I think you are exact equivalents of the non-constructive, bitter, bitchy kinds of feminists and anti-racists whose toes are always perpetually stepped upon by one wrong word, some naked skin, one commercial or another.

I’m calling you out, guys: you’re being over-sensitive. You’re taking part in a silly hysteria.

Over-Sensitive Machos vs. Science

Let’s look at the points of critique:

* The commercial is anti-male (misandrist), depicting all men as bad and masculinity as inherently negative.

Actually, no. It says men can be both good and bad, and that being good sometimes requires you to question yourself and to stand up against the behavior of other men. That’s the vision offered of a positive masculinity.

The fact that so many men interpret the video as an offense on all masculinity, rather reveals that they are being touchy and misunderstanding things.

* The commercial is patronizing to men by explaining to us how we should be.

Actually, yes. But so are all the other commercials telling us to be top-athlete studs and that we should shave and have thick jaws. So people basing their critique on this criterion cannot be genuine, unless they have also criticized and been offended by the former Gillette commercials.

* The commercial is preaching obvious and boring things.

Yes. And still, that’s how norms work. That’s sociology 101. You repeat obvious things and link them to desirable traits. Joe Rogan says that’s not how society works, and he is exactly wrong, as can and has been demonstrated in empirical science. Quote:

“We posited that media images of men influence the gender role attitudes that men express soon after exposure to the images. A total of 212 men (87% European American, 7% Asian or Asian American, 3% African American, and 3% other) viewed magazine advertisements containing images of men that varied in terms of how traditionally masculine vs. androgynous they were and whether the models were the same age or much older than the viewers. Men who had initially been less traditional espoused more traditional attitudes than any other group after exposure to traditionally masculine models, although they continued to endorse relatively nontraditional views after exposure to androgynous models. These findings suggest that nontraditional men’s gender role attitudes may be rather unstable and susceptible to momentary influences such as those found in advertising.”

And no, it’s not obvious to the world population. Quote from UN report:

It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Evidence shows that women who have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence report higher rates of depression, having an abortion and acquiring HIV, compared to women who have not.

And yes, changed attitudes can actually and truly reduce violence against women (as well as other violence, bullying and sexual harassment).  WHO-reports have been written about it (see p. 8).

Hence, empirical science is firmly on the side of the Gillette ad and on the opposite side of the sea of whining men. Currently at 22 million views, if you do the math, this commercial has been watched by the “world-soul” roughly one full human life-time, including sleep. And it will no doubt be watched many more lifetimes. Given the predictive suggestions of science, it may well be the case that it has already saved a truckload of girls from getting harassed, battered or raped.

* It’s not the place of a shaving company to carry forward norms of society.

Okay, so this one is a bit more serious. Should commercials tell us what to do and whom to be in the first place? Perhaps not. But if I have to choose between ones saying we should be sensitive and brave (as this one) and being athletic studs (most others), I prefer this one.

“I expect some angry reactions now and some ad hominems (pomo, low-stage, daddy issues, soy-boy, disembodied, keep ‘em comin’).”

* The commercial tells it wrong, men don’t speak for women; rather it’s the other way around.

This was pointed out by Ben Shapiro, based on anecdotal experience and by other observers as well. Again, science says the opposite with very strong and consistent figures.

Anyway, touché guys. I expect some angry reactions now and some ad hominems (pomo, low-stage, daddy issues, soy-boy, disembodied, keep ‘em comin’). Which is also what happens when you go after hysterical non-productive feminism. Can’t you see that you, self-proclaimed masculists, are the mirror image of the latter? Come on boys, prove me right.

Postfeminism /// Neomasculism

What would then be a productive, healthy, masculine reaction?

Frankly – to just not care about a stupid commercial. To be man enough to work to save the world. Shaved or not.

The pathology revealed by what can only be described as the disproportionate and inappropriate public response to this ad is not, however, as most feminists will claim, misogyny. No, it runs much deeper than that.

We need a wide large-scale project of personal development on the behalf of boys and men, in order to get into step with the new economy, the new woman – and new gender identities – arriving on the world stage. What we are seeing, I believe, is an expression of how powerless men feel in this strange new wonderland. And when we feel powerless, we get stingy and over-sensitive. This pathology runs right through – and marks – the current men’s movement. Unfortunately. It’s simply not a good grade for them. We need a much better men’s movement than that. That, if anything, is what the Gillette debacle has revealed.

I am only comfortable with a postfeminist position *if* it successfully transcends and includes feminism – in particular the undeniable and empirical aspects of inequality and relations between the genders. Otherwise it isn’t real postfeminism. The proof that the folks offended by the ad weren’t true postfeminists? None of them bothered to check if the world actually *does* work according to the assumptions of this ad. Which it does. More proof? Their message is indistinguishable from that of the classical conservatives. How much is this post-anything? And how much is it simply social conservatism? Nothing wrong with it, but that’s what it is.

“I want us to move towards a “neomasculist” position, one that *is* tough and manly but is still friends with feminism.”

I want us to move towards a “neomasculist” position, one that *is* tough and manly but is still friends with feminism. One that doesn’t get “offended” at every corner, isn’t over-sensitive. One that lifts itself, by virtue of character and understanding, above the trench wars of the gender issues and identity politics at large. One that lands in a paradigm of emotional and sexual development.

This issue is addressed in my upcoming book, Nordic Ideology. Feminism and masculism need one another. They are two sides of the same equation. And several commentators have pointed out, including the philosopher Slavoj Žižek and the online media channel Rebel Wisdom (edit: link was provided by commentator) that if there is “toxic masculinity”, it cannot be *all* 10 000 years of traditional masculinity, and there should logically be such a thing as “toxic femininity”. I agree. And I’m not that fond of the term, toxic masculinity, because it makes it sound like being macho would always be a bad thing.

I’m not siding with the male-bashing here: just asking more of the men’s reactions. This wasn’t real male-bashing and these reactions aren’t appropriate. And more of the men’s movement in general. If folks want me to do it, I will even take a break from other activities and write a short book on a new (metamodern) view of gender and sexuality: Postfeminism /// Neomasculism would be the working title.

I realize that I tease a bit in this article. But I think, frankly, that these affronted men should be able to take it. If you are furious right now, please do stop and think of why. Be honest. Feel your body. I can only make you mad if I hit your insecurities. What makes you tick so? The answer is in there. That’s a teacher better than any shaving commercial.

Hey, I’m treating you like men by telling it straight. Straight talk is not condescending if it’s true and productive. And frustrations aren’t always bad. Neither are conflicts. I say, such a neomasculist approach is indeed the best a man can get.

So, affronted party of un-Gillette-shaved machos – what have you got? 

***

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, and the upcoming books ‘Nordic Ideology’ and ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of World History’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his Facebook profile here.

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2 thoughts on “A Neomasculist Defence of Gillette

2 comments
  1. This advert is a disgraceful nonsense propaganda catering for obnoxious feminists.
    It is simple: When advertising and brands smoothly translate consumers habits into moral pin-ups lessons morality becomes pure virtue signaling.

    Let’s put it this way. There are bad men, there are average men, not good, not bad, just average, and then there are good men. The same applies to women. What the advert is trying to tell us is that the average men are bad. Unless this is factually proven the advert is over generalizing.

    This advert pretend to be targeting a few “bad apples” in the men pool, but you will have to be naive not to see that there are only a few “heroes” men willing to “save” the large number of men suffering from toxic masculinity. Again, this advert is just unacceptable and gross propaganda.

    See this advert about the same and let me know if you see the difference. https://youtu.be/et3j-ZsZ-k8

    And by the way you can find below a reaction that is strongly disagreeing with the advert and is not “over-sensitive or part of any a silly hysteria.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnWB8_HPHkY&fbclid=IwAR2g9YyU_xskhTBbrV-48I8806Zz_Zvj6gKZEZNcW557-UojzgcchzLN0Po

  2. I really enjoyed the article. It started me thinking about the relevance of a “both-and” approach to gender ideologies, that maybe after reasonable investigation, both men and women might necessarily consider themselves masculists and feminists simultaneously.

    I am just curious about one small element of your argument; that these issues are reminiscent of “junior high” relative to all the perhaps ‘college level’ issues of nanotech, AI, global warming etc. It seemed a flippant dismissal of the role of non-linearity. I would argue that approaching a deeper understanding of our fellow collaborators through (in this case) gender issues, we might resolve some of the psychic tension in the world soul and make for better communication during the attempt to resolve those 11th hour issues.