Feminism and Love, Politics and Love, Uncategorized

Why I Love Men, and I Also Need the Gillette Commercial: My #MeToo Moment in the Park This Summer

Inspired by the #MeToo movement, Gillette recently made a commercial urging men to hold other men accountable about behaving better towards women.

A lot of folks freaked out about it. Some suggested that Gillette is portraying all men as evil. Other argued that men are persecuted culturally and that Gillette is trying to turn men into girls or to emasculate men (You can watch the commercial here and some of the responses here and here.)[1]

Image result for MeToo Gillette ad pictures

I watched the ad and read the backlash about it today. The first thought that came to my mind was this: “I love men, AND I really need this Gillette commercial.”  And that is what this post is about.

First, I want to say why I love men.

Men are Awesome

I love men because my whole life I have been surrounded by men who encourage me, support me, mentor me, believe in me, and help me to grow in my confidence and capabilities. This has made a profound difference in my life. (You can read more about this here and  here.)

I love men because I have been married to my husband for 22 years, and he is amazing. He consistently encourages, loves, and cares for me. He makes me laugh pretty much every day. I would not be who I am today without him, and I cannot imagine my world without him.

I love men because I know so many mature, healthy, good men who care for the world, just like I do, but who also often look at it from a unique perspective. I learn a great deal from listening to them, and I am so grateful for the way they listen to and learn from me.

Given that I love men, it may seem odd that I would say that I need the Gillette commercial. But I do. To explain why, let me tell you about this summer.

Walking Adventures and Misadventures

If you have been following my blog, you may know that this summer, I took up long-distance walking. I walk in a lot of different places, but one of the places is an arboretum near my house with a two-mile track.

I started walking there regularly this summer and fell in love with it. In fact, I loved it so much that I started walking for hours there daily. If you had seen me walking this summer, you probably would have seen a big, euphoric grin on my face.

Arboretum #10

Like this

I loved being outside, looking at the trees, and just feeling good about myself.

Because I was walking there so often, I started to see other people who were walking regularly, too. Some of them started saying “hi” to me, and I started saying “hi” back.

That’s how I started saying “hi” to this one guy–I’ll call him Lou. (Primarily because I don’t know any men named Lou, so it’s a useful pseudonym for this post). Anyhow Lou and I saw each other regularly and started saying “hi”. I thought we were just being friendly. And then one day, we exchanged names. I still thought we were just being friendly.

And then one day Lou stopped me and started a conversation, and in the middle of the conversation, I suddenly realized that Lou was suggesting indirectly (but pretty clearly) that we should go somewhere and hook up.

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Of course, I declined and walked away from him.

I was so shocked that this had happened that the occurrence just seemed comical and bizarre–just some weird thing that happened with some weird guy. I brushed off the event and assumed that was it.

But it wasn’t.

I kept seeing Lou, and he kept getting more aggressive until I ditched walking at the park for a few weeks and then changed my walking schedule to avoid seeing him altogether. And unfortunately, this didn’t happen with just Lou. A similar thing happened with another guy in the park, and it almost happened with a third. (Until I changed my MO—read on).

Why is this happening to me? I asked myself. Like pretty much all women, I have received unwanted attention from males sometimes in the past. But this was on a whole new level. Why is this happening now?

The only thing I could figure out was that it was because I was walking by myself in the park regularly for long periods of time, and I was happy and smiling. After I figured this out, I changed my MO. I wore sunglasses, I stopped looking people in the eyes, and I stopped smiling.

I shared my experience with a girlfriend later, and she said, “Yeah, look down. Just don’t make eye contact.”

I thought, Wait a minute? Isn’t this the U.S.? I thought it was just other countries where women have to avoid making eye contact with men for their own safety.

Oh, and by the way, this unwanted attention happened less frequently after I changed my MO, but it still happened.

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I will smite thee, Inappropriate Park Dudes.

I Get Pretty Angry

The more I thought about my experience, the angrier I felt. Walking in the park was incredibly beneficial for me this summer. It gave me more confidence; it helped me feel stronger; it made me be healthier; and it inspired more good habits.

And yet, at one point I was afraid to walk in the park and had to change my walking schedule drastically because some guys decided that because I was by myself walking in the park smiling and saying “hi”, the logical conclusion was probably that I wanted to sleep with them.

I am generally a pacifist, but I am considering taking up some sort of martial art so that I can feel safer when I walk long distances.

After this event happened, I struggled feeling safe as a woman in a public space–especially a woman feeling free and joyful by herself in a public space. And this reminded me of other instances when I have not felt safe being a woman in public spaces.

I remembered becoming a teenager and wearing really baggy clothes because I didn’t like the unwanted attention my developing body drew from some strangers.

I remember one day in college, I got a plaid skirt and a turtleneck. It was by no means tight but was tighter than my usual baggy styles. I felt so cute and stylish in my new outfit. I walked into my college cafeteria and went to sit with some of my friends. A guy I didn’t know was with them. He looked at my chest and said, “You have really nice…um…shoulders.”

I remember feeling violated and like it wasn’t safe for me to feel joyful and free in my body.

And there was that one time I was flying on an airplane. I briefly smiled and spoke to the guy sitting next to me when he handed me a glass of water I had requested from the stewardess. “Thank you” was the extent of my comments. He then struck up a seemingly innocent conversation, and I thought, What a nice guy. That was until his comments and questions suddenly became increasingly personal and intimate. When I got off the plane, I remember putting on a black jacket, putting up my hair and donning sunglasses, taking off my earrings, and blending into the crowd as quickly as I could.

And this is why I need the Gillette commercial I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

I need the Gillette commercial not because all men are jerks but because historically there has been a power imbalance between men and women, and it has led to toxic thought and behavior patterns called patriarchy, which some people still exhibit today.

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Patriarchy has conditioned many people to think that masculinity is superior to femininity and that femaleness is weak, less intelligent, and less capable. This narrative also teaches that male ideas and contributions are more important than female ones.

Patriarchy has also conditioned many people to think that women exist primarily to please men, to serve them, and to be sexually available to them.

In addition, patriarchy has conditioned some people to believe that real men relate to the world in two primary ways: through sex and aggression. Because of this, many men still struggle today to see women as people rather than sexual objects which they can obtain through conquest.

I need the Gillette commercial because it’s little things like that commercial that undermine patriarchy and change societal values. It’s things like this that make it safer for me and for girls and women everywhere to be confident, joyful females in public spaces doing cool things–like walking in the park.

Patriarchy Still Exists

We are slowly moving past patriarchy and correcting the imbalance of power. But patriarchy still exists today, and it still hurts men and women.

Men and boys are still too often mocked today for being too sensitive and are still too often encouraged to shut down their feelings. They are still too often taught that sex and aggression are the only appropriate masculine emotional expressions.

Girls and women are still too often threatened physically or sexually just for being women in public spaces. They are still too often taught that they only have worth in reference to men and that their main goal is to be pleasing to men.

We still too often excuse powerful leaders who cheat on their pregnant wives with porn stars and boast about grabbing women by the genitals. We still seem to think this behavior is okay as long as these leaders ensure our financial prosperity.

These patterns are slowly changing, but they only change through people speaking out against them like people are doing in the #MeToo movement and through different forms of media influence like the Gillette commercial.

I watched the Gillette commercial today, and to be honest, it made me feel a little safer being a woman in the world. The message in that commercial communicates the values of the men in my life who have encouraged, supported, and inspired me. Every girl and every woman should have that gift, and all men have the capability of being that awesome.

*****

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[1] Some people are criticizing the commercial for using the #MeToo movement to profit financially. This accusation may be accurate, but I am not going to address that issue in this post.

19 thoughts on “Why I Love Men, and I Also Need the Gillette Commercial: My #MeToo Moment in the Park This Summer”

  1. This is such a well-written piece. I am so sorry to read about your experience in the park, but this sadly rings true. I had never really thought about it before, but a woman looking joyful and at ease is often interpreted as a one-on and this is incredibly sad and must change. I used to love dancing in nightclubs when I was younger. The last time I did this ( six or seven years ago) I was horrified and repulsed by how many men took my dancing as an excuse to invade my space, get their heads in my face or even rub up against me. It put me off ever going to a club again. We shouldn’t expect or accept this; it does a disservice to ourselves and men, who CAN control themselves and who are just like us when society expects this.

    1. This is so true, Ali! And that is what my experience this summer taught me. It became vividly clearly to me that while 95% of the men in my life are kick-ass, award-deserving awesome, there are 5% of men I meet in the world who make women feel unsafe being alive and female in a public space. I will not tolerate this. I will not have my femaleness or that of other women squashed and abused. That is why I am so appreciate of that commercial. I feel like I have more allies in the world today.

  2. This is a wonderful post Shelly.

    Sadly the behaviour of the men you describe impoverishes all of us. Men as well as women.

    Perhaps, as a man with many female friends, I am oversensitive, but I find myself having to change my innocent behaviour so as not to alarm women.

    For example: If I find myself walking behind a woman on the secluded path to our local shop I turn round and go round the long way (a mile rather than 200 yards) rather than worry her. But why should I have to?

    All men sadly get tarred with the same brush because a few behave like morons.

    1. Friend, I am so, so sorry for the way Patriarchy crushes and harms you, too. You wonderfully illustrate one of the reasons I hate patriarchy so much: as I have mentioned, I love men, and I hate seeing what patriarchy does to the men in my life. The way it turns some men into predators who then make women suspicious of all the wonderful men I know–men like you. It is so good of you to be sensitive to how women feel, but I am sorry you must go to such lengths to alter your innocent behavior so that they don’t feel uncomfortable. Let’s work together to make the world safer and kinder for all of us.

  3. I’m so glad you addressed this. I have heard people complain about the ad, but I think it’s a good thing. Just hearing that message in mainstream media can start a conversation that will help us grow and mature as a society. Thanks for the post!

  4. This is a great post.

    One thing that scares me about some of the reaction to the Gillette commercial is that many have labeled it as their being too “politically correct.” If something as basic as anti-bullying, anti-sexual harassment, anti-mansplaining is considered “too PC” we’re in trouble. ?

    1. Brendan, I deeply sympathize with this comment. It really troubles me when people dismiss something just because it sounds “politically correct”. Frequently what is termed politically correct discourse is pointing out a really important injustice we need to address in society. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      1. I wholeheartedly agree with you. More people need to recognize that what’s “politically correct” is often what is really the right thing to do. Thanks for writing!!!

      1. You guys are great. Thanks, Friends! Also, criticisms of political correctness really interest me, and I have written several posts on it. I have included some below, in case they are of interest, because they are right in line with what you are saying.

        https://shellypruittjohnson.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/on-the-common-and-misleading-statement-im-just-telling-it-like-it-is/

        https://shellypruittjohnson.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/why-everyone-is-politically-correct-and-no-one-is-politically-correct-why-the-phrase-politically-correct-is-unhelpful-and-misleading/

        1. Just had a quick read of these and they are terrific and they do indeed reflect my views.

          Thank you for your kind words too. I am not perfect though. I admit to feeling offended sometimes by perfectly logical self-protection tactics that women are forced to use.
          I travel on public transport and it is quite interesting from this perspective – women never sitting next to me etc. The one that really upset me was when a little girl and her mum got on. The bus was busy and there were no double seats available. The girl happily sat next to me. Then her mother yelled at her ‘Don’t sit next to a MAN’. I was mortified.
          It is easy in these circumstances to blame women for this behaviour without looking at why they feel the need to do this.

  5. I’m both angry and sad to hear about your experiences at the Arboretum friend. Thanks for putting it into words for us. The power of the patriarchy is revealed by the pushback against the ad, particularly using the tired trope #notallmen, when the ad clearly shows that not all men accept “boys will be boys” behavior. And I relate to ArtyPlantsman’s comment above – I continue to adjust behavior I might once have considered simply to be friendly in order to not make women feel uncomfortable or threatened. One way I’m trying to love my neighbor as myself.

    1. Sean, thank you so much for your anger and sympathy. I really disliked that this happened to me, but I was also grateful yesterday because writing this post helped me to relieve some of my discomfort. It also helped me articulate why I both adore men and also want to destroy the patriarchy. I am so sorry you have had to modify your behavior, too, and I also thank you for it because it is men like you who help make the world safer for women.

  6. I’m so sorry about what happened in the park 🙁 I know how much the walking has helped you and made you happy and it breaks my heart that you had to be afraid and make changes for your safety. I’m not brave enough to share any of my #metoo experiences online, but I so salute the women who are. May we all work for a world where everyone can feel loved and safe.

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