I have a Gillette razor. I intend to keep it and purchase more in the future. I like my razor and now I like the company even more. I also intend to keep my Nike shoes, but that’s another post.
I am having difficulty understanding the problem with the backlash to the recent Gillette commercial airing both on television, You Tube, and other media formats. As a man, husband, father of three sons, minister, author, and speaker concerning toxic masculinity.
I do understand that some might feel that our culture is attacking masculinity in general. Some of the responses I read, or watch, suggest that, in defense, masculinity can be positive. There seems to be a feeling that the ad is labeling all masculinity as toxic.
No one is disputing that masculinity can be healthy and valuable. What we believe is that there is a form of masculinity that is toxic. Toxic masculinity is a cultural view of masculinity that encourages males to oppresses/devalue females/femininity and other males who, according to the narrow cultural definition of masculinity, do not act like their definition of a real man. Unfortunately, those who exude toxic masculinity would have us believe that this is normal and healthy behavior practiced by males and endorsed by females.
Maybe my perspective is colored since this is an area where Lori and I have done so much work. We witness and experience the affects of toxic masculinity and understand the differences between it and healthy masculinity. Having served on task forces, councils, and committees with advocates, counselors, and law enforcement—none of us denied that males were involved in the majority of crimes against humans. The evidence seemed clear—men have been responsible for many, many, many of the world’s evils. Yet we knew that most males were not toxic, however they might turn a deaf ear to this behavior—assuming it was normal. We functioned relatively well knowing this information and understanding the difference between healthy and toxic masculinity. I don’t remember any of the males on these teams, myself included, feeling uncomfortable suggesting that, we as men can be better… I never felt judged for being the faith guy on the committee. We welcomed the advice and support from our female colleagues and rarely felt threatened by their partnership. Being married to a partner in this work has never made me feel attacked, defensive, or uncomfortable.
No one is claiming that all men are bad. We are only calling ourselves out, as men, to not only change behavior, but speak out and protect others. This is simply a call to be accountable as human beings.
- Is it right to take collective accountability for ourselves?
- Is it just to admit we are all part of the problem?
- Is it fair to take inventory of who we are and commit to being better?
Collective accountability was practiced by a great Biblical leader whom I have respected most of my life, Daniel. Here was a man, along with three friends, who became spiritual giants in the Hebrew Bible. The Judean nation was destroyed, due to their sin and rejection of their God, and thousands exiled to the world power of Babylon. In this city these young men were the ones to take a stand, refused to compromise their convictions, and modeled faithfulness to their God. Daniel’s integrity was displayed in his work with government officials and others who rejected his God and tried to attack his faith. If he is the one mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3, then his reputation spread even into Judean communities exiled throughout the world.
Yet as an older man this great leader did something remarkable. He confessed the sins of his people before God—stating, “We…” fourteen times in Daniel 9: 4-19. Fourteen times in this small section he prayed and repented for sins as “we,” (notice how many times he uses “our” and “us”). He didn’t point the finger at “them” or make a distinction by claiming, “not all of us sinned, or are sinners…” He did not suggest that “he had his act together, but others were the problem.” He simply accepted that, “We sinned and did wrong.” He wasn’t defensive, he was repentant because Daniel wanted to lead his people forward. This is what good leaders, good adults, and healthy men do.
As a Christian this seems obvious. Repentance is never about me—but about others. Unless men, leaders, and people of faith are willing to accept responsibility to change—we never will. In Daniel’s prayer, we are all guilty and change for “we” begins with me.
This is a rare quality in a leader. We live in a culture where some leaders point the finger at others, try to justify themselves or their sin, or fear that acknowledging weakness is unacceptable. This is far from the behavior of Daniel and it would be far from the behavior of any adult, including an adult male. Healthy Masculinity carries this quality.
An interesting note—it is appealing to God. At the end of Daniel’s prayer, God sent an angel to tell him stating that, “You are highly esteemed…” (Dan 9:23). As a Christian it is not only imperative to denounce toxic masculinity, it is pleasing to the God we serve.
We need more men like Daniel!