I’m four episodes deep into the Mon Men podcast, which means every week this month I’ve heard the Pokemon theme song in Finnish, Spanish, French, and now Hindi several times over. In every language, the opening refrain of “I wanna be the best” is unmistakable against the crashing sound of the music. This morning, Gillette unveiled a new ad campaign redefining what the best of men means, or rather what that should mean.
Naturally, because the world is a reasonable place, there are plenty of men responding with ire to this message. How dare Gillette expect them to be better? How dare this company promote a notion of men “castrating” themselves for the sake of others. It’s funny, because I was raised to view kindness and compassion, especially the opportunity to stand up for others as opportunities to prove manliness, not the opposite.
I said a lot during 2016’s campaign where so much ugliness got “drummed up to the surface” that I felt like until that year a lot of us had been laughing at the same jokes, but we were finally realizing that we were laughing for very different reasons. The #MeToo movement and other frank discussions about racial and religious tolerance in America have made it all too clear that there are very discordant ideas on what America’s ideals and freedoms represent, and subsequently what threatens them.
According to Steve King, America is white. It’s Western European derived. People that don’t look, behave, and speak in line with that heritage are a threat.
According to the men railing against Gillette for it’s ad campaign, manliness is tough, hard, violent, and entitled (lest we forget this gem from the Brett Kavanaugh hearings in defense of the fact that Kavanaugh got in a bar fight):
What I want to get at here is that these are all vain and hollow. If your ideal of masculinity or America is purely an image, it’s hollow. It’s a straw man that’ll burn up like so much tinder. What Gillette manages, even in a small way, is to challenge men to find actual values from which to comprise their masculinity.
Masculinity is not violence, indifference, or cruelty in the name of toughness. Masculinity is courage to stand in defense of someone who is being objectified or mistreated. Masculinity is the strength to stop a fight, rather than stand idly by, and it’s the coolness of head to restrain yourself from throwing punches wildly.
America is not white. It is not Christian. It is not English speaking. It is not isolationist. America is freedom of speech. America is freedom of religion. America is unity and knowing that together we are stronger than we are alone- both as individuals and as a nation among the world.
I keep hearing the words every week I edit my podcast, in different languages: I wanna be the best. I think Gillette really threw down the gauntlet and we should all continue throwing down that gauntlet: we need to be the best, and that doesn’t mean an image, it means real impactful virtue, morality, and courage.