If You Were Triggered By That Gillette Ad, You're Part Of The Problem

Vultures' Row

An ad from Gillette blew up the Internet earlier this month. You've seen it. The one that says men need to do better. It strikes against bullying and sexual harassment...you know, toxic masculinity.

The usual vetflakes and emotionally fragile reactionaries immediately went into spasms of rage over the idea that a company was telling them that they shouldn't catcall women or let a kid get beaten by an unruly mob chasing him.

Some people are legitimately outraged by the idea that young men shouldn't be giving each other beatdowns. A not insignificant group feels seriously threatened by being told to be better.


To them, showing a parent correcting two boys having a fistfight in the middle of a barbecue is an attack against masculinity itself. If the behaviors depicted as negative in the ad are what you think masculinity is, then the issue isn't with the ad, it's with you.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) www.youtube.com

The Gillette ad only says the phrase "toxic masculinity" briefly in background audio, but that's clearly its target and the subject of the ensuing controversy.

Is attacking toxic masculinity the same as an attack on masculinity itself?

This is one of those instances when the popular military phrase "breaking it down Barney-style" seems appropriate. Yes, there are such things as masculinity and femininity, even today. Men and women are different, and thank God or whoever or whatever made it that way. Evolution gave us the thousands of objective biological differences that define masculinity and femininity.

Those aren't what triggered people about the Gillette ad. Our social definitions did.

There are hundreds of social rituals and signifiers of masculinity and femininity, from who does what in the home to who opens doors to who wears lacy underwear. Some of them are benign, some aren't, and they all change over time. They form our mental concepts of what masculine and feminine mean, giving structure and context to relationships between men and women. While some people accept that and others reject it, it's the world we live in.

Men are expected to show physical strength and take the initiative in approaching women. Men who do those things are regarded as more masculine, and are generally respected more for it. That's not right or wrong, it just is.

A problem comes when people think that if some of that behavior is good, more is better.

Being physically strong and standing up to bullies are positive examples of classic masculinity. Using that strength to bully others is toxic masculinity.

Taking the initiative and asking a woman to dance is masculine. Taking that initiative to catcall a woman is toxic masculinity.

Saying that those behaviors are toxic masculinity makes some people uncomfortable, or even angry. Those people are fools, liars, or both.

They say deliberately obtuse things like "So now it's toxic masculinity to compliment a woman?" That question is so inane that answering it sounds like explaining things to a slow child. Saying "You're so sexy" to your girlfriend is masculinity. Saying "You're so sexy" to a coworker is toxic masculinity.

The difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity isn't hard to understand, but many people conflate the two, and say that criticizing the worst men is the same as criticizing men generally.

If you feel that criticizing objectively bad behavior or telling men to do better is attacking you, then that's a comment on you, not on Gillette. If you know you don't behave like that, it's not directed at you. Move on.

But if you feel uncomfortable or resentful about that ad, you need to think long and hard about what you're doing and what you're teaching your children.

Don't wrap your guilt and dysfunction in some higher purpose by wrapping it in traditional values or patriotism, especially through stupid memes. The real male heroes of today and yesteryear aren't respected because of their masculinity, but because of the strong traits underlying it: courage and honor. When the strength that allows a man to stand up for others is used to degrade and exploit them instead, that's when it becomes weakness, and when positive masculinity becomes toxic.

While masculinity is an expression of strength, toxic masculinity is a symptom of weakness. No person of strong character is a bully or harasser. Maybe Gillette was trying to create social change. Maybe it was just trying to hock razors.

Either way, it separated the men from the boys pretending to be men.

Carl Forsling is a senior columnist for Task & Purpose. He is a Marine MV-22B pilot and former CH-46E pilot who retired from the military after 20 years of service. He is the father of two children and a graduate of Boston University and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @CarlForsling

SEE ALSO: A Draft Won't Fix The Civil-Military Divide — But This Plan Just Might

U.S. Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt, the outgoing commander of the 4th Fighter Wing, pilots an F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft over North Carolina May 29, 2014. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho)

WASHINGTON — Former Air Force and Navy fighter pilots are calling on the military to begin cancer screenings for aviators as young as 30 because of an increase in deaths from the disease that they suspect may be tied to radiation emitted in the cockpit.

"We are dropping like flies in our 50s from aggressive cancers," said retired Air Force Col. Eric Nelson, a former F-15E Strike Eagle weapons officer. He cited prostate and esophageal cancers, lymphoma, and glioblastomas that have struck fellow pilots he knew, commanded or flew with.

Read More Show Less

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials are warning soldiers and military families to be aware of scammers using the Exchange's logo.

In a news release Wednesday, Exchange officials said scammers using the name "Exchange Inc." have "fooled" soldiers and airmen to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and boat engines.

Read More Show Less

KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.

The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.

Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.

The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.

In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea

Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.

The couple flew the flag of Puerto Rico on the garage of their Kissimmee home. It ticked off the homeowners association.

Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."

Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.

Read More Show Less