Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sensitive Skin

The latest brouhaha in our ongoing culture wars is over believe it or not, a commercial for razors. As a response to the #MeToo Movement, the Gillette Company has released a new ad putting a twist on an age-old theme, by putting the words "Is this..." in front of "...the best a man can get" followed by a question mark. The ad addresses what has been referred to in the media as "toxic masculinity" which includes bullying, hyper-aggressive behavior, and disrespect of women, among other shall we say lapses of common decency, to put it mildly.

One might think that no one in their right mind would openly support bullying, the mistreatment of women and general bad behavior. Given that, it's hard to imagine that anyone could seriously have a problem with this commercial. But opponents of this ad, and there are many, claim to be truly offended by the "man slamming" they infer from it. Not surprising is that most of the words of protest over the ad can be found in venues that can depended upon to air unquearioning support for a certain president. Borrowing vocabulary from the other side, the offended parties, including some women such as Karol Markowicz of the New York Post, claim that the commercial is filled with stereotypes which unfairly use a broad brush to paint all men as degenerate bullies and sexual predators. She goes on to compare the objections to this ad to objections of "body slamming" several women had a few years ago to a print ad for a dietary supplement showing a trim, bikini-clad woman accompanied by copy that read: "Are You Beach Body Ready?" For the life of me I don't get the connection between the supposed "man-slamming" of the Gillette ad and the very real "body-slamming" of the vitamin ad as there is a world of difference between admonishing reprehensible behavior and admonishing not having an ideal body.

Funny but as a man, after having seen the Gillette commercial, I did not get the impression that the company is implying all men including me are slime, far from it. The truth is, being a member of the male persuasion, I am not in the least bit offended as I know from personal experience that the negative portrayals in the commercial are based upon reality. Self-reflection is a good thing and while I don't particularly consider myself a bully or a sexual predator, I readily admit there are a lot of things I could do better, and I don't have a problem being told as much, yes even by a razor ad.

You hear the word emasculation used quite a lot these days. I find that word poignant whenever I hear it. To me emasculation when used sincerely, says to me that the utterer of it, if it is a male which it usually is, has an irrational fear of something, perhaps a problem being comfortable in his own skin. I can't help but believe that people who use that word without irony, must have deep down issues about their own manhood, just as those who participate in gay bashing must have issues with their own sexual identity.

One particularly offended commenter refuted the popular idea that bullies are cowards themselves. According to him, while it takes no courage to bully someone anonymously online, in his words, "it takes balls to bully someone face to face."

Well that might be true if the bully picks on someone stronger, more self-confident, or belongs to a group that outnumbers his own. But how often does that happen? In my experience, never. Bullies rely upon safety in numbers, and they never, and I mean never pick on somebody their own size.

By the very definition of the word, bullies are cowards of the worst sort, preying on people they perceive as vulnerable, pumping up their self-esteem at somebody else’s expense. acting out a pathological need to feel better than someone else. So why defend this deviant behavior? Well to quote the character Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, "I'll tell you, I don't know."

I've also heard moans that men, especially white men, are being lumped into a group that is considered unworthy by today's standards because of the sins of a small minority of us. Sounds to me like a classic case of what goes around, comes around, as historically, every demographic group with the exception of white men, has been subject to being stereotyoed in one way or another. Hey, nobody ever said life was fair. Face it companeros, it;s comeuppance time for us white guys, the only question is this: are you man enough to take it?

What seems to be apparent is that there is an outbreak of hyper-sensitivity going around among members of a group of folks of a particular political bent, which inspired a quip I heard that went this way: "It appears that Gillette is just not good for sensitive skin."

Quite right.

What’s the word they like to use for so called “politically correct” people who are easily offended? Oh yes, snowflakes.

Well if the shoe fits...

The bottom line is that Gillette, like Nike who also ran a commercial that displeased the MAGA crowd, is a very successful company not because of their egalitarianism or their passion for social justice, but because they understand their market and above all, the bottom line. Their critics like to huff and puff that by running this ad, Gillette is cutting off their nose despite their face (a truly apt metaphor given their product don't you think?) by offending a large portion of their market.

But it seems to me that by airing an ad imploring its customers to do the right thing, Gillette is telling those who might happen to be offended, as Nike did before them, that it's just too bad, they and like minded peoplein the long run are simply irrelevant.

Given the conservative nature of large corporations and the advertiaing that supports them, most likely they are right.

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