Is This the Best a Man Can Get?

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Is This the Best a Man Can Get?

Iman Baber

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I have a confession to make.

As much as I talk about bridging the divide, about conversing across sides to reach common ground, there are issues where I don’t really think to consider the other side’s opinion.

Sexism is one of these issues.

As a teenage girl, I had always seen it as a single-sided coin, a simple solution, a no-argument issue. Either you agree with me or you don’t, and that’s that.

From years of gritting my teeth at sexist scenes in movies and sexist comments in conversations at school to a teary-eyed talk with my mom where she told me, “Iman, you’re a feminist,” our society’s way of degrading women and girls has always tormented me.

I was angry. No, I was furious. I wanted answers, and I wanted solutions. I pored over posts and websites, Twitter wars and YouTube comment sections, getting more frustrated by the minute.

Comments that always boiled my blood were along the lines of how women should just stay quiet, and how feminists were evil beings out to destroy the planet.

How could anyone be so cruel? So willfully ignorant?

I just couldn’t understand it.

That is until something caught my eye.

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On Jan. 13, Gillette released an ad titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be,” which grappled topics such as sexual harassment, bullying and the concept of masculinity. It immediately amassed millions of views.

The first time I watched it, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I actually thought it was rather inspiring, calling for change in a #MeToo era.

However, the video’s alarming dislike number and thousands of angry comments show that the majority didn’t agree with me.

Thousands condemned the ad, calling it a deliberate attack on men. Many went as so far to call for a Gillette Boycott and even a boycott of Gillette’s parent company, Proctor and Gamble. Gillette’s latest ad depicts a father teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time. It received a response similar to the first.

And the controversy is still brewing.

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I just checked the ad on YouTube. The most recent comment was posted a little under thirty minutes ago.

I fumed over the comments, my fury turning red-hot.

Then, flashes appeared from the back of my mind.

I saw my six-year-old self with a friend of mine, who was only about two at the time. He asked if he could sit in the pink chair, and babbled in a toddler voice about how he liked the color pink.

“PINK?!!” I screeched. “You’re a boy — you cannot like the color pink!”

I saw myself scoffing and rolling my eyes at Flash in “Justice League,” when he fell during a battle. I saw myself choking with shock when I first read about the Men’s Rights Movement.

“Men’s Rights Movements?” I whispered with horror.

And suddenly, I wished what I saw had never happened. I felt my rage turn into ice-cold, sickening guilt. The comments section suddenly looked different. Suddenly, I saw it not as something evil, but something I helped create. And, suddenly, I saw sexism not as a one-sided coin, but rather a double-edged sword.

Our society exalts the model of a stoic and misogynistic man as the ideal for masculinity.

These ideologies, often referred to as the “Man Box,” surround us as we grow. We grow up thinking that a man should not express his emotions. We grow up thinking that a man must stay confined. We grow up with society telling us that boys cannot cry, for it is a sign of weakness.

According to BBC, in the United States, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Our society deprives boys and men of the very thing that makes them human: emotion. In that, it has created the tense society that we are all struggling to fix today.  

Yes, sexism oppresses girls. But it suffocates boys, too.

Feminism is the movement to ensure equality for people of all genders and is dedicated to fighting sexism. For a long time, I called myself a feminist, refusing to see how sexism was harming the other side. I don’t think I even deserved to call myself one.

I grew up hearing warnings from parents and relatives: to never go to the bathroom alone and to be wary in crowded places or at large gatherings. I listened to horrible stories from some of the people who are closest to me. I, was — no, I still am — angry at the convoluted and twisted ways our society works. However, anger is never the answer.

I feel like the main reason that feminism is such a heated topic in these times is because both opposing sides are fighting each other with anger. One side is angry of a life of being scared and shunned by current social systems, while the other is angry over the changes that the first wants to bring, and the flaws within those changes that they refuse to see.

Sexism is an issue that will never be resolved by war. We will never get anywhere if both sides keep looking for ways to stab each other in the back. For in our frenzy, we have lost sight of what we are really trying to fight.

Destroy the hate. Not each other.

Destroy sexism. Not the planet.

For it’s not just a women’s fight, nor a men’s fight.

It’s humanity’s fight.

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Gillette’s first ad was posted four months ago. The most recent comment was posted 4 seconds ago. It simply stated, “Yuuuck”. Thousands of other comments say things like, “because The boys watching today, (sic) Will be the girls of tomorrow -Gillette 2019.”

This is all the more reason that we as a society need to ask ourselves an uncomfortable question: Is this the best a man can get?

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