The best a man can get

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The recent Gillette advert on masculinity has generated a lot of opinion in the media. Here one woman shares her story and her reaction to the short film.

I’m 9 years old and across the darkened room I can see my younger sisters eyes gleaming at me through the night. It’s late but we’re awake. We can hear him shouting and hear our mum crying. I know she needs someone out there, she needs some support. I tell my sister to stay where she is and creep out. I watch my mum get pushed into walls, hear the plates smash at her feet and the horrible words said.  Finally I cry out, “Don’t hurt my mum!” They freeze and it goes quiet… he goes outside for a cigarette.

A year later at ten, with my sister and new baby brother in the back, I help my mum drive the car to Accident and Emergency one armed by doing the gears for her, where she has a dislocated shoulder and a broken nose in need of treatment. A year later and he’d gone and it was over.

At the age of just 17, during a very rare bout of rebellion, I went to sleep on a sofa after drinking and smoking too much at a house party with friends and woke in complete darkness, with other sleeping bodies around me, but one, heavy, sluggish and unknown one on top of me. I was a virgin. 

Fast forward more than twenty years and I am sat staring at a screen. Tears are rolling down my face and streams of abusive words are hurled across the internet at me. “You’re worthless. No one will ever love you… not even your daughter. You’re a failure in every sense of the word.” Just because it isn’t physical, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. What’s worse is there is no escaping this because these words come from the baby brother, who once cuddled into my little child arms when he was scared himself.

None of these incidents were ever reported and some have never even been spoken about. 

Why have I told you all of this? Because it is necessary. It is necessary so that you can understand my reaction to something I have recently seen. If you haven’t watched the new Gillette advert for 2019 I suggest you do so. I sat and watched it with tears streaming down my face. The past few years have seen some huge changes in the world of women, with voices finally being heard and at last acknowledged. 

However, there haven’t been as many, if any changes for men. Excusing bad behaviour, fighting or rudeness with the old phrase “boys will be boys” is not good enough anymore. If one of them punched your son or daughter, would that be a good enough excuse for you? I still don’t like walking past building sites or places where there are workmen purely due to the neanderthal like behaviour that ensues with wolf whistles and shouts informing me that I know I want some… no, I don’t. 

It is time for a change.  But how can we hope for change until we alter our expectations of both men and women. There is nothing wrong with masculinity in the same way there is nothing wrong with femininity but we shouldn’t joke or make light of it and we should definitely not be allowed to use it as an excuse for committing crimes or maintaining power.

The new Gillette advert tackles the poisonous views of masculinity, the effects they can have on people and what it is we need to do to change this. As the advert says, men need to hold other men accountable and they need to not be afraid to do it. They believe in the best that men can be and I’d like to as well. Take a moment to stop and look at your little boy and think of what he sees when he looks at you. Are your words and actions ones you would be happy for him to be using in the future?

It is not only in the home we should be looking for change but in entertainment, on social media, in schools, magazines…everywhere. No longer should it be acceptable to portray a man disrespecting, attacking or hurting a woman to gain control or power. No longer should we be telling boys and young men to “man-up” hide their emotions and that “big boys don’t cry.” Everybody cries because at some point everyone will hurt. Can a girl run the world? Sure. Can a man shed a tear if he has had a bad day? Absolutely. 

Why did the advert have me in tears? Because I truly hope that the time has come for change and that when my own little girl goes out into the world she meets one of the new men of today and not one of the men from my yesterday. 

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