To move forward in life, do we sometimes need to listen to the views of others. This may, at times, make us feel uncomfortable, but simply opposing the viewpoint of another can be unhelpful, and in my opinion can stifle progress towards a mutual and better understanding.
In the field of violence prevention, I really think this is important and often a missing element, especially if we want to engage a population to be part of a prevention solution.
This week many of us will have watched the advert launched by the Gillette organisation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koPmuEyP3a0&feature=youtu.be
The hashtag ‘The Best Men Can be’ has been discussed around the world. Views have been polarised with both both positive and negative comments directed at the advert. A debate on Good Morning Britain this week involving Piers Morgan, Carol Vorderman and friend Martin Daubney got extremely lively.
Media described the way that Vorderman ‘erupted’ against the advert. Piers Morgan simply suggests that the advert simply shames men. Daubney suggests that work to make life better for boys has been set back enormously by the advert. Some have even suggested that a ‘war on men’ is ongoing.
Those who support the advert say that the messaging is accurate and much needed at a time when girls and women find themselves victims of abuse at the hands of some men. Some say that the messaging is what men need to be hearing allowing them to be the best role models for the boys in their lives.
So where do I stand? I liked the advert, a lot. I saw the messages as positive and helpful at a time when our boys need a healthy narrative. I saw a call to action for men to step up and challenge the negative behaviours of some men towards girls and women. I saw a message for men to be the best men they can be for our boys, to be the guideposts that boys need in our current confusing real world. I saw the advert as a tool to be used to look at both the positive and negative aspects of masculinity.
I watched the advert and thought about the potential for the messages to be used productively to support all boys and men. A message which would promote discussion on some of the all too clear issues that boys and men face. Above, I discuss male on female violence. Boys and men also fear some men’s violence. Suicide remains an issue for all men to grapple with. Rates of male suicide throughout the world are two times, three times more than women. If we are truly wanting to make lives better for boys and girls, men and women, we need to come together to accept the messages in the advert.
The polarised nature of the response to the advert presents little or no middle ground. A film in response to the Gillette advert simply looks at men as heroes and who, in roles such as fire fighters are the protectors. The film also confirms men as being victims of most violence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_HL0wiK4Zc&feature=youtu.be
Whilst this response may have some accuracies its attempt to simply shoot down those who support the initial advert will simply add further fuel to the fire. At a time when our boys need clarity the response is also unhelpful and misguided.
I agree with the likes of Martin Daubney. We do need a more positive narrative around boys and men. We need to show the positive traits that the majority of men and boys a possess. We need to communicate that men can be great fathers, good husbands and emotional giants. That discussion is so needed.
I don’t agree that the work to help boys has been set back years, but I do accept a need for a more positive narrative on the subject. I think there is space for a discussion which is both positive and acknowledges the dark side of masculinity. I don’t believe that masculinity is toxic, but I do accept that there are toxic acts which impact negatively on both males and females.
Furthermore, if we fail to acknowledge that the majority of violence committed against young boys and girls, men and women is carried out by men we will not see reductions in violence. Gender is at root of violence. Gender has to be part of the discussion. Whilst this may be uncomfortable for many, it is, in my view, a price worth paying.
I’ve watched the advert many times and have looked at it with different heads on. I have to accept the feelings of some. I don’t have to agree with them. There are issues that I am aware of now that I wasn’t aware of in the past. I do not want to impose my viewpoints on others. Such an approach I feel simply fails to meet another person where they are at.
For those who feel the advert shames men. I ask you to imagine if the advert was reversed. The advert in its entirety runs for 1:49 seconds. Yes, the first 50 seconds looks at the negative behaviours of some men. The remaining 59 seconds is a call to the majority to be the guide posts, the fathers, the men that men actually desire to be. Would your response be any different if the last 59 seconds had run first?
We need to find a middle ground. For me, this would see an acknowledgement of positive traits of men but also a recognition of the dark and often harmful actions of some men. Whilst not all men are abusive there is a role for all men to make a difference.
Like many other men and women in this world I simply want abuse and violence to stop. We can do better. We must do better. Future generations need us to find the middle ground.