Sexism: In a World where a Gillette ad can spark fury in the heart of man

I was trying to think of all the topics I could choose where to go next and of course, Sexism, just popped right up there. Not really, but on the same day Gillette’s Super Bowl commercial came out, the one that questions you to redefine the ‘Best a Man Can Be’ (link at the end of this blog); I was speaking with a couple of women and the topic of sense of self and the gender in the workplace came. One mentioned that the idea of maneuvering around the political environment of work was too much. She found when she was working (before kids) that she was often misunderstood or taken the wrong way, the amount of energy it took to miss the landmines was too much.

I asked, slash put in my two cents that if she was a man does she think it would be any easier. Between the three of us the consensus was yes. Her natural personality and the fact she was a women made work harder. I feel deeply with her, I am the same. I am blunt, opinionated, out spoken and have spent my life being told I should apologize for being me. I have only just realized that if I had a different appendage that things might be different.

I know there are lots of articles/blogs/yada yadas around just about the commercial and even more around sexism but I’m going to try once more, to add one more voice. I’ll give you a few personal stories around my experiences as a woman and how we as a society have different expectations of men and women. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t have a miracle fix just a lot stories of what the f* is wrong and trying to speak some truths.

Tale # 1 – In my early twenties I worked at a furniture store as a sales associate. A man walked in and asked to see a dining table. Now to be fair I was doing my job expectations, I smiled, was friendly and engaging to show the table. The large price tag had fallen off however there was one located under the table. I bent down to find the tag and locate the price. When we went back to the till to wait to hear back from our stock team around availability this guy says directly to my face ‘Wow you have a great set of tits to go with your ass’. I tried to brush it off however he paid so I knew he would be back for pick. I mentioned the incident to the General Manager at the time, said I was hoping to not have to help him if he returned and he said, that I needed to just let it go.

Tale # 2 – I used to work security for a large hotel. We had a disturbance call and had to call the police to inquire around safety, we had two male officers arrive to take statements and assist. The altercation was between a man and a woman, both officers joked a bit (I do understand, that police have a hard job so that maybe that’s a coping mechanism) but one said ‘well this bitch is just crazy and he would be better without her’ – right because the 120 lbs (tops) woman deserved to be smacked around and manhandled by her 180+ lbs man because she crazy. Moving on ….

Tale # 3 – My ex is not sexist at all, he believes in equal rights and still tries to build me up but this one time… my first child was probably around 4 months old, and I was in the thick of no sleep. She didn’t sleep at all, like hardly a wink so I would be up all night and try to get some sleep during the day. I should mention that I didn’t expect him to do the night wake ups on workdays. Also on my best of days/weeks/months, I am a shitty housekeeper, being on mat leave and sleep deprived did not make that any easier. So on this day around 5:30pm, might have even been 6:00pm, my husband comes home after being at work all day, asked – Where’s dinner? and when I said I didn’t know and hadn’t started, the response was, What have you been doing all day?

Tale # 4 – I was in an admin assistant position once where after getting a new boss in the span of a couple of months my position went from being admin to more of personal assistant, from helping with reports to taking his car for a wash and ordering gifts for mothers day, or being told that when I was in a meeting my only purpose was take notes and not comment (I’m a rambler so this one I kind of got). Around that same time I saw him have a meeting with the company’s COO who was in from out of town, it was supposed to be just him however ended up being all the Vice-Presidents too, except the one female, she was in the building at the time – and it’s not like she wouldn’t have been a valuable addition, she was a long tenured employee and was the one of the only ones to have worked at another division. Coincidentally, the very next day I met his wife for the first time and I honestly couldn’t tell you how this came up but she said to me that he just really truly believed that a woman’s place was at home with their kids. Everything just came in a different light from then on. 

Tale # 5 – I worked for an employer that to my face when I was seven months pregnant said that they never wanted to hire another woman of child bearing years again.

Tale # 6 – I had a manager tell me to think twice before hiring a mom because they would probably call in sick a lot for their kids. This same manager said to me that when I had kids I would feel different about work, meaning I would care less. Head’s up – I don’t.

Tale # 7 – Both of my partners have said that it is easier for me to organize and find childcare than them. Why? Do I have a magical Rolodex of humans wanting to watch my kids? No, have I begged, pleaded and guilt-ed some kind humans I know to watch them or scoured the internet in search of one. Yes! 

There are so many more stories, some minor maybe but still… the point of all these tales is that they would :

  1. Probably never happen to a man – I know woman make lewd comments but if a young male went to a female manager I would expect a different response than the one I got.
  2. The view that woman are emotional or crazy regardless if the man is violent or out of line.
  3. The expectation on woman is different – men can’t get pregnant or breastfeed so they don’t generally take long maternity leaves, woman are the ones expected to take time off work to stay at home with sick kids, when a man is home all day with the kids the expectation is not that they clean and cook and entertain the kids all at the same time.
  4. Even the best men, ones that are caring, helpful and want their daughters to be leaders can have unequal expectations for their partners than for themselves. 

To bring it back, I watched the commercial and thought, yes. The past is the past and Gillette is not saying that you should be ashamed to be a man or that all men are jerks, as I read in some Twitter outrages and YouTube comments. They are simply saying that they believe you can do better. Their slogan for years was “The Best a Man Can Get”, I believe the intention of the ad was to explore – are we as society are really encouraging men to be their best selves. If you look at the stories in the commercial, there are tales of sexual glorification, bullying, physical violence and each has an example of a man stepping in to say no, that’s enough, that’s not ok.

Now if you are opposed to the Social Marketing aspect of the ad then I can buy that. I can understand if you don’t want or like having a social cause sold to you along side your razor, running shoes or really any consumer product. The concept of being sold something from a for-profit company by having them appeal to your greater good, sure, ok. What I can not understand and one is welcome to try explaining this to me is how in the world this ad is offensive or rude.

What I do know about human nature is that people do not like it when a mirror is held up and you see your own negative behaviors reflected. If you watched the ad and thought, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all just innocent fun. That could be me or I was like that sometime in my life, then you are missing the point. If you watched it and thought (which is echoed in some comments), well I have never seen a fight not get broken up, or I would never act that way, then good on you. But to say that the average man does not, at least sometimes behave in a way the is not the best that they can be, like those in the ad or in my examples above; is just not being honest.

Sexism, gender equality it is a societal issue. Men being the best they can be means reflection, saying how can we be better and taking a minute before blasting your anger out. The dislikes still out number the likes 2:1 for this commercial. I’m not asking you to like it, what I am asking is – How do we develop our girls to be resilient? To believe they belong along side the boys. And how do develop our boys, our men’s resiliency in order to accept the feedback and make the changes we need?

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