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Gillette is Only Half Right

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Following a commercial designed to encourage men to raise up a generation of young men to be the best they can be starting with shaving, Gillette received a firestorm of reaction from around the world. The culprit, we are told, is something the culture has begun to label as “toxic masculinity.”

According to the American Psychological Association, a traditional male ideology includes things like “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” While the images in the commercial of harsh talk, verbal abuse and men cat-calling at young women point to those who have lost their way toward becoming the best they can be, the idea that bad fathers are to blame for this can only be considered as ridiculous.

As Chad Felix Greene wrote in the Federalist recently, “Boys are not lost because of toxic masculinity; they are lost because their fathers have been taken away from them and they cannot figure out how to fill that void with anything but rage and shame.” In other words, our culture is to blame for many of the negative stereotypes they want to display as the norm for young men; they shamed and devalued and dismissed the fathers who would have worked to prevent this outcome.

Fathers aren’t responsible for the multi-billion dollar video game industry or the steady stream of movies and television programming that promotes and models excessive violence. The violence runs deep in young men (and women) who are fatherless and angry about their loss. Absent fathers can’t correct their young boys who cat call at young girls. They can’t teach the right way to treat a woman because as parents, they are locked in a war against one another in a system that still favors the mother regardless of her behavior.

Blaming our grandparents for passing on wrong values is also ill-conceived. Our grandparents are the members of what we have called the Greatest Generation who left their homes and carried a rifle onto foreign beaches in foreign lands to fight for freedom. They are the survivors of the Great Depression who learned how to make a dollar last long enough to meet a family’s needs. Their ideas about achievement, risk and adventure gave us an America we could be proud of instead of endlessly criticizing.

Now that the culture has marginalized the one role with the influence to turn the tide it wants us to return to more conservative values and domesticate our adventurous young males. I will have to agree with Mr. Greene, these more conservative ideas have been tenaciously held by parts of our society that argued against the decline of the culture for decades. They were ridiculed and silenced.

Gillette is partly right. The boys of today will become the men of tomorrow. The need for men to intervene and speak life into the lives of others when they stray will help turn the tide toward better things. But those men have to be present in order to do their work. Fighting fathers who want to have a voice in their sons and daughter’s lives only insures more wounded masculinity. Children need their fathers. They need them much more than during an occasional phone call.

The bullying that Gillette showcased in their commercial doesn’t just happen by boys and men. It happens in court rooms. It happens in classrooms. Women are equally capable of inflicting great harm by removing fathers from the lives of their children. Teachers who don’t know how to discipline will eventually turn their frustration into harm out of desperation.

Everyone must rise to the occasion if we are to model the best a man can be and change our future.

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