This week, an advertisement once again dominated the national conversation. In theory, it was about toxic masculinity, rape culture, and workplace gender dynamics but it had been focus-grouped so many times that the final product was just a collection of commonplace pleas to men:
- Maybe let’s not have kids murder one another without saying anything.
- How about you don’t grope that lady at work, okay?
- Also, please stop yourself from chasing women down the street with your eyes bulging like a maniac.
That’s it. And that simple video, which can be summed up as “Bros, let’s show a modicum of human decency,” sparked absolute outrage from some anonymous Twitter accounts and the rogue’s gallery of right-wing pundits who make very good money blowing such things wildly out of proportion.
According to Candace Owens, head of Turning Point U.S.A, a single viewing of it magically turned us all into beta libtard cucks. She even accused it of “perverting masculinity.”
To which the only reasonable and measured response is… Da fuk?
Chill, Candance. Boys can still wrestle. They just shouldn’t shatter one another’s faces without someone intervening. Is that super beta male to say? “Hey kids, don’t gouge each other’s eyes out with a barbecue fork!” If so, can we have Piers Morgan or some other paragon of masculinity explain that to Terry Crews in a public setting, maybe with paramedics handy?
Obviously, the backlash to the ad comes from an intentional misreading (or “mind poisoning”) of something that’s based 100% in common sense. It’s bad faith outrage, trickling down from the InCel movement to the semi-mainstream. Candance Owens or Rush Limbaugh or anyone else who railed against this innocuous bit of corporate pandering would never say on air that eight boys chasing one boy like extras in Lord of the Flies is normal. That’s absurd and they know it.
Yet the ad quickly became a lightning rod for Limbaugh, Owens, Tomi Lahren, and others to call out what they see as a systemic attack on the male gender. Which is a hell of a takeaway to draw from all the clean shaven dudes staring thoughtfully into mirrors and the lineup of dad bods who don’t know how to use a grill. (Note to Zombie Dads: Your burgers look greyer than the sexuality and gender spectrums that right-wing pundits wish didn’t exist!)
Even Jordan Peterson — a professor who, until recently, seemed eager to interrogate ideas about gender in a deliberate, thoughtful way — got in on the action by hinting at a boycott. Does Peterson realize how many brands P&G owns? They literally make everything. Is the prof really ready to wipe with pine needles? Because, like many of the people irked by this, he doesn’t seem particularly rugged.
It wasn’t long before someone on Twitter took this bit of thought leadership to the furthest possible realms of nonsensery and vowed to boycott all Procter & Gamble brands. The tweet was shared by Rush Limbaugh and others on the right, though it seemed to come from a Twitter ghost with a handful of followers. Pro tip: You always know that someone is sure to follow through on his comprehensive boycott pledge when he hasn’t taken the time to find a profile picture.
The only reason for unpacking all of this ridiculousness is that it buckets into the deeply flawed nature of the culture wars, in which the template is:
- GET ANGRY ABOUT SOMETHING THAT NOBODY SAID: In this case, that all men are bad and all masculinity is inherently evil.
- DISCUSS IT IN TERMS AND IN A TENOR THAT IT BY NO MEANS DESERVES: Because it is still, at its heart, an advertisement for a razor and not an amendment to the constitution.
- USE IT TO RALLY YOUR FOLLOWERS AROUND IDEAS THAT THE ORIGINAL ITEM IN QUESTION DOESN’T ACTUALLY SUPPORT: That the world would be better if men stopped being men (as if the very idea of manliness were monolithic, which it’s clearly not).
That’s the fear monger’s mantra. The entire process is cowardly and corrosive. Worse yet, it leaves the landscape so littered with false flags that we can’t see the real issues to even discuss them. We’re so busy unpacking the virtues or failures of an ad which essentially says to men, “Let’s try to be cretins less often,” that we miss the chance for substantive debate and good faith discussions.