Thank you, Gillette, for raising a difficult topic and having the courage to bring this important conversation forward. Males, myself included can choose to discuss these ideas openly and share our thoughts thanks to your lead. Your ad is edgy and relevant as it is thoughtful and disturbing. It raises issues that we all know are present and we’d like to deny and dismiss. I believe we men can’t afford to do this anymore. Allow me to argue for openness.
As an organization development consultant, I have seen many times the effects of toxic maleness on group dynamics. My work helps to build strong teams. I value everyone having a voice, and every voice being heard. Over the years I have been brought in to consult with many “teams in trouble.” The presenting problem is often described as a “role clarification” problem. Help them clarify their roles and press the reset button is the hope of the team leader and the larger organization. Sometimes this is indeed the very problem. Most often, role clarity is the symptom of something much deeper, more covert, and less easy to address and correct.
The words “male toxicity” don’t roll off the tongue easily. And upon hearing them, I feel a sense of shame arise that is difficult to address. According to the late gifted psychiatrist, Don Nathanson, the shame response creates four possibilities for action:
- You can withdraw
- You can attack yourself
- You can deny and avoid
- You can attack the source – the other
None of these solutions actually work long term, but they do create a temporary escape hatch. They often lead to insidious and destructive group behaviors that leave a group unsettled and unable to right themselves. In groups the behavior, toxic maleness, can appear as bullying, demanding, and aggression. We have all seen this many times. It creates fear, engenders anxiety, and cause group-think where silence is read as a YES.
In our work, we teach team members how to support and confront each other. Conflict itself is not necessarily bad. It allows for clarity, more disciplined thinking, and the opening up of new possibilities. The terms “toxic maleness” imply winning at any cost. On the compass, it’s all about attacking your opponent and intimidating the others in the group so they remain silent and go along to get along. Most often I have seen this done by dominant males. I have also witnessed women doing it as well. A more inclusive term might be “toxic authoritarianism,” but that takes away from the focus on male behavior that destroys individuals and teams.
The “Me Too” movement has awoken all of us to see that which is disgusting and has been permitted. Now, at last, we can talk about it. And talk about it we must. That’s what makes this ad by Gillette powerful. It takes courage to own what we have done and we have to do this first before we can change it. A while back I switched to Harry’s shavers because of the price. I am going to switch back now because of the cost. Maybe Gillette’s new blade will be one that cleaves us together.