What’s driving the Gillette ad backlash?

You’d think an ad designed to inspire boys and men to step up and challenge bullying and sexism would win universal praise. But you’d be wrong.

Gillette’s new “The Best Men Can Be” commercial, which simply calls on men to be active bystanders in the face of other men’s violent and abusive behavior, has triggered a fierce backlash from the usual self-appointed guardians of “traditional manhood” on Fox News and across the internet who for years have been decrying “the wussification of America.”

“I’ve used @Gillette razors my entire adult life,” tweeted British TV personality Piers Morgan. “But this absurd virtue-signaling PC guff may drive me away to a company less eager to fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity. Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.”

This latest conservative firestorm comes just a week after the American Psychological Association (APA) triggered a virtually identical backlash when it issued guidelines for psychologists who work with men and boys calling on them to think about how traditional masculinity can “cause damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly.”

According to Jackson Katz, who’s been working with men for decades in the gender-violence prevention field, these kinds of overheated reactions are as predictable as they are misleading.

“Conservatives have long responded to any kind of challenge to traditional ideas about manhood with over-the-top charges that it’s part of an ongoing feminist ‘war on manhood,’ or a ‘war on boys,’” Katz said. “But that’s ludicrous. This isn’t about doing away with manhood. And it doesn’t mean every aspect of traditional manhood is pathological. It’s just saying we need to be willing to question and move beyond the long list of traditional ideas about manhood that equate being a man with things like domination, control, invulnerability, sexual conquest, violence, and contempt for femininity.”

Over the years, Katz has collaborated with MEF on a number of educational videos that examine precisely these issues, including Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture and our newest release, The Bystander Moment: Transforming Rape Culture at its Roots.

If you’re looking for classroom resources to help students engage the newly heated debate about traditional manhood, “toxic masculinity,” and conservative claims that feminists are waging a war on men and boys, we urge you to check out these and other MEF videos below.