"You're a strong boy. Boys don’t cry, do they?"
"He pushed you on the playground because he likes you."
"Agh, just ignore him. Boys will be boys, right?"
Boys will be brothers, husbands and fathers. Boys will grow up to be adults, responsible and accountable for their actions. So that culture of toxic masculinity some men are still perpetuating is bad for both boys, and girls.
Gillette, which has sported the tagline “The best a man can get” for as long as we can remember, recently released an ad commenting on toxic masculinity with specific reference to the #MeToo movement. And it’s exactly the kind of ad we hope every boy, and man, will see.
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Take a look:
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“It’s been going on for far too long. We can’t laugh it off. Making the same old excuses,” the ad says, while showing news clips from the #MeToo movement, of little boys bullying one another and rolling around on the ground, fighting. “Boys will be boys,” say a group of men, arms crossed, standing over the braai. It’s every stereotype of masculinity.
“But something finally changed. And there will be no going back. Because we, we believe in the best in men. To say the right thing, to act the right way. Some already are in ways big and small. But some is not enough.”
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The ad encourages men to do more, and not only for themselves but for other men and women too. “It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best,” it continues. And that includes changing behaviour, and encouraging other men to change theirs, protecting those who feel powerless and knowing that their sex doesn’t give them authority, or an excuse, to neglect this responsibility.
That's the "best a man can get".
And we need to take a razor blade to toxic masculinity now, so that our boys can grow up in a society free of it.
Because boys won’t just be boys. Oh, no. The ad reminds us, and the very many men who will watch it, that “the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow."
Have you spoken to your kids about the concept of toxic masculinity? How do you encourage them to break free from destructive gender norms and stereotypes? Tell us on email and we may publish your comments.