I must have been almost the last person to hear of the controversy this week about Gillette’s “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” ad. We don’t watch much TV and I am not on social media, so I only heard of the issue when chatting with my sister. If you live under a rock such as mine, you may want to check it out, but to summarize, at least from my perspective as a woman, the ad tries to move the viewer away from acceptance of unkind behavior by having us re-look at the phrase, “Boys will be boys.” No free pass for unacceptable behavior just because you’re a guy.
Granted, I have a bias. We all do in every situation in life. Mine is obvious – I’m not a man. So with that as the framework, what I found alarming was the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the ad. When I watched it and saw men breaking up fights, discouraging bullying, intentionally fathering with love, intervening to discourage clearly sexist behavior (stalking a girl walking by), I saw the behavior by these men who took action as good. No matter your politics or gender, stopping violence and defending victims are actions that are always right. Always.
The ad was helpful to show how society’s standards have changed over time. Clearly, we all could agree that some of the TV programs from decades back which objectified women were inappropriate. And who would think it right to encourage bullying? Or street brawling?
So why the controversy? Why at least as of today, are there more people upset by the ad than those who support it?
There is merit to criticisms that marketing in this way may cross boundaries, be confusing, miss the mark. The collage of current controversial news stories definitely muddied the waters and invited the politicized reactions that ensued. The underlying messages became obscured by tying them to politically hot topics – the #MeToo movement, LGBTQ rights. So it is understandable that some became unable to see the bigger message of treating others lovingly. The people who were negatively triggered by this ad lost the ability to look at it as a broader statement about how we are to treat each other and could only react based on recent issues related to social movements and gender rights. Rather than being able to see what we can all agree on – being kind to one another is good – they could only see the ad as part of other issues that are more controversial – what is masculinity, gay rights, feminism.
I am totally loving the Daily Davar program Rabbi Rich and Rebetzin Sue rolled out this year. If you have not started, it’s not too late to join! Rabbi Rich has provided a daily reading of the Scriptures so that by the end of the year you will have read the entire Bible. As I re-read the words of Yeshua to love one another, treat others as we would want to be treated, I am reminded of the bigger picture. As I watch the ad, if I put the word “kindness” as the subtitle to any of the scenes of violence, bullying, mimicking, or stalking, there would be no question that the actions shown are not kind.
It’s hard when we are passionate about an issue not to see it in every place we look. Yet when we do, we become vulnerable to the media’s often distorted coverages and are easily drawn into non-productive conversations on social media. It becomes easy to lose sight of our greater values. When we get drawn into the prevalent polarizing influences that abound in our culture, our perceptions become distorted, and often in unhealthy ways that due to our personal biases, we cannot even see. How many of those objecting to the ad would support violence and bullying if not part of a politicized and polarizing message as presented in the ad? I venture to say none.
In today’s divisive world, it’s hard to come together on many subjects. I would think that treating others with kindness might be an easy one as a start to building a world of more shalom, one we can foster with our words, actions, and perspectives. Just as the eulogies after the death of President Bush helped us overcome political differences, as we were able to be reminded of his acts of lovingkindness, so too I encourage you to remember the teachings of Yeshua. Keep your eye on the prize – life in Him.