I am blessed to have some truly inspiring, nourishing, informed, supportive, and strong men in my life. Including my father who always held the view that caring for one another – no matter their gender, race or other preferences – was one of the most valuable life skills he could share with his children. It gave me a vital baseline of being seen as the human being that I am. As I grew up, especially into my teens and young adulthood I realised that many people did not hold such a wide viewpoint. Thankfully, again and again I found inspiration that reminded me that we all have the potential to find a wider perspective of our self and each other – to discover the wonderfully unique human being inside each of us.
Education matters. It does make a difference. I have come to deeply appreciate the value of education through my various involvements, over the past 25 years, with both children and adults. Education can transform the life of the individual but it also has an impact on their whole family, and very much on the wider community. Human beings are very social creatures – we look to one another for belonging and acceptance. We also look to one another to learn - we learn what is acceptable and not in our family and society by the behaviour and actions of those around us or in the various medias.
This week Gillette put out a new advert: We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) The link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koPmuEyP3a0
I loved it.
It is turning out to be quite controversial. When I first watched it I thought how great it is to see an advert exploring modelling healthy male behaviour and pointing to unhealthy aspects. Then I started to see articles mentioning the backlash. That inspired me to write this note. To share my voice in what I feel is a vital discussion: the education of our children, both boys and girls, to embody their own and each other’s potential.
We need discussions as this brings about the capacity for evolution. Change in society generally requires some perturbation to evoke a shift in what is “normal”. Think for a moment on women’s right to vote, civil rights, various human rights including end to slavery – all of these significant shifts in accepted human behaviour required active discussion and often quite a bit of perturbation! Many of us now take these shifts for granted. The freedoms we have in so many ways were gifted to us by the efforts of those who came before us.
I consider that unhealthy behaviours do create limitation in our society. The advent of the MeToo campaign along with numerous studies and articles depicting bullying and/or sexual predatory behaviours and outright sexism indicate a wave of perturbation. It certainly has made me reflect on many instances that I experienced personally on both sides – both receiving bullying and sexual assault and my own at times complicit unhealthy behaviours. I think we can all hold a mirror up to ourselves to reflect within this wider discussion.
I do not think it helps to cast blame. I do think it is helpful to reflect and review our own and others’ behaviours. And, more importantly, to look towards how we can support discussion and education in topics and themes that have been taboo. This is why I love the Gillette advert – a mainstream company using its advertising to bring up an important taboo theme. In 2018 in Australia, 63 women were murdered by a man who was known to them. To me that is 63 unnecessary deaths. Yes, we do need to have a review of what we consider acceptable behaviour. We do need to model and educate what is healthy behaviour.
I share again – I have some truly wonderful men in my life whom I love, admire and respect. They are modelling what I consider healthy, caring, inclusive behaviour. It is those who may not have healthy role models that we need to reach and educate – those who will watch adverts and movies and Netflix. Evolving a healthy masculinity narrative that depicts healthy behaviours can support of all us.
I applaud Gillette for their message: “It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.” (full quote available here: https://gillette.com/en-us/the-best-men-can-be?fbclid=IwAR0mdnGkQ1OWFtijXfTudpoP-3LP3fXi6c75bvRqmYpo0SY6bgBeR5b2O6s )
I would love that we all continue this discussion – and it does involve all of us. It takes a whole community to raise children healthily. I would enjoy seeing more movies that portray ordinary lives of men (and women!) that are caring and expressing a wider range of human capacity, that depict achieving aspirations in ways that embody true empowerment and connection. To all my creative friends out there in the music/movie/literature worlds, I invite you to step into new horizons and help us imagine new narratives in our TV series, movies and song lyrics. I invite all of us to reflect on how we can live a daily life where we care for each other. Where we discover and support the potential in one another instead of criticise or judge. Where we allow ourselves to explore the power of love and connection as the basis of belonging and acceptance. Where we allow our vulnerability to be our true strength.
As I write, I feel the presence of my own father and the gift he gave me to believe in myself and to invest in caring and love, as well as the passion for dreaming – for dreaming of a better future for all of us. He made a difference in my life and I pass it forward.