In this 21 minute audio podcast, “We Believe“, I talk about the Gillette ad that a lot of people are talking about and reacting to. Below is an introduction to the podcast with some points I wanted to touch on but couldn’t because of time constraints and flow.
When I was about six years old, I remember an incident in which a neighbor boy pushed me down and put his foot on top of my chest while striking a Tarzan-like pose of conquer. It was deeply humiliating not only because of the mean treatment and physical act of being pushed down and held in place but also because it was done in front of other children. The shame is something I obviously never forgot. Over the years I was labeled a “sensitive child” which always felt like some unspoken code for something one should not be, even today being a sensitive child is a derisive term. I work with children and I hear that phrase: sensitive child or boy, especially ‘sensitive boy’ spoken in a sneer. These attitudes come from somewhere and it’s deep in our culture.
Growing up I would see the archetype of the sensitive male portrayed on TV and movies as someone who could not be trusted, the villain hiding under a facade of sympathy, empathy or compassion. And by extension those attributes being untrustworthy. At the same time men who supported the feminist movement, who were there for the women in their life, who did the cooking or cleaning etc., the sensitive males, were held up as the new model for manhood. Through all that I discovered that I fit the description of the sensitive male, it was confusing and with all the mixed messages surrounding that label, a total mind fuck.
But that’s what advertising and media do, they send out mixed messages. On one hand, be a man who’s sensitive to others, to women to children, be nurturing and kind. On the other, that man who appears to be empathetic may have a hidden agenda or isn’t who he says who he is. This dichotomy can be seen over and over again in TV and movies. I recently started watching the entire original series of Veronica Mars and this archetype shows up repeatedly and that series was produced only 15 years ago.
These mixed messages keep people confused and distracted from what is really going on. They deliberately do this to keep people on the hook, to buy products and stay in the clutches of Capital and the State.
And so now in today’s media culture men are in the spotlight as being the problem, as being the cause for negative behavior in our society. To some extent that’s true, the behavior is mostly seen through the actions of men. But once again all men are being lumped together into one group. We are all now seen as sexual predators, bullies and misogynists.
Unlike the American public, Gillette and other corporations have the megaphone. They create a distorted discourse in the public sphere. And while advertising and media have been feeding us mixed messages, the State and Capital have been creating conditions that create a culture of hyper masculinity through perpetual war and the prison-industrial-complex which is then amplified through various forms of media and popular culture.
Whether the men who were taken out of their positions as spokesmen, news anchors, TV talk show hosts, popular actors and comedians are guilty of the actions they’ve been accused of or not, they have been used as examples of sexual predators and misogynists, and their actions have become the template of behavior that has been placed on all men in America. In this two-dimensional discourse, all men are THE cause for bullying and sexual harassment. And the ‘We Believe’ commercial reenforces that notion without really taking responsibility for media’s role in society.
But the culture has been changing in positive ways on its own. More men are nurturing dads. More men are sensitive males who aren’t villains in disguise. However, you wouldn’t know that if you only paid attention to what corporate news media, advertising and entertainment are saying. These entities exist to tell you what to think and how to behave. Without the negative influence of Capital and State sponsored perpetual war and the school to prison pipeline, I believe that people would be more evolved than we are today.
People are nicer in the public sphere then Capital, corporate media and the State want us to believe. Of course we can all do better, and we as a society have some work to do. The point of the “We Believe” campaign is to distract people and co-opt the idea that men are taking a stand while at the same time diluting that message, commodifying it and allowing it to be forgotten just like other movements and ideas Capital has compromised. I believe that we can do better, we can ditch State Capital and live more harmoniously without its interference.
Listen to “We Believe”
Here are some additional links that are mentioned in the audio podcast as well as a link to the actual ad being discussed.
Youtuber: churchdog42 https://youtu.be/d0Kp8y4YVGs
“We Believe” video https://youtu.be/koPmuEyP3a0
Lewis Powell memo http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/
Lewis Powell memo: A Call to Arms for Corporations https://billmoyers.com/content/the-powell-memo-a-call-to-arms-for-corporations/
Powell memo and the Chamber of Commerce https://youtu.be/7313St3UoyM