Gillette has jumped on the #metoo bandwagon, and in the process has derogated masculinity. I have a lot of sympathy for the #metoo movement, because one in four women and one in six men have been sexually assaulted. From my counselling experience, those figures are understated. It happens a lot more than people realise. It almost happened to me.
I was a young naive man in my late teens with a huge father wound. My home was torn apart by marital strife, so I really only had access to my father intermittently until I hit puberty. I was part of the living experiment in fatherlessness that is now afflicting Western society.
In America for example, 57.6% of black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children are living absent from their biological fathers. Australian stats are lower, but not much different.
The cost of fatherlessness and the associated harm caused by fatherlessness is very high in emotional, physical and monetary terms. The lack of an involved, protective, committed, responsible and loving father has been shown through social science research to contribute to an increase in child poverty, child sexual abuse, child emotional abuse, child physical abuse, child and adult drug abuse, child and adult increase in suicide, child and adult self-harm, and much other destructive and abusive human behaviour.
Daughters of single parents without a father involved are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 711% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a pre-marital birth and 92% more likely to get divorced themselves. A Finnish study of nearly 4,000 ninth grade girls found that “stepfather daughter incest was about 15 times as common as father daughter incest”.
Professor Augusto Zimmerman said, “Child abuse and neglect overwhelmingly occur in households from which the biological father is absent or removed.” In Australia, former Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Brian Burdekin, has reported a 500 to 600 per cent increase in sexual abuse of girls in families where the adult male was not the natural father.
The last statistic is the one I relate to and often thing about. Why are fatherless girls and boys so prone to sexual assault?
When you grow up in a fatherless home, you have a deep hunger for the company of older men. Everyone needs a father’s approbation, whether you are a girl or a boy. Having never experienced a true father’s loving masculinity, you are an open target to those who want to use and abuse.
The sad reality is that a minority of men and women are sexual predators. They themselves were, in many cases brought up in broken homes, and in most cases fatherless homes. They themselves were sexually abused and then grew up to become sexual abusers.
So, as a young naive man in my late teens, I was returning from Tasmania. On the flight home I struck up a conversation with an older man about fishing. I love fishing. He took an interest in me and my father-hunger was massaged by the older man’s attention. He invited me to go fishing with him down the south coast and stay overnight at his cabin.
I said yes and almost became another #metoo rape statistic. The fact was that I was a few years older than his usual fare, and Providence saved me. He told me he had many other young boys come and stay ‘at his cabin’. I could tell by the way he told the story that they had met a grisly end. No, he didn’t kill them, but sexual abuse kills something deep inside a young boy or girl that takes a lifetime to heal.
In many cases, the abused becomes the abuser, and that abuse turns inward. Abused people often unwittingly embrace destructive lifestyles and destructive partners. That is why the statistical relationship between fatherlessness, high rates of sexual abuse and high rates of drug abuse and self-harm are so intertwined.
One would think that with a background like mine, I would be a great supporter of Gillette’s new advert. The two-minute video exposing toxic masculinity and fighting against sexual abuse on behalf of the #metoo movement has unfortunately thrown the baby out with the bath water.
You see, there is no such thing as toxic masculinity, just as there is no such thing as toxic femininity!
But what we do have is bad behaviour by both men and women, who display their lack of morals for all to see. As Bettina Arndt has said wisely, “No gender has a monopoly on vice“.
Gillette’s new ad, because of its inherent flaws, has created a firestorm of controversy, and at the time of writing, this ad is sitting on 28 million views. Many men are calling out the inherent misandry in the video because, by implication, all men are sexual abusers of women and violent bullies, and must be reformed.
Boys come in for a beating too for their rough and tumble play. A dark shadow is cast against boyhood and masculinity, but the advert is done so well. The production values are brilliant and the acting flawless and so it gets you in just like Hitler’s old war time propaganda films. If we can just rid ourselves of the Jews, all will be well. If we can just rid ourselves of toxic masculinity, all will be well.
But the problem is, that if we mutilate masculinity, we will ultimately only further destroy the people we are trying to help.
Masculinity and femininity are amoral, but men and women are not — in fact, they are both susceptible to immorality. It is this immoral behaviour which will damage other men and women, boys and girls.
So instead of advocating for more moral behaviour on the part of all human beings, Gillette is joining the radical feminist puritans who believe that masculinity is toxic and we would be better off without masculine men. The inference is, “If only we could make men more like women!”
But what about the second half of the ad you say? It’s so positive. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done in the first half, purely by innuendo and intimation. Of course, that’s how most products are sold these days, but it’s a product I’m not buying.
What we need is a moral revolution and not the demeaning of masculinity. Indeed the true masculine spirit embodied in good moral self-sacrificing behaviour is the only answer to the epidemic of fatherlessness afflicting our western world.
Imagine my joy in seeing an advert put together by a watch manufacturer, celebrating that noble masculine, self-sacrificing behaviour that beats deep within the chest of most men on the planet.
Thankfully, “What is a Man? – A Response to Gillette” has taken off and is sitting on 3,428,258 views as of this writing although it is the ratio of likes to dislikes that gives hope to the human heart, 388,000 likes:6,100 dislikes. It is this figure that shows that both men and women know deep inside themselves that masculinity is a good thing and not the cause of all human woe.
The real culprit is that forgotten three-letter word call ‘sin’ which has gone out of fashion in our quest for scapegoats.
So, what is the answer? We must learn to celebrate masculinity and femininity because they are wonderfully complementary and beautifully mysterious. We need to seek the good in each other not the bad.
Let us not take the razor to masculinity or femininity because both are precious to our children and our children need to experience the qualities of both.
Where would the world be without self-effacing masculine fathers, who in leading by example show their sons how to treat women and girls and what to expect from their future partner — and not settling for anything less? Where would the world be without self-sacrificing, feminine mothers who also lead by example and help children understand what love really is?
We need to stop the gender war and call out bad behaviour for what it is, whether male or female. Only then will our children learn the benefits of truly moral behaviour. Only then will the world be a better place.
Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker.
Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”
The Fatherhood Foundation Incorporated trading as Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity listed under Subdivision 30_EA of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 with Tax Deductible Status (DGR) for donations
Dads4Kids – Building Men. Growing Fathers. Changing Generations.