The Future is Feminine: How Men Can #MakeEqualityMoves
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have done a lot to upend a historically long system of mistreatment against women in the workplace and bring long-overdue justice to victims. However, gender stereotypes and biases that gave rise to both movements still exist. Just look at some of the unintended consequences that women are now facing. When it comes to achieving equity in the workplace, we still have a long, murky road ahead of us. One thing is certain though: men must be part of the change. Gender equality won’t just liberate women and girls—it will free everyone from the pressures of so-called “male privilege.”
So, who better to help lead the way than Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at P&G, and actor-director-entrepreneur Justin Baldoni? They’ve both asked the question, “Is this the best a man can be?” Now, they’re harnessing the power of advertising to take #MeToo to the next level: helping men break free of the negative stereotypes that hold them back. After all, media defines culture, and culture defines change. And, if there’s one lesson that we can all take from #MeToo, it’s that media and technology influence our perceptions, whether it’s positively or negatively.
We invited Marc and Justin to join us in The FQ Lounge @ Cannes Lions for an unplugged conversation about why men should fight against gender-based oppression and how they can #MakeEqualityMoves towards a better future. Here are the main takeaways from our discussion.
On Making Gender Equality Everyone’s Issue:
“There are men out there who are feeling disenfranchised. They view equality as a loss of privilege or an attack on masculinity. That’s the last thing we want. It would be a huge step backward. We need to unpack it.”
“The real conversation that we need to be having is with men in private and public and having uncomfortable conversations where we are confronting the things that make them feel uncomfortable so that we can learn. Because if men are not responding, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Why?’ Sure—at the end of the day, we have to remember this is all possible because of women pushing the door down and fighting for equality. However, who’s holding the door closed or holding up the glass ceiling? It’s not women—it’s men. And, if we can’t reach them, how can we change them?”
On Eliminating the Fear of Vulnerability:
“When you see bad behavior and you shine a light on it, as a man, there’s shame and guilt associated with that even if you haven’t directly engaged in that behavior.”
“Every guy struggles with the same things, but we don’t know how to talk about it. When I’m struggling with something and I have to talk to a man about it, there’s a part of me that is resisting. It’s almost like you have to break through years of socialization to be vulnerable enough to have a conversation. And if I’m having a hard time being vulnerable, then there must be a lot of other men feeling it too. It’s passed down through generations.”
“Why do men have such reactions to talking about issues like vulnerability? We’re socialized to be the strong, silent types. One of the worst things you can hear as a man growing up is ‘man up’ or ‘don’t cry.’ And some of the worst names you can call a boy is a ‘wuss,’ a ‘girl,’ or ‘gay’— diminishing comments that boys and men make to each other, which reinforces this hierarchical nature of manhood that we operate in. We use humor or cut downs to establish the hierarchy. Every human being and man wants to be part of a group. And if someone calls you a name, it makes you feel like you’ll be drummed out of the core. This all causes men to fear vulnerability.”
“It’s quite literally a feeling of being disowned by your own gender. It becomes life or death. There’s this low-level hum of anxiety that exists in most men, this weight we put on our shoulders. What we don’t realize is the problematic language of being called a ‘girl’ as kids. We start to associate a girl as being ‘weak’ or ‘less than.’ By being silent, we are then complicit.”
On Reframing the Conversation on Masculinity:
“When we think about stereotypes about women, they are bad because they lead to objectification. But stereotypes about men are just as damaging. The stereotype of men as strong, silent type puts a lot of pressure on men. Not showing any vulnerability ever at any point in time closes the man box. That man box becomes solitary confinement. What happens in solitary confinement? You go crazy. We need to have conversations in such a way that will lead to strong mental health.”
“It’s time to broaden the traditional definition of masculinity, become aware, and take the bravery and courage to receive feedback. That’s the next step.”
In order to create a more equitable world, it’s important to make “space among the woke for the still waking,” as Anand Giridharadas said in a speech at the Obama Foundation Summit. In other words, we need to demonstrate a willingness to ask questions, listen to feedback, and collaborate with people who have different views. If we shame men for not “getting it,” we risk pushing up against resistance and taking a big step backward. Instead of looking at equality and shifting gender roles as a threat to manhood, let’s use this moment as an opportunity to unpack the broader patriarchal system of bias.
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