“Toxic masculinity” in advertising: keeping women scared and men shamed
Some students of human nature believe that, because our ancestors could only survive as a species human through a constant awareness of danger, we are endowed with an inherent need to be in a “state of fear” about something or other, even if the objective danger is neither existential nor widespread. It’s certainly true that political movements often encourage a state of fear to enhance their image of indispensability.
Feminism is the reigning orthodoxy of our era, and for feminists, men (almost invariably white heterosexual men) are a favourite target for fear mongering. Short film/ads make excellent promotional vehicles for ideas and attitudes. I wrote about the now-infamous, feminism-inspired Gillette short film in these pages last week, a semi-humorous riff on the corporate cynicism behind its conception. But I knew my off-the-cuff riposte had not really addressed my deeper concerns about it, so the film continued to nag at me.
It reminded me of another social-messaging film I had seen and written about. In 2012, to mark the annual commemoration of the 1989 Montreal Polytechnic massacre of 14 women engineering students, the Canadian Women’s Foundation put out a short but effective little film addressing the problem of male violence—in particular sexual violence—against women. To me it symbolized what I most dislike about feminists’ marketing campaigns: their utter contempt for men, and their willingness to distort evidence in order to demonize them while creating an unnecessary state of fear in women.
The scenario is a baby shower (“It’s a girl!” banner close-up tells us the unborn baby is female). Gifts are being opened by the young mother, as a doting circle of friends and relatives of diverse ages looks on. Notably, every one of the shower guests is beautifully groomed and fashionably kitted out. A gift is passed to the expectant mother. She opens it and holds the unwrapped object up, puzzled. “What is it?” someone asks. An older woman solemnly and sadly responds, “It’s a rape whistle.” The mother looks stricken. A young child at her shoulder smiles at the whistle, clearly uncomprehending. Cut to a black screen with the words, “1 in 2 girls will be physically or sexually abused.”
Pardon? Fifty percent of women will be beaten or raped? Um, well since you asked—and I was the only journalist in Canada who did, to my knowledge—the answer is no. As it turns out, that figure is derived not from an academic study, but, as I was informed by a spokesperson from the Canadian Women’s Foundation, from a poll (20 years old at the time, a point of high inflection for misandry and promotion of #rapeculture amongst influential feminists) surveying women’s perception of abuse.
This poll would not have checked out police reports or official statistics, but would have posed a range of questions, such as, “Has your partner ever yelled at you in anger?” or “Have you ever had sex with a man after consuming alcohol he gave you?” Any affirmative answer would then be added to the “statistics” of abuse risk in the eyes of the poll creators, who would have been, naturally, feminists keen to elicit a conclusion indicating high-risk probabilities. Had even a bias-skewed poll discovered a low probability, it would doubtless not have seen the light of day.
The actual intimate partner violence rates in Canada in 2011 were 18.8% for women and 19.8% for men. That is, about one in five women suffered abuse from a partner, and about one in five men suffered abuse from a partner in that year. There has been no upward surge since then. These figures are consistent with figures in other western countries, as confirmed by multiple bona fide studies, like this one from 2010.
It can be definitively stated, whatever metrics one chooses for investigation, that far fewer women than the figures cited above for partner violence will be at risk of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, though the film blurs those lines. This film is further misleading in that the kind of women one sees at baby showers of this kind—middle or upper middle-class women who live in nice neighbourhoods, go to university, marry before having children, have self-respect and confidence, practice bourgeois (i.e. prudent, security-conscious) habits, and who are unlikely to have seen violence as a means of conflict resolution modelled in their homes—and I could go on—are far less at risk for abuse than women who are, say, prostitutes, alcoholic or drug-addicted, from a dysfunctional family and surrounded by a wider circle of cultural dysfunction, used to violence as a response to frustration – and I could go on there too.
That said, the rape-whistle ad is admirable from a marketing point of view in the efficiency—33 seconds total!—with which it promotes several messages: the essential goodness and cooperativeness of women; the sanctity of motherhood (the situation allows for the complete absence of men, so fatherhood does not arise); and the contrast between the coziness and safety of women’s spaces and the menacing world of “toxic masculinity” (before the phrase was popularized) lurking in wait outside this circle, something a female child is threatened with before she is even born!
To return to the Gillette ad, I understand now why I reacted so strongly to it. Like the Canadian Women’s Foundation ad, it drove its theme home by encouraging a state of fear in women and a state of shame in men. In the Gillette film (in which women are largely absent, apart from those who feel threatened by men), the presenting incident had two boys wrestling in a yard. None of the men witnessing it were troubled by it, symbolized in the repeated trope, “Boys will be boys.” It was that central image—the row of middle-class men lined up behind their barbecues, portrayed as indifferent to male violence—that I found disturbing.
For what does a neatly-dressed man standing behind a barbecue signify? Think of every Father’s Day ad you have ever seen. How many of them feature barbecue tools? Maybe 50%? Why? Because when men barbecue, they are usually in a back yard. If men have a back yard, it means they live in a house. If they have a house, they are generally married with children. When men barbecue, they are usually feeding their families and friends and having fun doing it. In other words, barbecue men are deeply invested in family life.
They are, in short, fathers. And what is the easiest way to produce boys who do not understand or respect the boundaries between positive and negative masculinity? Take away their fathers. I won’t rehearse yet again the statistics around fatherlessness and the deleterious effect it has on both boys and girls, but especially boys. There are entire neighbourhoods in America that are essentially control studies in demonstrating that fatherlessness is the single greatest predictor for school dropout, juvenile criminality, gang adhesion, failure to form healthy intimate relationships, and a litany of other poor social outcomes.
I therefore cannot think of a more ironic and damaging disconnect between imagery and reality than the barbecue men, chosen by feminist film director Kim Gehrig, to represent the source of toxic masculinity. She could not have gotten it more ass backward.
It is not the indifference of fathers to boys’ getting too physical that is the problem in our society. Boys do fight sometimes. And it is barbecue fathers who in real life are the most likely men to break up a boys’ fight without getting hysterical about boys fighting in general. They aren’t alarmed by boys fighting, because many of them have been there themselves, and know that when two boys of equal age and size (as the boys in the film were) mix it up physically to settle a quarrel, it may not be the best way to handle a conflict, but it also doesn’t mean those boys will end up as violent offenders if the fight isn’t stopped within the first five seconds.
These dads don’t have to be taught by a “good” man—as they are in the film—that boys shouldn’t fight physically (although one could argue—and many smart people do—that a physical fight that ends without serious consequences and no lingering bitterness is preferable to the kind of verbal bullying inflicted on girls by other girls that can go on and on). They know when to intervene instinctively. Waiting a few minutes to see if the boys’ own internalized rules kick in first isn’t always a bad thing.
Because there is a certain truth to “boys will be boys,” in that aggression and competitiveness are masculine traits. Unless you are an ideological purist who believes any form of male aggression is toxic, you understand that for boys, occasional testing of the boundaries of aggression is normal and nothing to be alarmed about. The barbecue men are the reason most boys with loving fathers grow up to be strong, productive men: men who will never be a threat to anyone—except to bad guys who never learned the boundaries for—or how to positively channel—aggression, because so many of them had no fathers to teach them.
Of course male sexual violence against women must be considered a serious problem, but “serious” is not the same as ubiquitous. Frightening women out of their wits for no good reason and arousing shame in male viewers as both films are designed to do, serves no purpose other than to demonize men collectively, arouse resentment in the majority of men, who are decent and non-violent, and erect walls of distrust between the sexes.
No discussion of “state of fear” ads would be complete without mention of the amazing rebuttal film, “What is a man? A response to Gillette,” mounted just two days after the Gillette ad appeared, created by Ilan Srulovicz, CEO of Ergard Watches (and, by the way, a Canadian originally from Montreal, who divides his time between Atlanta and Toronto).
Short, just shy of two minutes, simple and poignant, the film portrays men positively and sympathetically: as brave, protective, self-sacrificing, passionately parental, vulnerable … and socially “disposable.” It’s one of the best social “message” films I’ve ever seen. Many other viewers agree. Today, several days after speaking to Srulovicz, the film has garnered almost 3,000,000 views, with over 300,000 upvotes on YouTube. And speaking of irony: Gillette paid big bucks for its film; Srulovicz created his in a few hours for nothing.
If the film evoked negative reaction, his watch business could have suffered. But Srulovicz took the risk because Ergard is a father-son business and he wanted to “celebrate my relationship with my dad,” which he says is exemplary. Besides, Srulovicz himself is in a solid relationship with a woman he loves, and it struck him: “What woman would want negative messaging for men? [My girlfriend and I] want to embrace each other. My girlfriend lifts me up. It hurts her when something tears men down.”
As he wrote in an op ed about his motives, “My belief is that if you want to ‘make men better,’ as Gillette claims it wants to do, then the best way to do that is to show the best of us, not the worst. When I see a man risking his life running into a burning building, it makes me want to be better. When I see a father who will stand by his kids no matter what, it makes me want to be better. When I see a soldier putting everything on the line to preserve my freedom, I want to be better. That’s what a man is to me and they represent a far greater majority of men than what Gillette portrayed a man to be.” He ended with, “I wish the video I made was the norm from companies, not the exception.”
We must hope that the positive response to Srulovicz’s film will set exactly such a trend in motion.
#MeToo had rules. At least we thought so. Culturally, societally, politically, we all tried to learn them, to internalize them, to understand just what types of incidents could get a person ejected from their life, tossed out of their social group, ostracized from friends, unemployable, unpersoned. The rules seemed almost clear—until suddenly those who seem to be in charge of them don’t even follow their own logic anymore.
Katie Hill had an affair with a junior staffer, another woman, who feels that she was victimized. By the rules of #MeToo, that would dictate that Hill loses it all, right? Only somehow, it’s being spun the other way, by the same publications that brought us diatribes against Al Franken. Hill, it turns out, can also claim victim status at the hands of her ex, who was the one who released the information about the affair. In her resignation speech, Hill echoed Franken’s sentiments, that it seems absurd that she should be resigning when a guy like Trump is in the White House.
To recap: the wronged party is not the spouse, not the junior staffer, but the powerful person at the center of it. While it is true that Hill was the victim of revenge porn, and that is not acceptable, the same principle did not apply to Anthony Weiner or Joe Barton. It does not immunize her from her own wrongdoing.
“The squad” of freshmen congresswomen supported her during her recent tribulation. Nancy Pelosi, and other senior members of Congress, apparently wished that “Hill had been more careful in transmitting her private photos.”
Hill was given far more leeway in terms of the vocal and press lashing that other members of Congress who have found themselves exposed for sexual misconduct have faced. It turns out that she is being supported, not harassed and harangued. A staffer for Rep Sylvia Garcia (D-TX 29th), said, “A lot of the show of support was done intimately and privately with Hill, out of respect for her. … People didn’t want to be adding to the noise. We didn’t want to make press out of the pain and suffering she’s been through. She had private images published without her consent that have caused incredible pain.” Weiner did too, but no one had any sympathy for him at all.
The thing is, and yeah, we hate to be those people, but we can so easily imagine the reverse scenario. Here it is: a dashing young first-term congressman has an affair with a staffer years younger. He takes drugs, advertises his sexual availability on dating apps, and drags his wife into a threesome with the junior staffer. When the marriage breaks up—perhaps as a result of this kind of rampant infidelity, after all, they weren’t openly poly or ethically non-monogamous—the wife releases the dirt on the congressman to the world. She wants people to know just what kind of guy this is, how he is a liar and a cheater, a womanizer, and abuser, unfit to be in Congress. What then? Why she’s a hero, of course, and he’s a villainous letch.
Haven’t we heard this story before? Why is it so different now? Is Hill really a victim of her own sexual dalliances? Are we to believe that a woman who is strong enough to run and win a congressional campaign is so easy to bully? Perhaps we’re looking at it all wrong, readers, perhaps we don’t truly understand the nature of abuse or something, but what we do understand, what is perfectly clear, is that we’re supposed to believe all women, even when she is the abuser. We’re supposed to imagine that there is some substantive difference in how the rules are to be applied to men and women in the same deleterious circumstances.
Now, we’re the first to admit that the rules are stupid. That this game of pointing fingers and shaming people is nonsensical and barbaric is not something we doubt. But if there are going to be rules that we are all expected to play by, ought they not be, well, adhered to?
If #MeToo is meant to be the new standard that we all must bow down to, and it’s a given that men and women are equal, then we must apply the rules fairly, and everyone who has a complicated sexual relationship that leads to grievances must be punished. Or, maybe, just maybe, we could do away with this nonsense and start to see the human beings for what they are: flawed, complicated, and capable of cruelty and kindness.
#MeToo may have been an effective corrective in some situations, but it should never have risen to the level of an era. As it stands now, we are living through a “cultural context where common vengeance writes the law,” and the hypocrisy is destroying us. If the rules don’t apply the same way for everyone, perhaps the rules are the problem.
An antifa activist with a history of violence and threatening behaviour across the Pacific Northwest has been arrested on a felony hate crime charge in Seattle for alleged anti-Semitic attacks.
Jamal Oscar Williams, 44, is accused by state prosecutors in Washington state of hate crimes and criminal harassment against Schmuel Levitin, a rabbi, and Ephriam Block. According to court documents, Williams “maliciously and intentionally” followed, threatened to kill and assaulted the men in multiple attacks in October because of their perceived religion.
Levitin and Block were operating a permitted religious booth for the Sukkot Jewish holiday in downtown Seattle on October 11 when Williams allegedly approached them and shouted: “Jews, Jews, Jews … give me your money!” He then said he had a gun and was going to kill them. Both Levitin and Block have beards and payots, or sideburns, and were wearing yarmulkes. Levitin is a rabbi at the Chabad of Downtown Seattle.
Three days later, Williams returned and made similar threats and demands for money. On October 15, the next day, Williams allegedly followed the men into the lobby of their apartment building. After making more demands for money, he allegedly hurled candy from the concierge’s desk at the men. Police later found and arrested Williams in a nearby-area. He was unarmed at the time.
Jamal Williams is known in the Pacific Northwest for his involvement in various antifa protests and his outspoken views on black nationalism. In August 2018, he was arrested in Seattle during a counter-protest against right-wing group Patriot Prayer. Last November, he threatened this journalist with death outside Seattle City Hall at a counter-demonstration against a conservative group.
More recently, Williams was in Portland, Oregon on August 17 where he was recorded accosting people aggressively during an antifa protest-turned-riot against the Proud Boys. He was also part of a group of people who surrounded and threatened to hurt a reporter with the Washington Examiner.
“He threatened me multiple times,” Julio Rosas said. “It spoke volumes when Portland Police pulled me away and said I was provoking Williams and others, when it was Williams who was acting in a very aggressive manner.”
Williams was later arrested by Portland Police for disorderly conduct. He did not show up to his court hearing in September and there is a bench warrant for his arrest.
In addition to Williams’ radical political activism with antifa, he has a long history of criminal and harassing behaviour. In Washington state, he was convicted in 2015 for felony harassment and domestic violence. He has multiple other convictions for assault and domestic violence going back years. He also has a long violent criminal record in Alaska, where he used to live.
Williams is currently incarcerated on a $100,000 bond in King County, Washington for the hate crime charge.
'They treat my autistic son like a caged animal': student takes college to court over Title IX ruling
Marcus Knight—a student with autism and cerebral palsy—will come face to face with the Title IX officer who found him guilty of two Title IX sexual misconduct violations later this month as he takes his college to court in an attempt to clear his name.
Knight first came to my attention in 2018 after his attempts to make friends landed him in the school’s Title IX office, not just once but twice. According to the lawsuit, Marcus Knight asked one female student for a fist-bump, and another for a selfie.
While these may seem trivial, two female students at Saddleback College were so uncomfortable with Knight’s attempts to make friends that they reported him to the Title IX office, with one student claiming Knight made her “uncomfortable.”
But what’s caused two years of “absolute heartbreak,” according to Knight’s mother, is how the Title IX officer handled the accusations.
Considering Knight’s disability, both students decided not to follow-through with any charges. After one female thought Knight was stalking her and was uncomfortable with fist-bumps, the school reported:
“She understands this is part of his disability and [that Marcus Knight] only wants to make friends and that no harm is intended.” In due course, her complaint was resolved by mediation between Knight, his mother, and the school’s Title IX office.
Later, student Naomi Bueno Rojo reported Knight for “following her around campus,” “[invading her] personal space,” and that he tried to “put her hand on [his] thigh.” It’s unclear why Rojo felt the need to involve the Title IX office.
She reportedly felt “no fear” from Knight, and did not request disciplinary action.
Student Melissa Gold also took Knight to the Title IX office.
Gold claimed Marcus took more than 300 photos with her. According to Aurora Knight, his mother, Marcus has a tic that caused him to press the camera button multiple times with burst mode on.
Later, Gold left Saddleback College. When the Title IX officer reacher her for comment, Gold said “This is irrelevant to my life right now. I don’t care what happens officially at this point.”
Again, this was another instance of Marcus Knight, who has autism, cerebral palsy, and multiple learning disabilities, simply trying to have some sort of semblance of friendship among his peers at college by taking selfies and trying to talk to people.
At the time, 2018, Juan Avalos was the school’s Title IX counsellor. Though Avalos does not seem to have formal as a Title IX law training, Avalos nonetheless investigated and adjudicated Knight’s case.
Despite that no students formally testified against Knight, he was still found guilty.
The Post Millennial asked the college, Juan Avalos, and the California Community College system if Avalos had training in adjudicating Title IX matters. We also asked if he had any training to deal with students with disabilities. No response.
According to the lawsuit, Knight was never offered a fair hearing, an opportunity to respond to the evidence, and Knight did not have enough time to gather information to defend himself.
Further, the school’s “single-investigator model,” during which Avalos collected evidence, interviewed students and subsequently disciplined Knight is unlawful under California code, according to the lawsuit.
In fact, it’s unsure why Avalos was even appointed to deal with Title IX cases. According to his online resume, he has no relevant experience in dealing with victims of sexual assault, Title IX training certifications, or any training to deal with students with disabilities.
He is simply the Vice President of Student Services. That department encompasses everything from financial aid to diversity programs.
While it’s understandable that admins of small colleges may wear multiple hats, it goes without saying that each person should be trained for their role, especially when they have the power to suspend and expel.
Going forward, Marcus and Aurora Knight have been “left in the dark.” by Saddleback. Knight will eventually apply to transfer to a four-year school, but it’s unclear how and if his record of sexual misconduct will follow him.
For now, Knight can only visit campus when supervised. This semester, Knight takes four classes, and will need to pass about six more to complete his associates degree. Despite his limited language abilities, Knight loves music and sings in his local church and school choir. His goal is a BA in Musical Theater.
The student’s mother says she’s “confused and frustrated.”
“I asked for papers from Saddleback multiple times asking if anything is removed [from his record] and I haven’t heard anything back yet,” Aurora Knight told The Post Millennial by phone.
“Why won’t they just be honest? They are treating my son like a caged animal. But he is utterly harmless.”
“He had no issues prior to college, at all,” his mother said.
Marcus Knight is represented by Mark Hathaway, a Title IX lawyer who has helped over 100 students fight for justice. The hearing is set for November 18, 2019.
“We believe that Saddleback College failed to comply with the law and their own policy in improperly disciplining Marcus Knight and no sanctions should ever have been imposed against him,” Hathaway told The Post Millennial.
Aurora—a single mother and immigrant from Italy—has created a GoFundMe to help cover her son’s legal expenses.
“My family has been robbed of two first years in college, my son’s dreams have crashed, his confidence is destroyed… Marcus has no idea who he can trust and who he must fear… he doesn’t know who is a friend or even how to make friends.”
“Marcus wants to face Juan Avalos in court. He wants the opportunity to state the facts and clear his name.”
The Post Millennial called Knight and asked what he thinks. He gave us three words: “I am innocent.”
This is an ongoing story. All parties named in the story were given multiple opportunities to provide comment but did not respond.
Toni Airaksinen is a Columnist at PJ Media, The Post Millennial, and a social media strategist for kosher restaurants in Brooklyn, NYC. She graduated from Barnard College in 2018. She has also been a contributor to USA TODAY College, Quillette Magazine, The Daily Caller and the NY Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.
Mikhaila Peterson and her father Dr. Jordan Peterson have a bestselling book on Amazon about the carnivore diet. The only problem, it’s not their book.
While Mikhaila has been vocal about her support for a thoroughly carnivorous diet, this book transcribes comments, interviews, and YouTube videos of the two Petersons and puts it together as a collection. It had no approval from either of the listed authors, no proceeds are heading their way, and fans have been fooled into buying the fake book with a horrendous, amateur photoshopped cover.
The guy who put the whole thing together is Johnny Rockermeier, a German YouTuber who has published one other book of Jordan Peterson transcriptions. His YouTube page is full of Peterson videos and interviews.
In fact, Rockermeier appears to be a fanboy. So why would he take it upon himself to attribute a book to Mikhaila and Jordan Peterson, hijacking and misappropriating their brand?
We reached out to Mikhaila who told us “[Rockermeier] did some German translations for my dad’s videos a number of years ago on YouTube. But he shouldn’t be publishing. We received an email and sent it to our lawyers and said, ‘No you can’t do that.’ That was two weeks ago. Our lawyers didn’t get on it fast enough. I don’t know why Amazon isn’t more on top of this kind of thing. It’s happened before.”
Disturbingly, a number of left-wing activist journalists and researchers have taken to Twitter to use the fake book as a line of attack against Mikhaila and her father. When put in their place by Mikhaila herself, they still haven’t corrected their false assertions.
Some of the activists include Nathan Bernard and Becca Lewis, a social justice researcher who falsely claimed that Peterson’s videos were part of an “alternative influence network” that led to the “alt-right” in a since-debunked study.
The Post Millennial was also able to connect with Rockermeier. When asked if he thought there might be a problem with publishing and selling a book without the authors’ consent, he told us, “well they could contact me so I guess they’re happy with it. In the book there’s nothing they didn’t say, and the pics are publicly available. [Mikhaila] even posted her mom in swimwear.” He then added a smiley face with a tongue sticking out.
When asked about the claim on Amazon that, “for every paperback sold, Mikhaila and her father Dr. Jordan Peterson will receive $1.00 directly,” Rockermeier said, “I will send their royalties when her Thinkspot is up. She’s off Patreon now. But honestly, they don’t need any more money.”
Mikhaila Peterson went on to tell us that she plans to look for a way to get the fraudulent books removed. “Normally it doesn’t bother me, yesterday I thought it was kind of funny. The cover is so cheesy that it’s kind of funny. But I’ve gotten emails about what a terrible person I am and what a terrible person my dad is. No matter how resilient you are, it’s tough reading a whole bunch of messages like that. People forget that anyone who has a platform is also a person.”
As of writing Amazon is still selling the fraudulent books. Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment.