I’ve been meaning to take a break from my personal stories to write a post about something that struck a chord with me. A few months ago Gillette released a commercial that brought a lot of media attention. It appeared the purpose of the commercial was to get people to ask themselves, is this the best a man can get? If you haven’t seen the commercial you can click here to watch it. The Best a Man Can Get
I was very surprised by the reactions that I heard from a lot of men that I respect and consider to be good people. “That’s not the majority of men. It’s the minority”….”Women treat men poorly too”… “Oh come on! Things aren’t that bad.” …. “People need to lighten up”.
I came to an overwhelming understanding that many men have no idea what women have to deal with on a day to day basis. I still remember the first time a man catcalled me in the streets of New York City. I was 10. I was in 5th grade …. still an elementary student… and a grown man felt it was appropriate to yell things to me about my body. I had no idea why a grown man was shouting at me and looking at me the way that he was. All that I knew was that I was walking with my family, excited to see my first Broadway show, and this complete stranger made me feel unsafe.
I’d like to say that this experience was a one time occurrence, but I can tell you that it has been a theme throughout my life. Men whistle, they say “Oh baby”, they leer and they call out as if they are giving you a compliment. Heads up men…. compliments are supposed to make someone feel good … not threatened.
This mentality that it’s ok to yell things at a woman about her looks starts at a young age too. One day I was shocked to hear a group of middle school boys repeatedly yelling “MILF!” at me as I walked my three year old daughter down the street in her stroller. They were around 12 or 13 years old and they had already learned this was acceptable behavior. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face when she looked up at me, frightened, and asked, “Mommy, why are those boys yelling at us?!” I assured her that she was safe and that they were being rude and it was unacceptable. My baby girl’s first encounter with this behavior was at age three.
I wonder how many of my male friends have had their sons feel objectified at such a young age… how many of them have had to explain to their three year olds that it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings and to walk quickly away from these situations and towards a populated area… to never take your eyes off of the person yelling… just in case. I wonder how many of my male friends have to make sure they never put their drinks down unattended. I wonder how many of them walk in parking garages with their keys between their fingers in case someone jumps out and tries to hurt them. I wonder how many of them try to go out for a fun night with their friends only to be hit on, groped and grabbed by total strangers. I wonder how many have felt another person’s unrealistic expectation that because they bought dinner on a date that they’ll “get lucky”. This is real. It’s the reality of my female friends. It is my reality. Sadly… it will be my daughter’s reality too.
While these occurrences might seem small, they add up over time and play a part in forming a young woman. It would be easy to stick our heads in the sand and claim that few women have to deal with these kinds of issues … but the truth is all women have dealt with situations like these in their lives… and the frequency these things occur would shock most men. I think Gillette hit the nail on the head. I would challenge my male friends to reflect and ask themselves if they’ve ever done these things. If they’d bat an eye if they saw another man do them to a female. I don’t think this is the best a man can get. I think we can do better.