I’m of two minds about this UK rape survivors campaign highlighted over at Copyranter.
On the one hand, this is excellent in both its imagery and its targeting. By having been raped, you — average rugby-loving Joe Masculine — might feel like you are somehow less of a man. Underreporting is a drastic systemic problem in determining rape statistics, so encouraging those who have been raped to come forward and get the help they need to cope with the emotional trauma they’ve experienced is paramount.
However, I do have to take issue with the idea that there’s such a thing as a “real man”. This idea of masculinity drummed into us of stoicism, taking our “lumps” and walking them off, is nothing short of toxic. And the adjoining idea, that if you are unable to “walk it off”, you are not a real man, is every bit as toxic. The demand that men, if they are to conform to the gender roles to which they are consigned, must show no emotions and no weakness if they are to be considered appropriately manly, damages these very men. It puts them into an unwinnable situation when they are emotionally injured, where they are forced to compound their own injury.
The “talking about it takes real strength” line does in fact undermine that toxic stoicism. But reinforcing the idea that there’s a Real Man archetype, and it involves being strong, is kind of terrible to those men who do not see themselves as strong enough.
I don’t know. I could be reading too much into this one. Could this ad honestly be done any better, though? We’re already in a situation where the gender roles proscribe stoicism in the face of drastic trauma. Must we work within those confines, or could we find a phrasing that is fairer, or more appropriate, to those men who have been victimized and otherwise feel like there’s no recourse?