Bunk Documentaries: Dockers does it again (2 of 2)

The trailer for An Emasculating Truth opens with the following…
“There’s always that fear that masculinity is in danger, that it’s being lost, men are becoming feminized in one way or another.”
“Men are definitely finding their feminine side”
“Their masculinity’s kind of questionable.”
“Maybe too superficial.”
“Settling for less.”

In fact, “kind of questionable” and “superficial” are great descriptions of the movie itself, where Concerned Male Citizen Oscar reports “Testosterone levels are down 17% in the past 14 years among American men. (Girl on street: “That’s crazy! I didn’t know that!”) I want to know why. Why did this happen…to us.”

Oh noes! Oh wait. Why does that statistic (handled pretty loosely considering how complicated hormones are), is enough to send someone on a stereotype-searching sabbatical is beyond me. But to Oscar, it’s enough to make a movie about the quest for Masculinity, which based on the preview, began to ebb away sometime after the invention of color photography. Let’s see, does this movie contain…

-Huge, sprawling generalizations about half the population? (Check.)
-Convenient soundbites from people who agree that masculinity is more precious than a shrinking ozone layer? (Check!)
-Blame for this catastrophe leveled on that other homogenized half of the population? (Check, courtesy of GQ’s Glenn O’Brien: “Women will succeed. They will eliminate men probably in a thousand years. There’ll be like, a few men and, and, like a lot of lesbians.”)

Thankfully, instead of becoming exasperated by what An Emasculating Truth entails (or what it probably won’t entail, such as gender and hormone use in athletics, voices of trans men, or why stupid media projects that seek to define masculinity are ACTUALLY the reason people have fucked up perceptions of gender), consider that’s it part of a brainless, misogynistic, (and if all goes according to plan, viral) marketing plan. As they point out on The Frisky, when you visit the official site of An Emasculating Truth you’ll see that (in itty-bitty letters at the bottom) that it’s presented by Dockers. You know, Dockers, who recently revealed their latest marketing plan, focused exclusively on male anxiety!

(Mouse over for text)

New ad by Dockers. Set in a rugged, all-caps font it reads 'Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well.  Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone.  Men took charge because that's what they did.  But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men.  Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny.  But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street.  For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes.  We need grown-ups.  We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency.  It's time to get your hands dirty.  It's time to answer the call of manhood.  It's time to wear the pants.'

So the folks at Dockers have really taken the expression “wears the pants” and go (fifty years back) with it. Oh, and I like how there is a link to their Women’s section after it. Wouldn’t sticking my ovaries in a pair of khakis go against the entire Man-ifesto?! Sociological Images had further commentary:

Of course, what is really interesting about this ad is the way that it defines manhood as in opposition to all kinds of things: womanhood, of course, but also boyhood, and feminine manhood, androgyny, and whatever disco, plastic forks, latte drinking, and salad represent. What do men get? Being in charge of women and children… and dirty hands (maybe the dirt is metaphorical).

In short, considering that the release of An Emasculating Truth was scheduled for the same time as the Wears the Pants campaign was revealed (November 2009), and that Dockers posted the trailer (sans commentary) to their Facebook page, and the fact that they both tackle the same imaginary issue with the same pathetic gusto is far too coincidental. It’s hard to say if Dockers has an entirely backseat role in this movie or if they will be featured in the movie too, like Oscar picking out which slacks to wear to the strip club, or rodeo, or bris he attends.

So while it’s heartening to know that someone’s not handing out grants to any assclown with a contrived idea for sexist documentary, and comforting that we’ll never see Oscar interviewing Hulk Hogan on the big screen, there is some insidious viral marketing going on here. Let’s hope there’s no additional movies, role-playing games, or ringtones about a Mythic Masculine Past waiting in wings from Dockers, and that consumers are savvy enough to see through the BS campaign that’s already out there.

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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17 Comments Have Been Posted

What makes my blood boil the

What makes my blood boil the most in these "Take Back Masculinity" campaigns (and trust me, this isn't the first one I've seen) is that they more or less insinuate that we women who like effeminate men <i>simply do not exist.</i>

Go Away

Dear Dockers and every other company who thinks they can sell me things by demeaning the character of men and the humanity of women,
Please go away so I can relax. You've been hounding me my entire life about what I should want and what I should be. You're the reason I was hesitant to do theater in school even though I loved it. You're the reason I became suicidal as a teenager, because I felt like I wasn't allowed to share my feelings and problems or even cry a little. You're the reason that I can't be smart and sensitive and appreciative of male beauty without people thinking there's something wrong with me or that I'm gay.
However, you may be surprised to learn that you're also the reason that I'm ashamed of being physically large and strong. The reason I'm constantly reluctant to wear my beard. The reason I can't enjoy a good action movie. The reason I can't initiate conversations with strange women, even when my intentions are platonic. Because you see, you've claimed these sorts of things for yourself, and made people like me ashamed of any association with them. Ashamed of our very gender, in fact.
So once again, please go away. Just go away.

Thank You

That was excellent.

Dear Chris

Go away.

Just like the people who run this site and others like it, you don't get the problem here at all.

First, I grew up with all the same messages that you did. I never wanted to kill myself. I feel blessed to be tall and strong, and I proudly sport facial hair in a world that sometimes goes "ewwww!" at the very sight of it.

Perhaps the reason you turned in to such a mess of insecurity and self loathing is because you didn't take responsibility for your own feelings and learn to express them in defiance of the system that <i>attempts</i> to repress your emotional capacity, including the majority of women who see you as weak and inferior for your sensitivities. You aren't hurt for not measuring up to commercials, you're hurt from not measuring up to women.

And the relief that is available to you is to simply not give a damn what women want you to be.

The problem with the Dockers advertising is that it eschews emasculated men not for what they are; products of what they think women want them to be <b>and</b> about the last forty years of insane feminist activism against anything resembling testosterone, but that it shames men for not being chivalrous.

Oh, yeah, we 'sposed ta open doors and walk 'em cross the street again.

In a campaign that reduces simply to "Man Up and Buy our Pants" their definition of <i>Man</i> is the problem. It's not the knuckle dragging Neanderthal that feminists have stereotyped men as being (even though the movie, in true feminist fashion, paints unemasculated men in the same way), but the the schmuck laying his coat down in the puddle so Missy can keep her heels from getting soiled.

I am siding with the feminists on this one, but unlike them, I am doing it for the right reasons.

Now, if you challenge yourself to sound more like a real man, who owns everything he is, including his body, hair, feelings and yes, tears, and less like Stuart Smalley, things should pan out for you pretty well.

I accept the nomination

I don't think I'll be going anywhere

Thank You, Chris, for being

Thank You, Chris, for being a real Man (a genuine authentic male human being).
Your post was very healing for me in too many ways to explain.
You are a gift.

Go Chris!

Wonderful, wonderful, WONDERFUL response. My neck hurts with all the nodding in agreement. Very well said. Guess we've figured out who the "insecure" one is here.


I am sure I was harder on you than you deserve.

That being said, I ask you to consider something. You said this:

<i>However, you may be surprised to learn that you're also the reason that I'm ashamed of being physically large and strong. The reason I'm constantly reluctant to wear my beard. The reason I can't enjoy a good action movie. The reason I can't initiate conversations with strange women, even when my intentions are platonic. Because you see, you've claimed these sorts of things for yourself, and made people like me ashamed of any association with them. Ashamed of our very gender, in fact.</i>

Honestly, I don't think that your history, age, occupation, education or anything else about you that I don't know will shed more light on those words than the words themselves. I know that saying things like that here, especially expressing shame for your manhood, will get you lots of pats on the back and nods of approval. But so will showing up with a case of liquor in a house full of drunks. And that is just what you are doing, though I know you don't see it that way.

Advertising doesn't create pathology in people, it prays on it. And it's intent is not to shape peoples neuroses but to tap in to and exploit them. For instance, one of the reasons you see so much male bashing in advertising is because misandry is prevalent in the culture. And it targets women a lot more than men, because it is women that control the purse strings. Check out the square footage dedicated by gender in any mall and it will give you a pretty good picture without even going into the stats that prove it.

I challenge you to pay close attention to the commercials on TV. Look for the ones that make men look like idiots who couldn't figure out what to take for a cold without their wives supervision, or the ones the show men getting slapped and kicked and humiliated to sell car insurance or cell phones or Pepsi or Federal Express.

The entire market is saturated with advertising to appeal to what advertisers obviously see as women's contempt for men and men's mindless acceptance of it.

Have you seen Bitch Magazine up in arms about any of that? Do you think for one minute they ever would? You know that answer as well as I do. They will remain mute about sexism unless they think it is sexism against women. That qualifies them for the most hypocritical kind of sexism of all. The sexists that believe that sexism only happens to one sex.

But now they are up in arms about a print ad that dares to claim there was ever anything positive about men and what they brought to the culture. Do you really believe they object out of concern for men? Or is it out of concern for the fact that there is starting to be a reaction, even in advertising to all the hate spewed at men for so long? Hatred that feminists have inspired and embraced for way too many years. And yes, I can totally prove that. I have 2,700 words of quotes from iconic feminist leaders over the past 100 or so years that is every bit as filled with purely hateful statements as a speech at a Klan rally.

They are the last people that should be pointing fingers at anyone, advertisers or otherwise.

He has a point...

Even though I do believe that women are more frequently a target for sexism, I think Paul makes a good point. Women aren't the only victims. For example, in all those Carl's Jr. ads this site seems to target so much, they are obviously horrible towards women, but they also make guys look awful, too. They make guys look like fat, shallow douchebags, that cheat and lie.

I don't think the issue here is the battle between masculinity and femininity, and who is taking away what. The biggest issue is just generalizations of each gender, which in turn create these ideas of masculinity and femininity. In my eyes, I see neither being natural in any gender. I just see personality.

Just Not Getting It

You're on the right track here, but you're STILL missing the point. Let me quote something that I posted above, because you don't seem to have read it the first time. “It's been personally difficult to establish my identity in a society that promotes rigid boundaries of who I should be, of which sexist advertising is an extremely prevalent and visible factor.” Did I see an Axe commercial and put a gun to my head? No. All I was saying was that the environment I grew up in was not healthy or conductive to my mental state or sense of self. Maybe such advertising didn't affect you, but (and I believe I also said this before) I AM NOT YOU. How you feel about things does not inform on how I feel about them, or used to. You're still generalizing and literalizing. And you know what? Even if I did literally mean that tacky commercials made me what to die, I would be perfectly allowed to have those feelings. If I wanna to be a fragile crybaby then I'll go ahead and be a fragile crybaby, and it wouldn't be your place to psychoanalyze those feelings and tell me they're not legitimate.
But the really odd thing is that you actually agree with me and are reiterating what I was trying to convey, yet you don't seem to realize it. I know misandry is a problem, and one that's seldom addressed. So when I saw this article that presented an ad that was ripe with misandry, I decided express my personal outrage, to make it clear to whoever read this article that this kind of nonsense is sexist and hurtful towards men, too. So after posting my feelings on misandry, you come in and try to cut me down for it, ordering me to “man up”, and then whine that no one cares about misandry.
Feminism is personal. It is not an official organization with a manifesto which you must be elected to. It is whatever you want to make of it and do with it. That's why you have feminists who are most concerned with gay rights, or with sexual violence, or with gender equity (hey, look! There's three different kinds of feminists right there!). A large part of what I've chosen to express with my own feminism is the harm that sexist conventions and institutions do to men, too. I'm trying to spread awareness and make sure that this is a side of the problem that my like-minded fellow humans know about. And I guarantee that speaking out like this is a far more effective tract than simply complaining about the silence that misdandry receives. You'll find it makes sense, I hope, to discuss these things with people who know where you're coming from rather than busting in and telling people who you essentially agree with how wrong they all are. Just try it. Try being proactive and constructive rather than blindly critical. I can promise you you'll sway a lot more minds and get labeled a douche far less. Afterall, no one gives a fuck what a douche has to say.
Oh, and you're continuing insistence that women/feminists are the real enemy? I'm not even going to touch that. It's a whole other can of worms. You're clearly beyond help, save for maybe the psychiatric kind.


The title of my post also applies to the three superfluous ones that accidentally got posted...did not mean to do that.


Do we even need to mention the woman who blames the emasculation of men on all the condoms they've been forced to wear?

Do they feel need to enforce the idea of "being man" as refusing to wear condoms?

from a 17 year old girl's pov...

I think its true that maybe since the feminine movement the world has kind of said to men "we dont need you." Not that we need more pro wrestlers or construction workers or guys who wear coveralls, but we need strong men, maybe not physically but men who are strong for women, their children, families, and in any situation. I say that because men and women are made equally but distinctly. Maybe you dont trust the words of the bible but it sure does give a perfect example...God made man before the earth was beautiful, out in the wilderness. According to the Word he was made from dust and spit. God gave Adam the job of naming all the animals and cultivating the earth. Contrastly, the bible states that God "fashioned" women (a much more eligant phrase), he made her from man, and the name Eve literally means "lifegiver." It says God made man and woman in his own image. So if we look at the characteristics of God, we can say that God embodied himself in the essence of Adam in the sense that Adam is a Cultivater, he works with his hands, he is a Warrior. God made Adam out in the wild and therefore is wild himself (concider why so many men love the outdoors, hunting, and most of the books written in the Romantic era were by men). Women resemble God in that they literally give life, they are magestic, they love conversation, theyre undeniably beautiful, and we can all contest women are a bit of a mystery. God made them equally, but distinctly.
Another example of what a man should be is Jesus himself. So here are some things the bible says about jesus and things he did as a man.
-He was a carpenter: he was strong and he worked for what he got
-He was fairly average: his looks and physical strength wernt much beyond the average guy of the time
-He hung out with 12 dudes: Jesus had close guy friends.
-He loved his mother: <---he loved and respected his mom. the end.
-He hung out with criples, prostitutes, the poor, etc: Jesus had FEELINGS and was COMPASSIONATE
-"jesus WEPT"-jesus cried more than once. openly. his heart broke at times.
-He was meek: Basically, being meek means having an amazing amount of power, but being able to control it
-He was outdoorsy: many times jesus went alone into the forest or up on a mountain to spend time with God.
-He was passionate: Jesus flipped over tables outside of the timple where people were doing some muffed up stuff. He saw an injustice, took physical action and got his point across
-He had troubles and fears: before Jesus was arrested it says he was off in the garden alone talking to God and literally sweating blood. Medically this happens when someone is facing severe stress. But keep in mind Jesus was not only up against facing his own DEATH, he was also about to carry the weight of every human being's sin, and the wrath of God. (tho he rose again later)
and those are a few examples among many.
(also keep in mind God created everything on earth, every cell to work together accordingly. He had an eye for disign you could say)
Thats just my take on it :)
Also, remember that once Jesus was asked how to punish a women who had committed adultry-a woman he stood face to face with-and when questioned he said "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Jesus didnt condemn the woman, but loved her. He loves you too.


i meant to add that masculinity bestows masculinity. You cant learn how to be a man from a woman. Women dont know how to be men, so logically that doesnt make sense. But really, concider little boys who look up to their daddies and ask "am i big and strong like you? Can i fix things like you can? can i love mommy like you love mommy? Am i a man now?" in the same way little girls dress up and ask "do i capture your attention? are you amazed by me?" Im not really factoring in gays, abused or foster children, etc, so you can tailor that to an individual situation. I think being a man can found in plenty of situations, including ones that are tagged as "gay". physical strength is equal in comparison to the courage it takes to get up on a stage in front of a huge crowd. Or the ability to turn a blank canvas into something you can stare at and contemplate for hours and hours (which personally i can directly relate back to the same thing God did with creation). Men all have unique talents. But we also live in a gel-ed up, makeuped, dressed up generation of men, which im a girl and i dont even like to wear makeup. That crosses the line into vanity, selfimage, narcisism or a combonation of similar falicies, which is a whole different ballpark. thats not a "masculinity" issue, thats a human being issue. express yourself, yeah, but concider your motives.

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