There used to be one definition of man. Muscles, toughness and a high sex drive gave you a one-way ticket to masculinity. It wasn't just a one-way ticket, though; it was the only ticket, constraining men in what that could be.
Today, there are many more definitions. Gender roles have become more fluid. You would think that this means men can break-out of outdated labels more easily and choose their own way of how to be a man. Right?
Well, not really. Or at least not to the extent we would have thought.
For years, guys have been told to man up. Act tough. Don't cry. And even today, despite the many positive examples of 'progressive masculinity' out there, being a 'man' is still ruled by these old school stereotypes, forcing guys to bottle up their feelings.
Toxic masculinity is one of the results of this and shockingly, guys don't actually realise how it affects them and others around them.
New research conducted by Promundo and commissioned by Axe is highlighting the real life impact these societal labels have on men. We discovered the 'Man Box' (a set of 'man up' stereotypes and 'act tough' expectations) is alive and kicking - and it affects guys in countless ways. Mix mental health issues, bullying, violence and a lack of positive role models and you'll end up with a lethal cocktail.
Our research also shows guys avoid doing things they love for fear of appearing 'girly' or 'gay'. I'd hate to think my sons couldn't pursue their passions for fear of being labelled by their friends or peers. Worse still, guys in the 'Man Box' are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts. More likely to be victims or perpetrators of bullying. And are at least three times more likely to make unwanted sexual comments towards women.
At Axe, we want to shine a spotlight on the dangers of toxic masculinity and destroy the 'Man Box', getting everyone to see that an inclusive model of masculinity benefits men, women, and ultimately, society.
Over the past few years, we've made good progress. We have made a big shift in our advertising with the launch of 'Find Your Magic', getting guys to see that the end goal isn't just 'getting the girl'. It's being the most attractive man they can be - themselves. Thousands of men and women have responded very positively to this change and have encouraged us to keep going. So we are partnering with NGOs like Promundo, The Representation Project and www.ditchthelabel.org, one of world's biggest anti-bullying charities, to support young guys on their journey to manhood.
Axe has always been there to help build young guys' confidence through products and entertainment. And I believe we now need to stand alongside them as a reliable partner in their lives, breaking down the barriers that hold them back.
For me, being a man today isn't about conforming to one dangerous ideal of manhood; masculinity has many forms. So next time you tell someone to 'man up' - think twice. We need to form an inclusive society and create a world with as many definitions of masculinity as guys walking this earth.
After all, everyone has more fun that way.Suggest a correction