Rob Lowe, DirectTV and Shame

This post is about male narratives and men’s stories, and gender equality and not emasculating men. I acknowledge in advance that this is not my narrative, and I appreciate those who are willing to listen and think and question this cultural artifact with me.

Although I like Rob Lowe and his new commercials pimping for a dish provider (which have the advantage of letting me watch Rob Lowe with Rob Lowe)…. I am not so enamored of the peeing scene.

It’s unnecessary and shaming. It’s a patriarchy-reinforcing scene.  It could be cut without losing any of the rest of the message, which focused more on Rob Lowe and Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe and their experiences with DirectTV and cable.

You would never show a woman peeing on network television. At most, you might show her in a bathroom, or an anonymous hand under a stall (such as asking for TP, or a feminine product). This is in part because we have doors on our stalls, but also because women’s waste elimination is treated as some kind of mythical thing (which is why the Poopouri ad is so shocking). Whereas men have both literal and figurative pissing contests.

The reason this ad is so problematic to me is because it basically implies that Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe is less of a man because he can’t pee in public. That is patently ridiculous. Men do not need to urinate in front of other people to be men. To be a man, you need to identify as male– period. A penis doesn’t make you a man, as any transwoman will tell you. Everything in your brain that associates with your gender identity makes you a man, including the part of your brain that says “eliminating waste is a private matter and I wish to do it in privacy.”

I spent 4 hours in a huge mob a couple of weeks ago, and can assure you that a lot of people have a problem urinating in front of others, even in a near-panic situation. I stood with a 12 year old boy who was in physical pain, nearly crying, but unwilling to duck into a bush and relieve himself. Ads like “Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe” tell him that he should be ashamed of this, and that’s not right.

As men can be allies to women in the struggle for equality, women can be allies to men in that same struggle, and help alleviate toxic masculine culture. That includes shaming men for being themselves. We can’t do all the work, any more than men can fix gender inequality by themselves. But just as I expect the men in my life to call out rape jokes as not being funny, I will call out emasculating jokes as being not funny as well.

DirectTV and Rob Lowe: This one missed the mark. I know you can do better.