Ben Stich is getting tired of the scare tactics advertisers aim at men … and the impact they have on our families.
While I was at the gym today listening to my favorite sports radio station I heard a commercial about divorce in Massachusetts. It made me stop in my tracks.
I mean it. I must have looked ridiculous. I just stood where I was listening to my headphones.
The advertiser, a local law group, directed their message to divorcing men. I heard statements like:
…men have an uphill battle in court…we know the dirty tricks wives play…fight back before it’s too late…we can minimize the destruction…the hidden dangers of court…they get kids to turn on their fathers…
If I had been facing divorce, I would have been petrified!
I would think things such as: …I need to protect myself…the odds are stacked against me…I need to go on the offensive…I’m going to get robbed…
I can understand why some men would contact this law firm.
When I Thought The Propaganda Could Not Get Worse …
… I got home and googled the firm. I was shocked (again) when I saw a link titled ‘The Pitfalls of Mediation.” This group is not only scaring men to court but they are claiming that divorce mediation is inappropriate and harmful to men.
I could tell you that mediation is wonderful and ideal for everyone, especially men and fathers.
But then I would sound just like the radio ad, only selling the reverse message.
So, yes, mediation is not a fit for all circumstances. A good example is when there is significant history of domestic violence.
Yet, couples go through divorce mediation in Massachusetts all the time without being fleeced, taken advantage of, or subject to nasty tricks. Rather, they usually leave satisfied with a fair agreement that they were able to craft on their own terms.
Which leads me to my point: be aware of gender-driven marketing scare tactics.
This shameless attempt to prey on male fears (and strengthen harmful female stereotypes) is not limited to divorce.
Scared to lose your hair? That you won’t feel attractive anymore? Buy this hair loss product!
Worried about your sexual potency? Want to last longer like a real man? Pop this pill!
Scared you won’t look good this summer? That the ladies will overlook you? Join this gym! Buy this fitness product!
How This Made Me Feel As A Man
As a male mediator, listening to this radio ad hit me in the gut.
After all, if mediation is harmful to men, and I am a male family and divorce mediator, what does that mean about me?
Am I part of a worldwide female conspiracy to screw over divorcing men, financed by the League of Bitter Divorced Women?
Now, I fully expect some comments to this post argue that they, as men, did get the short end of the stick in their divorce proceedings.
But that’s NOT THE POINT!
Just as girls and women should be alert for harmful marketing related to body image, beauty and sex, men should be on alert for clichéd harmful scare tactics preying on male fears and stereotypes.
The Collateral Damage
I used the word harmful in the last paragraph intentionally. This stereotyped marketing creates collateral damage.
The law firm’s ad uses fear to pit men versus women. It is not only divorcing men affected by the insidious messaging of this ad. Married men, dating men, and adolescent boys who are just beginning to develop attitudes about women are, too.
Unspoken messages in this ad (and similar ones) abound, like “you’re not a real man if you aren’t willing to show women who’s boss … a real man wouldn’t let some woman take advantage of him …” and so on.
The divisive tone of the ad fuels relationship doubt and distrust. And what happens?
Communication breaks down. Motives are second-guessed. And in the worst cases, relationships eventually crumble unnecessarily.
Thinking of the law firm’s ad, the greatest collateral damage in this drama, in my estimation, are children.
Litigation is confrontational. It creates resentment and exacerbates conflict between parents. The research is clear. The higher the conflict, the greater the likelihood children will have problems with behavior, academic performance, social skills, and the like. Litigation sets the stage for heightened conflict. This hurts kids. Oh, and by the way, that includes boys.
Sometimes family litigation is justified. Sometimes it is unjustified.
Blanket statements like those made by this law group are reckless and irresponsible. Sadly, this advertisement is not an isolated occurrence. Beyond this one ad, gender and fear-based marketing surrounds us.
The bottom line is this: when you hear advertising about any product or service, learn about your options and make informed decisions.
Avoid reactionary impulses based on cheap attempts to scare you, or any other ways that play in to some aspect of your manhood.
What do you think about the idea of men falling prey to misguided gender-stereotyped marketing tactics?
For more articles by this author, read:
Image: ell brown/Flickr