In conjunction with Anti-Bullying Day in Canada on Wednesday, advocacy group White Ribbon is releasing “Boys Don’t Cry,” a public service announcement by Oscar-nominated Toronto director Hubert Davis. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Director Hubert Davis tackles toxic masculinity in anti-bullying video

TORONTO — It lasts just three minutes but a new video on toxic masculinity covers a boy’s entire childhood, from his toddler days hearing phrases like “be brave,” to being bullied in the schoolyard and roughhousing with teenage friends.

In conjunction with Anti-Bullying Day in Canada on Wednesday, advocacy group White Ribbon is releasing “Boys Don’t Cry,” a public service announcement by Oscar-nominated Toronto director Hubert Davis that paints a powerful picture of the origins of gender-based violence and aggressive behaviour.

“I didn’t realize how volatile the conversation is,” Davis, who directed the Toronto-shot film pro bono, said in a recent phone interview.

“Someone I know had read the script while we were developing it and he actually got quite angry. For a lot of men it’s a real touchpoint, because it’s something we don’t talk about and I guess for some people, they do not want to talk about it. They really don’t think it’s a conversation, that this is just the way it is.”

The short film, which will be shared on social media and at, is narrated by the young protagonist as we see him from infancy to young adulthood.

He remarks on what boys “can be” and “can’t be,” according to societal expectations and gender stereotypes.

“It’s such a polarizing topic, because I feel like we’re in a time where I guess a lot of men feel threatened, maybe — threatened by the idea that we would even question what it means to be a man, which is crazy,” said Davis, who got an Oscar nomination in 2005 for the short documentary “Hardwood.”

Davis came to make the film through his wife, Kelly, a human resources manager who is on the board for White Ribbon, a movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls.

She introduced him to White Ribbon executive director Humberto Carolo, who suggested Davis make a short film and develop a script with ad agency Bensimon Byrne.

Davis said he wanted the story to connect with viewers on a personal level, get them simply thinking about the idea of toxic masculinity and emphasize that there isn’t one root cause to the problem.

“I showed it to my mother-in-law and she said, ‘Oh yeah, I said all those things to my son growing up’ and it really resonated,” he said. ”In her mind, the way that you were supposed to raise a boy is that ‘He’s got to be strong, he’s got to be tough.’ I think it’s generational.”

The project had Davis looking back on his own childhood and how he’s raised his two sons, ages 10 and seven — the things he’s said to them, his reactions to certain situations, whether in the past he has shut down their feelings instead of exploring the source of them.

“There’s not so much solution, it’s not a call to action, like ‘You have to do this,’” Davis said. ”It’s more awareness at a fundamental level: ‘Maybe let’s start to think about this in a different way.’”

Gillette recently sparked an online uproar with an ad for men that touched on a similar topic. The two-minute ad from the razor brand invoked the #MeToo movement and encouraged men to “say the right thing” and “act the right way.”

Davis said he thinks some viewers were upset with the Gillette spot because they felt they were being told what to do.

While it’s a tricky topic to tackle in just a few minutes, he feels it’s important to at least raise questions and spark a conversation.

“I think any time this (topic) goes out, I think there will be pushback,” Davis said. ”I’m kind of bracing myself for the same responses.

“But hopefully what we were trying to do with the film is, it’s not really trying to tell you what you should do, it’s merely asking the question of: What are we teaching young men, what are young men hearing, and what is their feeling of what they can and can’t be?”

Just Posted

Rural communities could face policing bills

Province considering getting smaller and rural communities to pick up a portion of policing costs

Random Acts of Green Canadian tour comes to Red Deer

Red Deerians are being encouraged to lessen their impact on the environment.… Continue reading

Free blood testing for HIV, Hep C, syphilis offered Thursday in Red Deer

Anyone can drop by from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bower Ponds pavilion

Red Deer economy bouncing back but slowly: report

While Red Deer’s economy has been in recovery mode for the past… Continue reading

Red Deer cyclist dead after being hit by vehicle

A Red Deer cyclist was killed when he was struck by a… Continue reading

WATCH: 2019 Canada Winter Games will leave a lasting legacy, say organizers

It leaves Red Deer with the infrastructure and confidence to host future such events

Your community calendar

Wednesday Central Alberta Historical Society annual general meeting is 6 p.m. at… Continue reading

Couche-Tard wants to be a player in the sale of cannabis

LAVAL, Que. — Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. wants to be one of the… Continue reading

Michael Dawe: A safe supply of water has long been a priority for Red Deer

The oldest part of the Red Deer water treatment plant on 54th… Continue reading

New parent charged in admissions scam, linked to $400K bribe

BOSTON — A woman accused of paying $400,000 to get her son… Continue reading

Canadian stars Virtue, Moir say in video they’re “stepping away” from ice dancing

Canadian ice dancing stars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir say they are… Continue reading

Bruce Cockburn avoids impulse to get political with lyric-less new album

TORONTO — If anyone is looking for activist folk singer Bruce Cockburn… Continue reading

13 seasons in, stars reflect on success of ‘Heartland,’ Canada’s ‘comfort food’

HIGH RIVER, Alta. — Alberta-born actor Shaun Johnston had already had a… Continue reading

N.S. senior whose birthday card request drew international response dies

SYDNEY, N.S. — A Nova Scotia widower who received thousands of birthday… Continue reading

Most Read