One Leg at a Time

WOW…seriously???  I mean…seriously???  Dockers, what are you thinking?  Take a look at this new ad campaign that Dockers is putting out there and tell me what you think:

So is it that Dockers is of the opinion that their pants will somehow make men more “manly”.  I hate that this campaign is calling for a return to the days when a woman’s place was in the home cooking dinner and minding the kids and that men are the ones doing “real work.”  And that somehow our world has gone off its tracks and landed in a feminized (and therefore chaotic and broken) world that could be fixed with a healthy dose of testosterone.  If only we could go back to a time when men were in charge then the world would be one big Shangri-la (but not in a frilly, fluffy, emotional way – that wouldn’t be manly).  I get that the ad is trying to be funny.  However, funny sexism is still sexism.  It is just more palatable and easier to dismiss as harmless.

I happen to have a different opinion of what is wrong with the world today.  Try this on for size.  I feel that society has lost its way, at least in part, not because of feminization but because far too many men can’t (or won’t) let go of the past.  Far too many men have remained in a state of suspended animation – frozen in that mindset that men work so they don’t have to have a hand in child rearing and house cleaning.  Well fellas, women work too (they always did – we just didn’t call it that).  In most families today both parents have full time jobs outside the home.  Gone are the days of the bread winner and care taker roles.  Nowadays, both parents need to share the responsibility of raising the children and maintaining the house.  Unfortunately, many men have been reluctant to engage and the results have been catastrophic.  We know that something has to change, but many men are afraid of that change.  We have a fear of the unknown.  Unfortunately while we are “sitting idly by” cities do crumble and children do misbehave.   In my opinion, you can add to that list that family relationships crumble.  Children are forced to raise themselves (or let their television or X-Box do it).  Divorce rates skyrocket and children’s grades plummet.  How about things like childhood obesity? Dating violence? Self mutilation?  Is it possible that they are also symptoms of this larger problem?  I think so.

Please don’t mistake this for male bashing or that I am blaming all men for the world’s problems.  I certainly am not.  After all, I am a man and I know plenty of other men that are wonderful partners and fathers.  I also know a large number of men that aren’t meeting their potential as partners and fathers because they feel like they cannot be masculine and be a loving and engaged partner and father at the same time.  I can certainly understand that.  The messages men receive from all around us is that men are supposed to be anything but engaged and loving.  Most men, I feel, are at a crossroads.  We feel like it isn’t safe to be authentic, yet we can see that problems in our families, in our schools and in our communities has reached critical mass.

It is time for men to engage, in meaningful ways, in our families and in our communities.  It is not enough to bring home a paycheck and make sure the yard looks nice.  Those things are important, but they will not ensure that the world our children and grandchildren will live in will be a place of equal opportunity for everyone where people’s differences are celebrated rather than shunned.  I truly believe that the majority of men in this world want to be really great guys (and often are).  What I think we need is a way to bring these men together so that we can meet one another (either in person or online) and see that we are not alone and that we can be considered masculine by our peers.  That would be the permission we need to be more visible as engaged partners and fathers.  That is why I started Responsible Men in the first place.  Now all I need is guys who are willing to take that small step forward to say “I am one of the Responsible Men.”  Are you willing to be that guy?

If the world were set up so that men could feel safe about being authentic I imagine it would be a very different place.  I imagine in that world the advertisements might look something like this:

Maybe a good place to start is to recognize that regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other ways we classify people, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

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42 thoughts on “One Leg at a Time

  1. Chris says:

    Thank you for making these points (and great job on the re-done ad!) I completely agree this is about a crossroads for men and masculinity. As you stated, this is not about an attack on masculinity from without, but rather an attack by men on themselves; for not feeling masculine enough, for not knowing how to be a responsible and equal partner. I only hope that enough men can see this to reject this lazy form of advertising to put an end to it for good.

    • Yes – it is lazy advertising and lazy business. Dockers is coming across as desperate and they are resorting to the advertising equivalent of “parlor tricks”. They would rather reinvent a sexist 1950’s culture than reinvent their brand or their product line.

  2. Stephen says:

    GREAT! Brilliant piece of counter-advertising. Thanks for drawing my attention to this, and curses for getting to the drawing board faster than I; if you haven’t yet, I’d love for you to make sure AdBusters is aware of this (both Dockers’ campaign and your response).


    Stephen Montagna
    Violence Prevention Communications Coordinator
    Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA)
    Creating the Social Change Necessary to End Sexual Violence

  3. Maria Limon says:

    Good response. I heart you Ted!

  4. Sherry says:

    Ted, You’re response rocks! I am sick of sexist ads bombarding the media…it seems sex or sexist attitudes is the only thing advertisers can think of to sell their wares. It takes the voice of Responsible Men in our world to clarify that we are all equal in this world. Thank for that!

  5. Carolyn says:

    Unbelievable! Do they not know what millennium we’re in?! I think this ad portrays them as being hopelessly out of touch.

  6. Stephen McArthur says:

    Ted — This is terrific, and your alternative ad response is brilliant and powerful. I would like to capture both their ad and yours and blow them up to use in gender studies presentations. Can you send me the two files? Full credit will be yours and linkage to Responsible Men! Thanks for the great work.

  7. Neil says:

    I truly feel like your making a case out of nothing, their advertising for men being men is not synonymous with an era where woman “were not allowed” because of a boys club. Do not get me wrong it is surely a desperate grab for market share, but if you go out looking for a fight with someone over any issue you are sure to find it. This country is a whole lot more tolerant and has progressed a whole lot farther than you give it credit for; the advertising campaign is just that, advertising. I therefore do not see the reason to bring up responsibilities of raising a child, or criticizing the past. Things have changed and it seems to me like you are the one holding on to the past. Loosen up, be a man and shrug it off 🙂

    • Hi Neil! Thanks for reading the blog. I appreciate your opinion. I fully understand that this is “just advertising”. However, I do not agree that it should be so easily dismissed. Clearly this is a desperate grab for a market share, but I would argue that Dockers is leveraging existing sexist beliefs embedded in male culture to sell their product. They are simply using an old “tried and true” method. I am not picking a fight with Dockers. Rather I am setting boundaries with them and encouraging others to do the same. While I agree that this country is much more tolerant and progressive than it used to be, I am not willing to settle for “less sexist” or “less racist” or “less homophobic”. Everyone deserves to be treated equally. What is wrong with working for that? I believe that it is far too easy for men to dismiss the oppressive parts of society because we are not on the receiving end of the oppression.

      The closing sentence of your comment is evidence that there is a problem in male culture. Telling me to loosen up, be a man (as if I am not being one by discussing these issues) and shrug it off is precisely the version of male culture that the Dockers ad romanticizes. You have bought into the notion that in order to be a man you have to be unaffected, tough and silent. I am saying that there is a lot more to me (and all men) that those 3 things. We don’t have to just be that. That was the point of the article. Be something better than you are.

      • Brittany says:

        “I am not willing to settle for ‘less sexist’ or ‘less racist’ or ‘less homophobic’.”

        It seems that people have a problem with mediocrity nowadays. We “shrug off” so many little things until they pile into massive problems. Most of us just don’t seem to care about helping other human beings achieve, for instance, equality, or perhaps we are just very uneducated in the matter. We don’t realize that things like this advertisement among millions of others all add up and cause harmful effects to women(and men) psychologically and physically. I am glad that you aren’t going to settle for it. THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT SOMETHING. If no one gave a **** about anything where would we be?

        “I believe that it is far too easy for men to dismiss the oppressive parts of society because we are not on the receiving end of the oppression.”


    • ozob says:

      Hi Neil,

      I disagree, and think you have thrown out several straw men. It is asking us to mythologize our “golden past” that we somehow “lost.” It is calling men to be insecure with ourselves, and to act that insecurity at the expense of women’s rights and safety.
      It is BECAUSE we have progressed so much that an ad like this is so regressive, dangerous, and offensive.

      This ad is an attempt to comfort and feed an attitude that needs to be eradicated.

    • Jeremy says:

      It seems to me Neil, that you can’t let go of the past. While you claim everything has changed, and we’re more progressed. You’re still holding on to the concept of “What it means to be a man” that is from the past- “women in the kitchen, men doing work.” You say we’re more tolerant, and we are extremely tolerant of this idea that you have of what it means to be a man. This acceptance, and skewed believe that men shouldn’t stand up for equality, or speak up when men stay conformed to this idea is exactly what hasn’t changed. You say it’s just advertising, but it normalizes, desensatizes, and gives us these perceptions of how a “man is supposed to be.” So while we move ahead with society in changing the traditional beliefs about what it means to be a man by caring, speaking out, standing up, equality and not accepting these sexist behaviors- I encourage you to join us, and not stay in the past.

      • Neil says:

        I must say you missed my point.. First of all, I know that this is senseless effort but I always enjoy a good debate. I clearly pointed out that what it means to be a “man” in this advertising campaign and the time of social repression of the 50’s are not one in the same. And for that matter, have any of you seen this advertisement. I haven’t. I’m not saying that it does not exist, but quite the contrary, I’m inclined to believe it is a highly focused ad campaign targeting that of an older generation, more likely the one you all belong to. And as for my my last comment, it was one of irony, not of negativity. The main reason why we have issues in this country is that we can not accept the beliefs and thoughts of others. I was subtly alluding to the fact that if everyone stops picking battles with others because they do not agree with the way they live and where they come from, (homosexuality, race, sex, religion) and instead welcome the differences of others the world would truly be a better place to live. Besides I prefer to find the humor in this world and this article is humorous to me. To those that feel they could draw enough information from a single statement of mine to pass judgment on who they think I am, I must point out that you engage in exactly the same intolerant type of thoughts you wish to dispel from our society.

      • Neil – go to This is not just an ad, but a marketing campaign. It is part of their “Man-ifesto”. They also sponsored a short documentary as par t of the campaign. It is floating around the internet as well. So it does exist. Also, I am 38. I am not part of that target demographic that they are hoping to reach (not sure why that is even relevant).

        Now – I agree with you that the reason we have issues in this country is because we cannot accept the beliefs and thoughts of others. We should welcome the differences of others as you said. HOWEVER, I am not willing to tolerate another persons thoughts and beliefs if those thoughts and beliefs are oppressive. Oppressive thoughts and beliefs are intolerable. They bring nothing good to this world. Your comment to me to tell me to be a man was insulting and oppressive to me. You were clearly stating that I wasn’t being a man already because I wasn’t behaving in a way that you consider manly. So, like I did with Dockers, I set a boundary with you to let you know that I was not OK with that. I didn’t pass any judgment on you, but I did let you know that your statement was unacceptable. I am intolerant of that sort of behavior, but I am not intolerant of you. If I were, I would have deleted your comment and pretended like it never happened. I also wouldn’t take the time to try and explain all of this. I have hoping that you will be willing to step back and consider my points rather than just dismissing them.

        Ultimately, you are entitled to like or dislike whatever you wish. I thought the campaign was funny too, but I also recognized that it is sexist and in poor taste. I have heard plenty of jokes that were funny, but inappropriate. When I hear them I make it know that they are harmful even if they are funny. Just because something is funny that doesn’t make it right or OK. Do you feel that racist jokes should be tolerated? I’d bet that you don’t. If you don’t, then I just need you to recognize that sexism should also not be tolerated.

        So where is it that we don’t see eye to eye? Help me to better understand your position. I’d like for us to come to an understanding so that we can be on the same page.

  8. Dave K says:

    Great alternative ad and challenge to Dockers ad Ted! Thanks for your insight and passion.

  9. Narissa says:

    Ted –
    I heart you as well.

    Well done, and GREAT ad. I suspect Dockers will try to steal it… esp. since part of the problem with their ad, where they claim men must reclaim their pants (from women),is the two links to shop from: one for men and one for… oh, women.

    Ladies, we don’t want you feel offended by our ad, where we say that the ills of the world are caused by men having to share the “wearing of the pants” (didn’t know that led to androdgeny btw). To prove it, we’ll let you shop for pants. Though I might be wrong, they may be linking me to khaki skirts only.

    I agree with one part of their ad: We do need grown ups. Grown ups understand what partnership and accountability are and grown ups don’t blame others when something goes wrong or just differently. Grown ups see opportunity in all of those things.

    Re: workload for the genders, but specifically in 2 parent households, some info came out via Newsweek and the Bur Labor:
    1. ‘Working mothers spend 60 percent more time each day on child care and household tasks than employed fathers’
    2. ‘And when a father faces unemployment, he is likely to spend just 1 minute more per day…on child care.’
    3. That unemployed dad ‘will, however, carve out 83 more minutes to watch TV’
    4. Unemployed mothers..spend nearly twice as much time as working moms taking care of their kids, all while they…look for work.’

    Wow, that sure does sound like “complacency” at work, doesn’t it?

  10. marianne says:

    i don’t think that the world decided it didn’t need men – but perhaps that it needed women, afterall. boo to you, dockers, for driving a wedge between the sexes. we all need pants, baby, it’s cold outside. . .

  11. DeLora says:

    Loved this! Posted it to my facebook. Good job!

  12. Jayson says:

    This is great Ted. Thanks for what you are up to and for this post. I work with men and it’s my mission to bring consciousness to manhood.

    Wow–Dockers. Yikes. As marianne said, it just drives a big wedge again. Can we not celebrate our differences and challenge one another to step up–together, as every is saying? I know we can.

    And, yes, men do need to Man UP big time, but it’s not about pants or no pants. It has nothing to do with control and power and pushing women down, it has to do with men stepping up for men’s sake and to bust out of complacent, oppressive, sleepwalking, man ways.

    And, great comments in response to Neil. It’s attitude’s like Neil’s that breed complacency. It reminds me of the person, who after telling a sexist or racist joke says, “what? It’s just a joke.” It perpetuates misogyny and violence toward those whom are oppressed.

    Thanks again for standing up bro.


  13. AlignBetween says:

    The funny thing is…wearing Dockers certainly doesn’t make a man more “manly”. My incredibly articulate, talented, intelligent, stand-up, full of integrity, humor, and honest-to=God true genuine MAN who really does give a damn about humanity and all things socially conscious and just…just isn’t susceptible to inauthentic advertising. And that’s my point. Real men…Real women…can see through this meager little ploy. Thanks for your entertaining and clever graphic rebuttal. Enjoyed it.

  14. Stacy says:

    What if they’re not talking to anyone except the share of the male market that would naturally respond positively to this ad–or to the women who love them and wish there were far more of them?

    I’d like to believe that’s what Dockers meant to do with this ad, but I have a hard time because it’s written in a far-too-general a way–as if they speak to and about all men. And of course, they don’t.

    Thanks for sharing the ad. I’d not seen it yet.

  15. Sal says:

    WOW! I don’t even know where to begin as far as saying how wrong this ad campaign is. I was born in the 50’s, and I am very glad that we are not living in the age of “Father Knows Best” any longer. Men and women should be making decisions for their family together. I was part of the generation of women who started equal rights for women, and to give women a voice.
    I applaud men who help when they get home from work with chores and the kids. I admire men who can express their feelings and thoughts to women (and other men) in a respectful way. Men who come home, sit down and read the paper, etc. are not living. They are missing out on their children’s lives and the relationships they could have with them. Not to mention the relationship with their wife who would appreciate the help after her long day at work.
    In the 1800’s there was a saying: “A man works from sun to sun, a woman’s work is never done.” Bravo to the men who help so that the woman in their life gets to relax after the kids are in bed, and enjoy her partner’s company and love.
    I realize there is more to this than housework, but from this woman’s point of view that is a great place to start making families and ultimately children better people.

  16. There’s definitely a shift happening. This ad reflects a growing longing in men to understand who they are and who they are capable of being in relation to women and to the world.

    The error that the ad makes is a common one. Namely, that true masculinity means a return or going back to a previous age. I believe that the real opportunity for men is to grow forward into a powerful, positive masculinity that honours the feminine as quantitatively equal… and qualitatively different.

    To have a map for evolving manhood, distinctions do need to made between masculine and feminine. We can’t talk about hot and cold, north and south if we ignore distinctions. I no longer believe that there are no inherent differences between masculine and feminine or between men and women. We live in a world of polarities, and our physical human incarnations are no exception.

    Of course men and women embody both masculine and feminine qualities. Part of an evolving manhood depends on honouring the feminine, both in himself and in women. But it doesn’t end there. The further opportunity for men is to not only have full access to the feminine self, but to reclaim and embody the masculine power that many of us have forsaken along the way.

    As women have claimed their power and independence, so have men discovered their vulnerability and connectedness. This is good, and there is more work to be done there. But there is other work too. This other work moves men beyond the important steps of accessing their feminine, and into the work of fully owning their masculine. And this is a FORWARD motion, not backward. That’s what Dockers and many others are missing.

    I’ve written a short ebook (The Hero Principles) on the subject as it pertains to marriage and relationships. I give it away for free on my web site.

  17. Sarah Ou says:

    I saw your blog from the Prevent Connect Listserve and visited to the Docker’s website. I was asked to take a survey and I let them know how I felt about thier advertising. Thanks for making us all aware of this sexist advertising campaign.

  18. Stephen says:

    I won’t repeat the ideas many of the other responses articulated so well, other than to nod effusively in agreement. Here’s all I would add; please write to Dockers/Levi. Don’t underestimate the power of a collective response in changing media marketing strategies. It is important to let them know you are offended.

    It will take less than five minutes. They hide their main email address on their website, but you can use their online form at:
    or write to:
    I’ve also copied my concerns to the White Ribbon Campaign, The Women’s Coalition, the National Council of Women, and the CBC.

    A quick note, not argumentative of course, but how it affects you and/or how it will affect your purchasing decision. This will go a long way.

    Keep up the great work with your blog. I just found it today and I’ll keep checking in. Okay if I add a link to you on my own (therapist) website?

    • Hi Stephen – yes please feel free to post a link on your website. I would greatly appreciate that. Also, you can subscribe to the blog on my homepage. Sign up on the right hand navigation bar. Also, thanks for providing all of those links!!!

  19. Erick says:

    Great response to Docker’s absurd ad. However, it feels to go too far in ending the ad with “Now all things are equal”. There are still inequities in pay for similar work and certainly ceilings in many careers. I love the idea but would suggest considering something more like “Now we’re turning things around” or “Now we work for equality”.

    • Hi Erick. I see your point. The idea was that the new ad was set in future in a time when things are equal…not present day for the reasons you mentioned. It is a bit of wishful thinking on my part. It is not intended to imply that we have achieved equality.

      Did anyone else take it that way? If so, I might need to consider redoing it.

  20. denton says:

    Of course the ad is stupid but everyone misses the point. This is about ‘re-positioning’ the brand. Dockers are not worn by ironworkers but by the intellectual read ‘effete’ class. They’d like to ‘man up’ the brand. Won’t work.

  21. Scritch says:

    This is timely, since the state of gender stereotypes has been in the forefront of my mind lately. Just recently, a 27-year-old male acquaintance said he was going to have a chili dog party for his co-workers and said, “Hey, if I act like I don’t know what I’m doing, maybe the females will step in and do all the cooking for me.” *blink* This is a mindset that clearly hasn’t been transcended. I’m not even sure if too many people of any age would find it disconcerting, and that in itself is disturbing.

    The portrayal of men and women in media–despite any heroines in the mix–is devolving at an alarming speed.

  22. nykcsa says:

    and what’s up with the “step away from the salad bar” line–as if all males emasculate themselves by eating salad??? As if those ‘wussy vegetarians’ aren’t in the Dockers demographic, so let’s mock them? Shame on Dockers. Their ad is ridiculous. But your parody is art! Nice photoshopping buddy 🙂

  23. Jess says:

    “I hate that this campaign is calling for a return to the days when a woman’s place was in the home cooking dinner and minding the kids”

    Where, anywhere, in the stuff that Dockers has put forth do they say this or anything close to it? They don’t. And don’t say that they imply it, because then it’s just you projecting your own biases on what they are trying to say.

    • Jess – of course everyone interprets advertisements in various ways and to varying degrees. I can certainly understand if others do not see it exactly as I do or take it as seriously as I do. But to say that the content of this campaign doesn’t even imply what I said it does is simply ignorant of history. The phrase “who wears the pants in the family” is a direct reference to a time when it was socially unacceptable to wear pants. It was a time when men made all the decisions and did all of the traditional work. That left women relegated to the “caretaker” role (i.e. cooking, cleaning and child rearing). Dockers is, without question, calling for men to once again “wear the pants”. The phrase has a double meaning of 1) be in charge again and 2) physically wear pants – like Dockers. It is packaged in a feeble, thinly-veiled attempt at humor to make it more palatable. I have no bias against Dockers. However, I do have a bias against sexism. So as long as Dockers (and others) continue to employ it, I will continue to speak out against it.

      I challenge you to take your blinders off and do some critical thinking about this campaign. Do some historical research into women’s rights and try to understand the other side of the coin. We don’t have to totally agree in the end, but please at least try to recognize the flaws in this campaign.

  24. Scritch says:

    Gawd, I love my sister! Here’s what she wrote in response to the ad (now if this tab actually had this content, that woulda been smart advertising!):

    “when you click on the tab “Women” at the top of the screen, it originally read as follows:

    Power Black Pants

    Once upon a time, women couldn’t vote. They couldn’t own their own credit cards and their husbands could rape them with no fear of criminal charges. Uppity women were thrown in the insane asylum and told their minds were crooked and wrong. But not any more. Today, women can vote, they are CEOs of corporations like Hewlett-Packard, and woe to the business that does not court their plastic. They don’t need to get married, either. And why? All because of the Power Black Pants. Git you some, girl.”

  25. Equality says:

    First they use sexism and now they use racism. I guess we’ll be seeing a homophobic version too.

    “Once upon a time, white men wore the pants, and wore them well. Black men rarely had to worry about measuring up and little old black men were happy on the plantation. White men took charge because that’s what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed white men. Urban by urban, wigger by silly pride-free wigger, white men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and racial equality. But today, there are questions our race-free society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old black men are left longing for the plantation. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown-ups. We need white men to pull up their pants, turn off the rap and hip-hop, 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 white male supremacy. It’s time to wear the pants.”

  26. Scritch says:

    Equality, that parody is right on time.

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