This article was produced in partnership with T1.
The term “toxic masculinity” has been at the forefront of click-bait headlines and pop culture-driven jargon for several years, no matter that its true definition, and origin, remains up for debate. Serial entrepreneur—and once notorious party boy—Jeremy Gardner not only finds issue with the term but is also diligently working to counter the problem by promoting what he refers to as “positive masculinity.” Through his most recent venture, a men’s skincare line aptly called MadeMan, he aims to redefine what masculinity is to society, while simultaneously inspiring and uplifting men to “be the best versions of themselves.” We sat down with Gardner to dissect the term and its implications, the historical background, and how he hopes we can move forward as a culture, with MadeMan paving the way.
MJ: Can you explain the idea of toxic masculinity, in your own words, and what the “issue” is with this?
JG: I use the expression with a disclaimer, because as is, it broadly states that there’s something wrong with men. The way it’s framed creates a negative association. The Issue with the term is that it’s not something any guy has done wrong. It’s not an individual issue, it’s a societal issue. Toxic masculinity is for the most part—though often expressed intentionally—an inadvertent byproduct of our culture, and the way society is structured. We’ve taken a patriarchal system and magnified the toxic definition of what a man is today through pop culture. The world we’re living in has changed, yet we still have these dated definitions of what it means to be a man, but less opportunity to express it. There’s an existential dilemma in society now, which stems from how a guy should be.
MJ: What is MadeMan doing to mitigate the problem?
JG: As a brand we don’t use the term, instead we focus on the solution—on fostering positive masculinity. We focus our messaging on reframing what it means to be a man. It’s not about the cars, jewelry, clothing, etc.—it’s about who you are, who you are trying to be as an individual. We present this idea in the sense of men taking care of themselves—investing in self. We want men to be the best versions of themselves. Although we, in a sense, appeal to vanity, it’s in the form of self-care as opposed to materialism. We’re getting guys to see that they’re prioritizing the wrong things in life.
MJ: What effect do you foresee this having on society, on future generations?
JG: I don’t want to be so bold as to suggest we’re going to change society, but if we get 1,000 men to take care of and invest in themselves rather than in things, and then pass these lessons and values on to their kids and friends, we can get one step closer to getting rid of these toxic notions of what a man needs in life. It’s a really incredible starting point.
MJ: Have you always been passionate about this subject? How did this social, and in a sense, psychological issue,
come to the forefront of your mind and work?
JG: I didn’t have particularly strong male figures in my life growing up, so a lot of my understanding of masculinity came from pop-culture—from movies like James Bond and the “playboy” lifestyle popular media promoted. Once I found success in the crypto world, I was able to live out that very fantasy. But, the more I began to be put on a pedestal for my image as a playboy, rather than my accomplishments as an entrepreneur, I started to reevaluate how I was being presented to the world…which did not reflect my actual values or how I want to be perceived. You want to be recognized for the good things you do, not the superficial things you have. Subsequently, when I essentially escaped from Silicon Valley to Miami, I was trying to find out who I really was, which is when MadeMan was created.
MJ: Do you think you yourself have been a part of the problem of “toxic masculinity” in the past?
JG: I don’t see myself as having too many of these “toxic” traits, however, my past behavior led to the perception of me being an embodiment of many of these problems, because I was so influenced by our culture. When you speak to me it’s clear that I’m vehemently opposed to such behavior. Coming from a long line of feminists who raised me, I always had a different relationship to women, than a lot of the quintessential playboy or “party boys.”
MJ: There was a time when you were painted in the media as the very image of these egotistical playboys who you now want to help “dismantle.” What brought you to reflect on your actions and image?
JG: The negative perception of me in the media inspired me to rethink who I was, how I was being presented to the world, and what kind of person truly I wanted to be. If I wanted to be a catalyst for positive change in the world, I knew I had to change my behavior and presentation immediately.
MJ: How did you go from a skincare company—a seemingly surface-level business—to creating deeper meaning out of it, and through it?
JG: Every venture I’ve ever started has been built with the intention of making a large and positive impact on the world. Once I realized the major opportunity available in skincare, I started thinking about how I could rationalize starting a skincare company when I’ve been talking about social impact for all these years. I asked myself how a skincare company can be used as a vehicle for making the world better, and that’s when I landed on the concept of positive masculinity, because I think it’s such an incredible catalyst for starting this conversation.
MJ: What drives you to help others; to help men be better, not just their appearance?
JG: I don’t know if it’s a messiah complex or ego [laughs], but ever since I can remember, I had an incredible sense of purpose—a desire to make the world better. It’s what motivates me as an individual and an entrepreneur.
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