Last week, shaving company Gillette set the internet ablaze with the latest marketing campaign to touch on social issues. At first, I completely ignored the outrage and the ad entirely. I had initially thought the serially offended left had once again reared its ugly head and were in the process of starting yet another boycott. It wasn’t until I saw commentators like Gad Saad and Christina Sommers speaking out against Gillette that I finally took notice.
If you for some reason haven’t seen the ad, I suggest you crawl out from under your rock and go watch it. The rest of this article won’t make much sense otherwise. For those of you too lazy to go and find it, I’ll provide a short synopsis. Over the course of the nearly two-minute ad, we are presented with references to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, bullying, fighting between young boys and general disrespect towards women and their opinions. These, according to Gillette, are attributable to toxic masculinity, but more on that in a moment. The ad continues by asking if this is a best a man can get, which has been Gillette’s slogan for thirty years. After highlighting these damning aspects of male society, the ad switches gears. We are now shown, through a series of examples, men standing up and holding other men accountable for their actions. The bullying is brought to an end, the two boys fighting are broken apart and those looking to take advantage of women are stopped in their tracks. The ad concludes with an overwhelmingly positive and inspirational message accompanied by Gillette’s new tagline ‘The Best Men Can Be’.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I wasn’t annoyed or offended in any way by the ad. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could find such a positive message offensive enough to cause the meltdown that we saw. In search of answers, I bravely ventured onto the battlefield know as Twitter. I was astonished to find many people who I usually agree with up in arms surrounding Gillette’s message. The majority of people seemed upset over Gillette’s portrayal of toxic masculinity. Many saw this ad as an over-generalisation and believed that Gillette was painting all men with a broad brush. A close friend of mine echoed the thoughts of many with this tweet;
“Hey @Gillette, I’m not toxic. Neither are my male friends and family. Neither is our masculinity. But, to generalise men and our masculinity as bad, is potently toxic. So, @Gillette …. F*** off. #Gillette #Toxicmasculinity”
While eloquently written for a tweet, I can’t help but feel that he, like many others, have missed the point completely. Firstly, we must all agree that sexual harassment, bullying and disrespect for women is toxic behaviour regardless of who’s doing it. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone is making that argument. Following on, at no point during the ad does Gillette portray all men as toxic, nor do they attempt to generalise all men. In fact, by simply showing and acknowledging that some men take a stand against this kind of behaviour should eradicate any suspicion of Gillette shifting the blame onto all men. Frankly, I find this argument to be inherently dishonest and downright laughable. Gillette recognises that not every man is a sexual predator who looks down on women. Nor do they think that we endorse bullying or think that young boys fighting is a good thing. Instead of blaming all men for the unacceptable, or to use their phrase, toxic aspects of male society Gillette is shining a light on our bad practices and trying to inspire change, although selling razors also remains a top priority.
When allegations against Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby broke a major talking point was how it had remained a secret for so long. Many male colleagues who knew of the abuse simply stayed silent. This is something that must change within Hollywood and in society in general. We are told as young children that bullying is not acceptable and should be reported to an adult. We are also told that hitting is improper behaviour to get along in society. While it shouldn’t take a shaving company to instil these morals within us, there is no harm in reinforcing what needs to be said. Gillette is looking for more men to stand up. To help eliminate this toxicity as efficiently as possible. As Terry Crews says during the ad, “men need to hold other men accountable”. There is nobody on Earth who can convince me that promoting such a message is a bad thing.
At the end of the day, it’s a marketing campaign which worked brilliantly. The fact that I felt the need to write this article is proof enough of that. I’m confident the marketing department at Gillette were sipping champagne as the Twitter war raged on. While Procter & Gamble’s stock had a miniscule blip, they have already recovered what they lost. We may never know if the campaign was a success on the sales front, and while that is the most important part for Procter & Gamble, the social aspect is important too. I personally had no problem with the ad and as I laid out above, find the message it portrays to be one of positivity. People are free to disagree and that’s perfectly fine too; however, I for one certainly enjoyed witnessing those who vilify outrage culture become outraged themselves. I suppose you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.