Lydia Waller discusses the Gillette Advert controversy proving the still existing issues of gender inequality and toxic masculinity
Who knew that men’s grooming could be the perfect platform for addressing gender inequality? Men’s razor providers Gillette, coordinated a new advert campaign to alter their pre-existing tagline of ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ to a more woke and less intrinsically problematic slogan of, ‘The Best Men Can Be.’ Although a shift in a less demanding slogan of men and their entitlements of what they ‘can get,’ which simultaneously elevates a company’s value of men’s well ‘being,’ appears an inherently positive change, it was actually met with the response over 1.3 million dislikes on YouTube and only 742,000 likes.
Many male viewers of the short film by Gillette, took great offence to the fact that it took a woman, Kim Gehrig the innovator and director behind body and equality positive campaigns such as ‘This Girl Can’, to highlight the opportunity men have, to make a difference amongst the hyper-conscious MeToo era. The advert highlights many of the problematic preconceptions of masculinity, that makes it so toxic to both men and women. It does this by depicting examples of cat-calling, young boys using their physicality to settle dispute and the hideously problematic common behavioural-justifier that is, ‘boys will be boys.’ The advert craftily incorporates the depiction of toxic masculinity as detrimental to both men and women, young and old; proving the negative backlash from men of the advert as ‘emasculating’ and vilifying of men, somewhat questionable. Gehrig chose to use the poignancy of the MeToo era to illustrate the positive change made, if men used their power in their own male circles of influence and their impact in the female world, to show their capacity for compassion for themselves and others.
Although the social media reception of the advert was catastrophically negative from a predominantly male perspective, The advert initiated a discourse and consciousness of what commercial branding and media depictions of loaded terms, such as masculinity and femininity can do for the gender equality movement. Commercial sales for Procter & Gamble, the owners of Gillette, have not actually faulted according to The Independent, following the advert’s release sales ‘remain largely unchanged,’ which actually acts as supporting evidence for the argument that the only thing this advert campaign did prove, was the concept that masculinity could be faltered; men will still buy what they need, a women in a director’s seat will not change that. However, she will change the way we talk about gender and what gendered terms such as ‘masculinity’ can do for our society.
Responses on Twitter have included ‘I’ve used ‘Gillette razors my entire adult life but this absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away to a company less eager to fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity. Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men,’ from, not surprisingly, Piers Morgan. It is comments like this that illustrates these issues with toxic masculinity that the company were trying to portray. The fact some men feel a ‘global assault’ inflicted upon them when a woman says, you are the people who have the power to stop cat-calling incidents, proves exactly what the campaign is trying to say; a change in this stubborn masculinity can cause change. Morgan needs to reassess his dramatic use of the term ‘assault’ when we have the reality of 1 in 5 women having been sexually assaulted, as the Crime Survey of England and Wales stated in their report’s release in 2018. The very fact Gillette and Gehrig, a collaborative force of male and female ideas, have caused this debate and stir of gender politics, through a male product and consumer audience, demonstrates there is a change to be made by men for men and the benefit of an equal society.
So, I applaud Gillette and Gehrig, for this brave, challenging, targeting and efficient campaign; that cuts to the chase, addresses the right audience and deliberately evoked a negative response to prove the issues in question of, toxic masculinity and the deconstruction of it that will benefit men, women, and all genders and ages.