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In a new ad released by Gillette, a man pulls two boys away from each other as they're physically fighting. (Photo: Gillette/screenshot)

'Gillette Must Be Doing Something Right': Toxic Men Freak Out Over Ad Urging Men to Combat Toxic Masculinity

So-called "men's rights activists" are mad that the shaving razor company has started a campaign calling on men to not be misogynists, jerks, and bullies

Julia Conley

With men's rights activists attacking the shaving accessories company Gillette for its new ad campaign pledging to promote positive images of masculinity in its future advertisements and work to combat bullying and sexual harassment, a number of observers on Tuesday noted that the company must be doing something right.

"I was expecting something controversial. But this ad basically says, 'Don't be a jerk. Don't raise a jerk. Call out other men being for jerks.'" —Mikel Jollett

Gillette, which is owned by the multinational corporation Procter & Gamble, released a two-minute ad on Monday challenging their own longtime tagline, "The Best a Man Can Get."

Showing a boy being bullied, men sexually harassing women, a man condescending to his female colleague in a meeting, and a group of men helplessly repeating the familiar phrase, "Boys will be boys," the company asked its audience, "Is this the best a man can get?"

Some high-profile conservatives including TV host Piers Morgan and actor James Woods quickly and angrily suggested that the images Gillette showed did in fact represent the best men can get, pledging never to use the company's products again in the face of its "assault on masculinity."

"The subliminal message is clear," in the ad, wrote Morgan at the Daily Mail. "Men, ALL men, are bad, shameful people who need to be directed in how to be better people."

In fact, the ad shares a positive view of how men are capable of acting respectfully, while the company accepts responsibility for its own role in promoting images of toxic forms of masculinity in decades past.

In light of the #MeToo movement and the current political moment, the narrator says, now, "We believe in the best in men. To say the right things, to act the right way."

"Some already are in ways big and small," the ad continues, showing a man protecting a boy who's being bullied and another man pulling two children away from each other during a physical fight. "But some is not enough. Because the boys watching today will be the men tomorrow."

On Twitter, the women's advocacy group UltraViolet was among those who wrote that any ad that leads men's rights activists like Morgan—who recently mocked actor Daniel Craig on Twitter for carrying his infant daughter in a baby carrier, claiming the James Bond star had clearly been "emasculated"—to fret over the status of manhood, has their seal of approval.

Others pointed out that Gillette's new message about masculinity isn't rooted in negativity, but a positive understanding of how men and boys can take action to help improve the world for people of all genders.

At TheBestAManCanBe.org, Gillette also wrote that the company "is committing to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations executing programs in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal 'best' and become role models for the next generation."

On Twitter, some critics who expressed appreciation for the campaign also cautioned that corporate messaging has its limitations.

"Gilette should be commended for its positive message and the good it will do, but we also need to simultaneously recognize the unhealthy affect corporate messaging has on us and disentangle ourselves from that manipulation," wrote journalist Jared Yates Sexton, author of an upcoming book on toxic masculinity.


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