Jan 14, 2019
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?"
\u201c\u201cBoys will be boys\u201d? Isn\u2019t it time we stopped excusing bad behavior? Re-think and take action by joining us at https://t.co/giHuGDEvlT. #TheBestMenCanBe\u201d— Gillette (@Gillette) 1547483494
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."
\u201cI'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. \nLet boys be damn boys. \nLet men be damn men.\u201d— Piers Morgan (@Piers Morgan) 1547493177
\u201cSo nice to see @Gillette jumping on the \u201cmen are horrible\u201d campaign permeating mainstream media and Hollywood entertainment. I for one will never use your product again.\u201d— James Woods (@James Woods) 1547508655
"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.
\u201c"Men's rights activists" aka MRAs are mad at Gillette for calling out toxic masculinity in their new commercial. So @Gillette must be doing something right. https://t.co/wbcv1n0BXi\u201d— UltraViolet has the #ReproReceipts (@UltraViolet has the #ReproReceipts) 1547567335
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.
\u201cJust to clear a few things up (Seen the #GilletteAd?)\n\nMen can be \ud83d\udcaa & still show emotion.\nMen can be \ud83e\udd17 without being disrespectful.\nMen should be allies in the \ud83d\udc4a\ud83c\udffc against patriarchy.\n\nThe \ud83c\udf0d will be a better place without #ToxicMasculinity.\u201d— Amnesty International (@Amnesty International) 1547559490
\u201cAddressing #Toxicmasculinity has been cast as women standing up to crap men. #GilletteAd defines men as part of solution, not just the problem. Exactly the message I want for my 1wk old son - positive responsibility. No offence taken here.\u201d— Dan McNicholas (@Dan McNicholas) 1547554771
\u201cI honestly don\u2019t see the big deal with the Gillette ad. I was expecting something controversial.\n\nBut this ad basically says, \u201cDon\u2019t be a jerk. Don\u2019t raise a jerk. Call out other men being for jerks.\u201d\n\nMy dad, who was a mechanic w an 8th grade education, told me that in 1987.\u201d— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel Jollett) 1547583619
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.
\u201cCorporate messaging affects are reality, and so it's good to have these steps, but we also need to take a step back and recognize that a company like Gilette is largely doing this as a means of branding. There's segmentation here, a chance to stake out a position. 3/\u201d— Jared Yates Sexton (@Jared Yates Sexton) 1547571227
\u201cWhen a company promotes progressive causes, sometimes they're doing it for the right reasons and sometimes they're doing it as a branding decision. That can both be good and harmful simultaneously. We've seen this for decades now. 4/\u201d— Jared Yates Sexton (@Jared Yates Sexton) 1547571227
\u201cThe system resists change for as long as it can until it recognizes that change is inevitable. Then it swallows the change, sanitizes it, and regurgitates it for maximum profit. That takes the sting out of the change and creates a new, different market. 5/\u201d— Jared Yates Sexton (@Jared Yates Sexton) 1547571227
\u201cIf you want to reward Gilette for their decision to tackle this necessary subject, by all means. It reinforces a good decision. But still be aware that this has its footing in manipulation and profit. We have to chew gum and walk at the same time, especially in this new world 7/7\u201d— Jared Yates Sexton (@Jared Yates Sexton) 1547571227
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