Tabitha Hawk via creative commons
Over the last two years the Me Too movement was in full swing with reports of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulting and exploiting actresses that appeared in his films along with allegations towards once beloved comedian and actor Bill Cosby for drugging and raping women throughout his adult life. After extensive investigations, countless protests, and many lawsuits, Cosby was found guilty of the rape and sexual misconduct accusations spanning the years of his career while Weinstein continues to deny and fight his accusers in court while more and more accusations flood in. This was a huge success for the movement and women across the United States; especially those who felt like their accusations toward powerful men were being ignored by the American people and the justice system.
After the rise and legitimization of Me Too, the movement has undeniably permeated our culture through media such as our 24/7 mainstream news consistently reporting new details about accusations and investigations, TV shows and movies referencing and commenting on the movement, and even new pop music featuring references to it. The dissemination of information to increase the widespread awareness and elimination of sexual misconduct and exploitation within our most powerful hierarchies is undoubtedly a very good thing – sexual predators should be punished swiftly and with great resolve. I don’t think that anyone disagrees that there are many evil people with evil intent that use their power take advantage of weaker people. I don’t think that anyone argues that rapists or sex offenders shouldn’t be exposed, punished, and humiliated. Rape and sexual misconduct are viewed as one of the lowest and most disgusting crimes that a person could commit even amongst crimes such as murder and thievery.
Within this righteous campaign to end rape and encourage women to speak out against violence and sexual exploitation, it seems that the original intent to crack down on actual rapists and sex offenders has been eclipsed by a more broad and dangerous campaign to generalize all men (especially wealthy and powerful ones) as rapists, deviants and broods. The movement began as a crusade to remove and defame those who have committed heinous crimes against innocent people and has now devolved into attempting to convince men that they shouldn’t approach women on the streets, attempt to explain things to women, spread their legs too far apart while they sit, or that they shouldn’t fight or engage in any horseplay with one another. Granted, this tends to happen with any large political movement as it gains traction and sweeps a culture. The driving force of the ideology begins to splinter into many smaller, less agreeable terms that may be irrelevant to even the biggest supporter of the original ideology. It becomes concerning when large, powerful companies or media outlets begin to publicize these less important parts of the movement though. This is why the Gillette Shaving commercial is so unnecessary, offensive and detrimental to the uninformed viewer.
On January 13th, 2019 Gillette released a short film that is roughly two minutes long and is titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”. The advertisement features Gillette’s take on bullying, harassment, and toxic masculinity – a term coined recently and defined by tolerance.org as: “a narrow and repressive description of manhood as defined by violence, sex, status, and aggression.”. I would agree that it is rather narrow to classify men as only violent, sexual beings that are obsessed with their position in a hierarchy, but it is absolutely foolish to not acknowledge that most – if not all men are more aggressive and violent than women. In a more broad perspective, all primates view reproduction and high hierarchical status as very desirable things. It isn’t abnormal to want to have sex with attractive partners or to pursue higher rankings in social structures – it should be encouraged for both men and women. Men tend to be more aggressive and physical than women when it comes to obtaining higher social status or sexual partners. Obviously these traits are not what men are limited to just as women are often much more nurturing, reserved, emotional, and creative but are not limited to those adjectives or roles; they just find themselves occupying that position more often than not and doing a better job at it than the opposite sex.
Where would humanity be without traditional masculinity and femininity working together to create efficiency in producing children, gathering, hunting, and farming food, innovating technology or fighting off dangerous animals or invaders to prolong the strongest bloodlines? This is how it was and always should be: a harmony between masculinity and femininity. After the release of the advertisement, it was met with immediate popular backlash receiving a 2:1 ratio of dislikes to likes on their Youtube video and countless comments criticizing the video and corporation for publishing it with many consumers vowing to boycott the company after their hyper political commercial. To make matters worse, Gillette began to censor the comment section by deleting negative comments and promoting only the positive ones in an effort to maintain control over the situation. Soon, however, they realized that it was futile to manipulate the comments since it was bringing only more negative reception towards their brand.
The video is well shot and edited and obviously had a lot of corporate backing to it – it was designed to boost their sales and company image amongst men, but ultimately fell flat. Who would have guessed that by creating a video that attacks men and their innate masculine traits of being more aggressive, violent, and confident would backfire for a brand that is mostly built around shaving products designed for men? This ad brings me memories of the infamous Pepsi Cola ad that was released in 2016 which trivialized many of the protests and movements in the United States by injecting a corporate logo onto the will of the people. Pepsi, like Gillette, decided that it would attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in the United States by using their brand as a way of brokering peace between ideologically opposing groups – a kind of societal corporatism that would allow people to not only enjoy the wonderful benefits of their specific product, but to also come to an agreement with one another on how to restructure our government and political-social culture. Nothing is more convincing and genuine than moral philosophy when it is sold to you by the same people that are most likely apart of the problem. It is ironic that corporations like Procter and Gamble (who are the parent company to Gillette) have been under serious allegations multiple times for the use of child labor and unfair working conditions in manufacturing facilities. I’m sure that these millionaires who exploit young kids to craft razor blades and shaving handles for 22 hours a day have a good moral compass when it comes to socio political messages that need to be spread to the public.
At the end of the day, these companies do not care about whether or not the men who buy their products are socially-just scholars or if they are bigoted sexual predators – they only care about them buying their product. A perfect example of this would be of the brand Egard. Egard is a watch company that put out an ad as a response to the Gillette ad where they celebrate traditional masculinity and encourage men to not apologize for simply being men. Now, whether you agree or disagree with the message of either ad – it doesn’t matter because both should be equally as disturbing to you. These executives that run these companies see that people want to have their opinions validated in our divided culture and they’re smart enough to capitalize on it. After watching Gillette receive the backlash of their statement, Egard went the opposite direction and appealed to those who hated the Gillette ad and thus benefited greatly by having their stock completely sold out within days of releasing the advertisement. Gillette’s biggest mistake from a marketing standpoint is that they appealed to the wrong sex while also trying to sell their product. Basing your purchasing decisions solely off of the ideology that is pushed behind a product is completely commendable. However, we should be vigilant for the brands that sell you a philosophy with disingenuous intent. Gillette is one of these brands.
I strongly urge you to watch the video if you haven’t already and to form your own opinion. Having said that, here is my point by point analysis of the video. Below are the timestamps in the video with each point that I will be addressing as I see fit.
15 Seconds – Every child will be bullied and will most likely bully someone else. It is an unfortunate but necessary part of becoming a well rounded adult. Young boys and girls need to be pushed down so that they can learn to get back up. Being called a freak should not be your biggest concern unless you actually are a freak. Sometimes the kid that eats boogers needs to be informed that it is not okay to do so and being called out on it would be one of the most efficient ways of ending it. Bullying only becomes a problem when it is hyper violent and unrelenting. This is an extremely nuanced topic, but it is expected that children learn to stand up for themselves first, and it they cannot do that they must find someone who can stand up for them. This is how leaders are made.
20 Seconds – Sexual harassment has never been okay for any stand up guy or woman ever. This is not normal. This is not normalized for young men or young women who have good parents. It is insulting that a company makes a large generalization that assumes that about half of the world’s men are complete scumbags that need to be parented by a boardroom of marketing executives.
29 Seconds – This is absurd. There is no context here. What if the woman said something stupid? What if she was advocating for a mass genocide? “Mansplaining” (the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending) is a made up term that could equally apply to both men and women in any given situation. It’s just called explaining or at it’s very worst: patronizing. But, if we want to label our words for specific genders, I guess that the equivalent to mansplaining for women would just be called nagging.
36 seconds – “Boys will be boys” is an expression used to describe rambunctious or rough behavior that men exhibit when around one another. Two boys wrestling around or being loud and high energy in general is normal. The implication that this saying would excuse sexual misconduct is laughable. If a man sexually abused a woman and suitable evidence substantiated the case, saying, “Your honor, boys will be boys.” would probably not hold up too well in your favor.
39 seconds – Ana Kasparian is shown here as the face of the media reporting all of the sexual misconduct that men commit. I imagine that to many of the politically inclined viewers of the ad, this was the overstepping of bounds. Kasparian represents the far left media group called The Young Turks who are primarily based on Youtube. For anyone who sees themselves as more conservative or libertarian, this is an immediate turn off and shows clear political bias from Gillette.
56 seconds – Saying “smile, sweetie!” is a jerk move unless it’s coming from someone who is about to take your photo. Is this limited to just men though? This example is just as cloudy as all the others. Not all men are rude. A woman could certainly say, “smile, sweetie!” but the difference is that no one would care.
1:02 – Seeing someone who you find attractive and attempting to approach them is wrong, apparently. Do not approach women ever. The only problem that could arise from this is if the man approached the woman, made advances, got rejected, and then continued to make advances even after being rejected explicitly more than once. That is called harassment and it is illegal.
1:35 – I agree. The boys of today are the men of tomorrow. Raise them right, and don’t listen to a brand that uses children as slave laborers for their profit to teach you how to raise a strong man. Real men with morals and self respect do not take advantage of the weak. This has been taught for as long as recorded human history and yet it continues to happen. A razor commercial will not change this. Let men be strong without having to apologize for it.
Men are strong, but that doesn’t make an individual a strong man. And if there is one truth in this universe, it’s that the young men of today will not find what it means to be a strong man from a shaving commercial or any social movement. The best a man can be is a father who loves and cares for his children and wants the best for them. The best fathers are the providers, the protectors, the warriors, and the educators who share their responsibilities with the nurturing and compassionate mothers. Let men be men and women be women.