Gillette Ad Campaign Causes Controversy

2018 was filled with women coming out with personal accounts of sexual harassment they had encountered.  The “Me Too” movement was seen by some people as a powerful stand against sexual harassment, but by others as an attack on men.

Gillette Razor brand released a commercial on January 14 that, like the Me Too movement, can be seen two ways: a stand against toxic masculinity or an attack on men.

The commercial takes a play on the old Gillette slogan ” the best a man can get” and uses a hashtag “the best that men can be.” They then split the commercial in half. The first half shows bullying, sexual harassment, and violence- and the second half shows men stepping in to stop it. In one scene two young boys wrestle while their fathers stand on the side smiling and saying “boys will be boys.” Why should such a commonly used phrase cause such an uproar? Because some see it as reflective of a mindset that leads to excusing men for bad behavior, implying they can’t stop themselves.

Some believe the “boys will be boys” mindset validates “toxic masculinity,” a newly-minted phrase which refers to the socially-constructed attitude that men should and must be violent and unemotional. Gillette’s goal in the ad campaign seems to  be to change this – no more should boys be bullied for showing emotion or should it be okay for them to be violent with each other or towards others. 

Some men found the commercial as an attack. Piers Morgan took to Twitter, like many other outraged men,  complaining that he would never be buying Gillette products again and suggesting that Gillette should let “boys be damn boys and men be damn men.” Responses  like this are what makes this commercial so controversial. Morgan seems to be suggesting that Gillette is discouraging what makes men men. 

A tweet directly to Gillette by @LindsayPerkins1, represents a different response to the ad campaign:  “It is not just saying men are dirt bags. It’s saying those who AREN’T dirtbags should start standing up to those who are, and if you’re already doing that, great job.”  This tweet defends Gillette’s main goal of the campaign: to bring out the best that men can be. The brand wants to encourage men to stop toxic masculinity, stop violence, stop disrespecting women, and so much more. Not all men encourage toxic masculinity, of course, but most are affected by it.  Not all men are violent and sexual harassers, but they can still be victims to the stereotypes. Though they may have been unclear in their messaging, Gillette’s message seems to be positive, having the goal of a deeper awareness of the dangers of toxic masculinity for both men and women. 

In my opinion, Gillette is not attacking men in this commercial; men are their targeted consumers. People are feeling attacked because it is hard to accept that what the commercial is saying is true. Similar to the reaction of the Me Too Movement, people are not able to accept that behavior that for generations has been considered normal – “boys will be boys”-  is no longer acceptable.  As we enter 2019, it is time to accept times are changing and that the way things used to be is not the way they should be.