The Brief: There is much buzz and debate about a Gillette ad that critiques toxic masculinity.
A new Gillette ad addresses toxic masculinity, particularly as it pertains to bullying, harassment, and the Me Too movement. The video challenges the axiom “boys will be boys,” and asks boys and men to instead strive to be “the best men can get.” As of the time of writing, the video has 165,000 likes and 492,000 dislikes on YouTube. It has sparked much backlash, both from those who believe that it is an attack on masculinity itself and from people who don’t like to see social justice movements co-opted for corporate gain.
As a part of this “The Best Men Can Be” campaign, Gillette has pledged to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to nonprofits in the U.S. that execute programs to “inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal ‘best’ and become role models for the next generation.”
This controversy is reminiscent of the Colin Kaepernick Nike ad of last year, which was widely praised but also sparked negative responses from people across the political spectrum for varying reasons. Like the Nike ad, this backlash has taken place largely online and has inspired memes.
This ad has a positive message about tackling real and pervasive issues in society. For this reason, it has received a significant amount of positive feedback, including from Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement:
— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) January 15, 2019
What's so crucial about the @Gillette commercial is that it frames our current version of basic masculinity not just as harmful to women, but as harmful to men.
— Liz Plank (@feministabulous) January 15, 2019
Backlash From Men’s Rights Activists & Anti-Feminists
Some people saw this video as an attack on not just toxic masculinity, but on masculinity and men in general. Many anti-feminists and so-called men’s rights activists have responded negatively to this ad, announcing plans to boycott the brand and to sell their stock in Gillette’s parent company, Procter & Gamble.
— warroom (@warroom) January 15, 2019
The #Gillette commercial is the product of mainstream radicalized feminism— & emblematic of Cultural Marxism.
LET LITTLE BOYS WRESTLE.
Despite what Lena Dunham tells you, women are not into beta males & men are not into chicks w/ armpit hair.
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) January 15, 2019
Backlash To The Backlash
People have responded to this men’s rights backlash by pointing out the absurdity of being offended by something that promotes positive, healthy masculinity.
Dudes angry at Gillette for saying "maybe don't be shitty humans": You're telling on yourself, bro.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) January 15, 2019
This ad is amazing and made me cry. Bravo @Gillette for taking a stand. This is the kind of world I want my son to grow up in. To all the men offended by this… take a good hard look in the mirror pal and ask yourself why. https://t.co/Ytyi5R01Nr
— Melissa Fumero (@melissafumero) January 15, 2019
Critique From The Left
Many people who agree with the values promoted in the ad also see the danger in embracing a corporate-led movement that’s more about marketing and branding than it is about ending toxic masculinity. Although the ad – technically a “short film – only mentions Gillette at the very end, to many, it is still ultimately about selling razors. This backlash and suspicion is a response to seeing a company promote certain values without necessarily working towards those values outside of their PR campaign.
the conservative backlash to a truly mild commercial from gilette is obviously hilarious and pathetic but if you buy gilette razors to “own” conservatives you’re falling for the exact same corporate bullshit that they did and you should feel bad
— KT Nelson (@KrangTNelson) January 15, 2019
A couple of words on the Gilette Toxic Masculinity commercial that's been making the rounds. It's both possible and necessary to commend a company for spreading a much-needed message while also recognizing that corporate messaging created the problem. 1/https://t.co/p65KVT3zLq
— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 15, 2019
Gillette Ad Memes & Jokes
Of course, all this debate has inspired numerous memes, both serious political ones, and more playful ones.
I used to love beating up kids at barbecues. Now I realise that is wrong. Also, my balls have never been smoother. Thanks, Gillette.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) January 15, 2019