Gillette, toxic masculinity, and the “war on men”

“Gillette seems to send the message that we can be better by being the men who heroically intervened in these various scenarios.’

toxic masculinityThe Gillette The Best a Man Can Be “short film” on Toxic Masculinity has become a phenomenon in a very short time. Two of the bloggers I follow, Arthur and Chuck, have already written about it. They favor the ad, and so do I. But that’d be a brief post.

I’m also interested in other reactions. Common Dreams says ‘Gillette Must Be Doing Something Right’: Toxic Men Freak Out… “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.”

Some of the right-wing sites I follow naturally have followed the issue. GOPUSA quotes the CEO of branding firm Crutchfield + Partners that Gillette could quickly alienate its long-time supporters. “Does the customer want to be told they’re a naughty boy? Are you asking too much of your consumer to be having this conversation with them?” he asked. “It’s about execution. Sometimes brands stretch themselves too fine, and they snap.”

It then shared some of the negative comments: ““Get woke, go broke. Stick to selling razors.” “When did shaving have to get political?” “How to irreparably damage a brand in under 120 seconds: A Documentary.” And “See this is actually genius. What Gillette is doing here is trying to lower our testosterone to the point we won’t have to shave anymore.”

RedState complained that “Gillette seems to send the message that we can be better by being the men who heroically intervened in these various scenarios. The man who stops his friend from hitting on a girl, the guy who angrily prevents a man from telling a girl to smile, the man who rejects the idea that treating women as objects is okay.” Well, yes, it is.

I was most annoyed by the dismissive “Side note.” “I’ve never experienced a man telling a girl to smile more. I’ve seen women do that to other women, but not a man. I’m not saying it has never, or still doesn’t happen, but in my 35 years of life, I’ve yet to experience a single male member of our species advise a girl to smile more.” I’ve known lots of women who’ve experienced it, and I’ve seen it myself.

Should business be involved in “political” positions, such as toxic masculinity, risking the bottom line? Last I checked the ad had 321,000 thumbs up but 695,000 thumbs down.

Perhaps the company can be comforted by a statement by The American Psychological Association: “Socialization for conforming to traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict, and negatively influence mental health and physical health.”

I see the ad following in the tradition of The ‘Dove Real Beauty Pledge’. The Procter & Gamble ‘The Talk’ ad “showing how black parents have discussed racism with their children over several decades” won an Emmy.

Will the ad hurt Gillette’s bottom line? Perhaps. Conversely, Taking Risks Can Benefit Your Brand – Nike’s Kaepernick Campaign Is A Perfect Example.

Gillette’s website details plans 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.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Gillette, toxic masculinity, and the “war on men””

  1. I am a woman and have been told by two different men I needed to smile more. I will say the harshest critics (to my face, at least*) of how I look or present have been other women, but that doesn’t mean men don’t do it too some times.

    (*Yes, I know how people talk behind others’ backs and I don’t like to think about it)

    I dunno. When I think of “masculinity” I think of a willingness to protect and even be tender towards the vulnerable: like fathers caring for their children.Or those firefighters in wildfire areas who rescue dogs and stuff. Or a big kid who stands up to a bully on behalf of a smaller kid.

    I haven’t seen the spot but I was under the impression it was largely an anti-bullying message? Is that what we really want: that the implication is you’re only a “real man” if you think it’s all right to push others around?

    Has humanity always been stupid and it’s just become obvious to me in the past few years, or has humanity gotten a lot more stupid in the past 10 years or so?

    TBH, unless a company is really extreme in its positions – like, I don’t know, actually advocating open racism or something – I’m probably not going to notice their political stances if their product is good. Frankly, dig deep enough into ANY large corporation, you’re gonna find something you disagree with. Do we want to go back to raising all our own food and making all our own clothes (all our own CLOTH, for that matter) just to avoid the potential wrongthink of a company?

  2. I’m glad you mentioned “The Talk”, because I saw a lot of parallels, and not just because Gillette is a division of P&G. The over-the-top reactions of certain conservatives to the Gillette ad reminded me of the reactions of conservatives—white conservatives—to “The Talk”. What struck me about both is that “the talk” is a thing, though conservative white folks apparently didn’t know that. In the same way, “toxic masculinity” is really a thing. And many of the over-the-top reactions seemed a bit “protest too much” in both cases. I guess some things don’t change.

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