National Comment Comment

Clash of Comments: Is the Gillette advert productive to the dialogue on 'toxic masculinity'?

Joseph Higgins and Patrick Walker give their takes on Gillette's controversial advert

Photo Credit:GILLETTE

YES - Joseph Higgins
Gillette has taken steps to become more than just the makers of “the best [razors] a man can get” by challenging the entire male population, across the world to become “the best a man can be”. And I love it, because, quite frankly, it’s a message that needed to be sent. Not only that, but it’s a message that needs to be reiterated repeatedly- towards grown men and children alike.
Gillette are uniquely placed to accomplish exactly what they’ve set out to achieve with their advert. Spreading the message that toxic masculinity and systemic issues to do with the way men are perceived and expected to behave don’t have to remain the status quo. After all, Gillette mostly market towards men, and their advertisements and products are seen by millions across the world. In my view, they’re tackling one of the greatest issues of our time and have done so in a tasteful and inspiring way. By the end of Gillette’s ad I was genuinely moved, and I had resolved to be a better person and try to be more actively engage in being the best man I can be.
Toxic masculinity, which Gillette is attacking head on, is just what it says, toxic and poisonous; both to society and to the individuals that take part in it, although not always by choice. It’s very easy to get caught up in “locker room talk” if you’re surrounded by it. It’s very easy to be misled into boisterous and violent behaviour because jokes get out of hand, or even because it’s expected of you in a certain social situation. I would know, because I have been involved in such acts myself occasionally, and it’s hard to escape that culture as a young man in this country. Drawing attention to the fact that boys and men don’t have to, nor should they behave in such ways, is a really important goal which has, again, been accomplished by the sheer amount of publicity this advertisement has accumulated.
The ad, contrary to the popular beliefs of many, does not portray all men as toxically masculine; those who say it does might have missed the montage at the end, displaying many well meaning people doing the right thing in different situations, like stopping a kid being bullied. It’s very in-your-face and almost a little patronising, but it’s nonetheless important. The point of the advert isn’t to say all men need to stop being terrible; it is to say that all men need to be aware of the fact that toxic masculinity exists, and is pervasive at a societal level. The fact that we needed Gillette of all brands to really light the fire under this dialogue is disappointing to me, but now that the cards are on the table and Gillette has contributed a considered and contemplative video, it is important for men, boys, members of the male gender, to step up and be the examples of the society we want to see, free of toxic masculinity.
When I saw this video it made me pause, and think about how I’ve behaved in the past, and what I’d do if I saw something going on like the situations in the video. I’m happy to admit I’m not entirely proud of my actions and inaction in the past but after seeing that video; I for one will be making the effort to adapt. If that’s not contributory to the dialogue around toxic masculinity, I don’t know what more people could ask for.

NO - Patrick Walker
Oh good, I was wondering when gender-politics heavyweights Gillette would weigh into the debate on toxic masculinity. I’m the first to admit men have got a lot to improve on: the recent wave of male anti-feminism and #MeToo denialism proved that. That said, did we really need a $17 billion dollar marketing machine to let us know?
Let’s be clear about one thing: this video wasn’t produced by a charity, or a politician, or another content creator. It was created as part the advertising strategy of one of the largest razor firms on the planet, to appeal to a generation that is increasingly turning to other disruptive brands like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s.
My indignation doesn’t stem from disagreement with the principle message of the ad. The views of Piers Morgan are self-evidently boring and irrelevant. I’m all for standing up to bullies, treating women like competent business professionals, and “challenging ourselves to do more”, whatever that means. I just don’t think the presence of companies in certain discussions is warranted. Can’t they just restrict their activities to selling us stuff?
Sure, there was very little to disagree with in the advert. That was the point. Each political statement the video made was relatively uncontroversial, particularly, I would argue, to our generation. This will ensure that we associate their company more with the socially progressive movement than with the constant ads featuring barely clothed hairless demigods that Gillette has been pumping out over the last decade. In fact, if you wanted to address the problem of problematic male role-models in pop culture, look no further than the razor adverts of the noughties.
This in mind, I don’t understand the widespread praise for the advert at all. The sentiment certainly wasn’t brave. It was an act of cynical commercialism to appeal to a target market. Gillette aren’t the first company to market their product with a progressive agenda: other companies have been quietly doing it for years, back when such a message was more controversial. Heinz pulled a mayo ad in 2008 showing a gay couple kissing after the Advertising Standards Authority received over 200 complaints, presumably all from Piers Morgan.
Look, Gillette, we both know what you’re doing here. I don’t blame you for trying to be relatable, and sending a “positive message”. I would, however, suggest that you’re not exactly the gurus on masculinity that society is looking for right now. I’d rather companies avoid exploiting societal debates for cash: it’s unethical. Perhaps, instead of starting debates on Good Morning Britain, they should try to reflect on damaging physical standards they’ve set for a generation of men.
Of course we should celebrate individuals and politicians when they support progressive causes, but people should be reminded that the entity we’re discussing isn’t an individual. Gillette is one piece of the largest consumer brand conglomerate in the world, and people need to treat them as such. There is, perhaps, one positive take-away from the advert: you know that an idea has finally hit mainstream discourse when it’s being used to sell razors.

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3 Comment

Anonymous Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I can\'t help but feel Mr Walker\'s criticisms of the advert boils down to "Why is a razor blade company trying to make a difference??" - why should it matter if Gillette are trying to send a positive message AND make a profit? A baffling opinion.


#ingrams Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Interesting to see yet more reaction to this ad. Gillete\'s marketing team hit the jackpot here. Frankly I don\'t think that they really care about the central humane issue, they want massive exposure as cheap as possible and its dollars well spent. No doubt their PR team will claim moral victories all around, well done them, fees well earned.


ur m0m Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Pointless article. They\'re just trying to sell their razors. It\'s not OutRagEouS. BuLL Sh1t


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