Backlash over the Gillette ad is overblown

Examining the response to the razor company’s takedown of toxic masculinity

Nathan argues against toxic masculinity, in favour of the recent Gillette ad.
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Recently, Gillette caused controversy when it launched a rebranding of its public image with the release of an ad criticizing toxic masculinity. The ad, which generated millions of views, cast a wide net, making reference to the #MeToo movement, misogyny, and the age-old adage, “Boys will be boys.” 
 
For better or worse, the ad exposed the pervasive role media plays in shaping people’s opinions and behaviours.
 
Due to the anonymous nature of the internet, viewers’ opinions were skewed to dislike the ad. However, if you watch the ad without an initial negative-leaning bias, it’s clear Gillette only aims to create positive social reform—and the controversial response to its call for change arose from the very toxic masculinity it rallies against.
 
During the ad’s runtime, Gillette puts a twist on their 30-year-old slogan “the best a man can get,” turning it into “the best men can be,” suggesting that men should do more to combat unhealthy behaviour. As a result, a portion of male viewers were offended, claiming the ad needlessly bashes men in order to appear “woke” in a market that increasingly values socially-conscious brand identities
 
In a tweet, television personality Piers Morgan called the commercial “virtue-signaling [politically correct] guff” and characterized it as part of a “pathetic global assault on masculinity.” Largely, Morgan and fellow Gillette boycotters take issue with the ad’s left-wing political “attack” on traditional masculine values. 
 
The backlash to the ad is no surprise given the nature of political commentary online. 
 
The algorithm YouTube implements for its comment section creates an echo chamber, where users are only exposed to videos that reinforce their views and beliefs. This is a major reason for the backlash from the hyper-masculine community on the web, and the anonymity of the site only makes its responses worse.  
 
Thus, it should come as no surprise that Gillette’s progressive liberal ad was ripped to shreds when it was uploaded to YouTube.
 
Gillette didn’t shoot itself in the foot by critiquing its target demographic: 29.5 million people viewed the ad. Positive or not, that’s significant viewership. 
 
But when new viewers see an ad and observe the dislikes and negative comments it conjures, their opinion is immediately altered and they overlook the actual merits of the ad. 
 
To those calling for a boycott of the Gillette company, you should know your outrage will have no effect on sales—except maybe to raise them. 
 
Proctor and Gamble, the company which owns Gillette, knew exactly what they were doing by weighing in on an issue as debated as toxic masculinity
 
It’s the same tactic employed by Nike in their similarly controversial Colin Kaepernick advertisement, which incidentally boosted sales for the sports-wear company. 
 
The response to the Gillette ad since its release has evolved to be more positive: according to data from Harris Poll, 57 per cent of Gen Z’s and millennials are now “more likely to consider purchasing Gillette products.” 
 
That said, some negative responses to the ad weren’t directly because of its progressive themes. Some argue that the ad is a soulless corporate gambit that piggy-backs off a modern social movement for financial gain. 
 
Of course, Gillette’s intentions weren’t as altruistic as they claim. However, their financial motive doesn’t remove the cultural impact that marketing and advertising are capable of creating. 
 
Forget for a moment that you find the ad cringey or patronizing, or deeply offensive to your manhood, and actually examine its content. Nowhere does it say that men should be ashamed of their masculinity. 
 
This angle arose purely out of an interpretation imposed on the ad by commentators like Piers Morgan.
 
If you watch the ad openly and honestly, its intended meaning is easy to grasp. The ad points to the problematic and damaging “boys will be boys” trope, which excuses certain mens’ bad behaviour. Although sexual harassment, violence, and bullying aren’t behaviours that all men practice, we all a play a role in normalizing them through forms of toxic masculinity. 
 
To me, “Boys will be boys” is itself offensive. Do we as a society think so little of what boys and men can be? For Gillette, it’s all there in the ad’s title, “We 
Believe: The Best Men Can Be.” 
 
This ad isn’t an attack on your masculinity. It challenges and inspires us to be better, and believes in our capabilities to do just that.   
 
Nathan is a second-year Politics major and English minor. 

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