There are a couple of things that need attention this week. One of those being Zimbabwe and the fact that the country is in a complete shutdown with people being beaten to death. Or alternatively we should be talking about whatever is going on with Brexit. However, here is what I am going to talk about; Gillette. Why? Because I’m basic like that. In all honesty, I was thinking about what I should write about this week and after seeing the reactions to the Ad this week, I felt compelled to talk about it. If you haven’t seen the advert yet, here it is:
Basically, in light of the #MeToo movement (lowkey over a year later), Gillette felt they needed to create an ad that would question their slogan “The Best a Man Can Get”. I am usually incredibly critical of brands using movements to sell their products, you can see my thoughts on the Nike marketing campaign from last year.
This ad, however, got me thinking a little bit. It is brands like Gillette that have had a massive influence on how we see masculinity as a culture. Where as a brand like Nike (before last year) wasn’t as actively contributing to cultural views on race. So Gillette creating an ad like this, was of great interest to me. I thought it was a good ad, promoting general principles that we should all adhere to as humans.
I then saw some of my liberal friends posting about how people were offended by the advert. At first I shunned that information as I was like of course us liberals think people are offended by this, we love to vilify others. Let’s not deny that, vilifying is great as a liberal because it means we never have to be introspective. So I brushed it off for a day. I then saw another post about the ad being controversial the next day and decided to investigate. Boy, I’ll tell ya, people are upset by this ad. The YouTube comments section is in disarray. The amount of likes this video has verses the amount of dislikes is shameful, here is an image of what I’m seeing while I’m writing this post:
Hold on, so an advert that literally says, treat women with respect and don’t encourage physical violence is offensive? How is that possible? 664K Dislikes verses 277K likes. Personally, I am not sure. However, I have realised I have to talk about it. If you are a man who has stuck with me this far, thank you. We need to talk.
I am a straight white male, three facts about myself that I have never doubted and probably never will. So if you were offended by this ad, there are already three things you and I probably have in common. I love sport probably like you do. I really enjoy working out and sometimes even think physical pain can be beneficial to our growth. I do think men are typically more physically strong than woman and with that I feel that we have certain responsibilities that woman don’t. I also feel that woman have responsibilities in life that we will never fully be able to do or understand. So yea, I agree with you that men and woman are different.
Would you look at that? More we have in common. So now that we’ve built some common ground, how did we arrive here? How are some of us upset by this ad? All it’s really asking is for us to treat women and each other better than we currently do. I think we need to break this down.
Let’s look at how we view women. Do you agree with me that we should respect women? I’m sure you do in principle right? I do know there is a scene in the ad, that I have experienced often when a friend looks at a girl and says something that I’m super uncomfortable with. In the ad the one guy has the guts to actually call his friend out, too often I have not done that. I get it a pretty woman walks past, and something in you wants to claim her. I am not going to lie to you, I get that same urge. The problem is that that woman walking past is a person with opinions, dreams and aspirations. So how can we simply just claim her? The reality is that we can’t, we need to stop ourselves in those moments and reflect on why we behave in a certain way. If an ad asking us to be self-reflective sparks outrage, how can we ever grow as individuals? Surely, as men we agree that personal growth is a positive thing?
Or another part of the ad that I think people are finding a problem with is how the boys wrestling are discouraged from doing so. I grew up with two older brothers, wrestling happened. I’m not sure if that was because of what we were watching or if it was because by nature boys feel the need to prove their physical prowess through physical contact. I really don’t know. I assume if you were outraged by this advert that you feel it is natural. Cool, I have no issue with that perspective, what I do want to ask is this though; why should we let ourselves succumb to that natural desire to prove our physical prowess? Genuinely, why do we need that ability anymore? We have a plethora of other natural desires that we have to restrain every minute of every day. Why should we leave this desire unchecked? Logically for the society that we live in a boy who is taught to use his brain over his brawn will be more likely to succeed on the sport field, in academic arenas and in the work space. So essentially to allow “boys to be boys” and to fight each other would be to actually hinder there growth into being what we as men deem a successful man.
Something that we did not grasp about this ad as men is this; We can still be MASCULINE. The issue is when that masculinity hurts someone else. So for example catcalling, it is an action that makes a woman feel uncomfortable and thus should be excluded from our definition of masculinity. The phrase toxic masculinity was created so that men like you and I can still enjoy the good characteristics of being men while not making women and each other’s life hell. So you can still enjoy the camaraderie of sport with the boys, you can still go to the gym and enjoy your physical progress, you are still allowed to be attracted to women. Masculinity in and of itself is not bad and it is not what this ad was challenging. It is how we express that masculinity that can make it an issue. This ad was attacking a toxic masculinity and attempting to promote a more positive form of masculinity. As men we need to reclaim the term masculine like Gillette was trying to do, because if we do not we may end up losing it. Which is exactly what we seem to be so afraid of.