Gillette’s Fight Against Toxic Maculinity: Activism or Marketing?


Gillette's new campaign "Is this the best a man can get?" plays on its slogan of over three decades, "The Best a Man Can Get." The new campaign combats "toxic masculinity" urging men to do better. [Photo Credit: Tubefilter]

The new Gillette commercial isn’t about shaving. In fact, there isn’t even one razor in the ad at all.

Instead, the ad calls out “toxic masculinity” and has since received both praise and criticism from its audience.

Titled “We Believe,” the ad speaks about the importance of bettering the role models with whom young boys interact in their daily lives and challenges men to “be better” for the next generation.

The ad begins with a montage of men looking in the mirror as overlapping audio from #MeToo allegations plays in the background followed by scenes depicting harassment, bullying, inequality in the workplace and sexism.

“Bullying, the MeToo movement against sexual harassment, toxic masculinity,” said the narrator. “Is this the best a man can get?”

Various clips then condemn the usage of the phrase “boys will be boys” as a means of excusing displays of violence in young boys. The advertisement concludes by showing men combating “toxic masculinity” through positive behaviors.

“We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses.”

However, the ad, garnering over 28 million views on YouTube since its posting, has sparked controversy. Some have taken offense to the messages, interpreting the ad’s statement to refrain from violence and misogyny as an attack to traditional masculinity.

“The latest assault on men and masculinity is a video produced by @Gillette,” tweeted Denise C. McAllister, a senior contributor at The Federalist. “They go wrong by equating masculinity with men behaving badly and spreading guilt”

Some have even commented on Gillette’s preachy and inauthentic approach as a desperate attempt to gain exposure as competitors such as Dollar Shave club grow in popularity.

On the other hand, a rather positive response has been voiced by others who have applauded the commercial’s much-needed message of redefining masculinity and spoke out against those who took offense to the ad.

“If you’re threatened by a razor commercial asking you to be a better man, you don’t need a new shaver,” wrote Keith Boykin, former CNBC contributor and CNN political commentator, on Twitter. “You need new standards.”

And yet, in a society in which stories of “locker room talk” and #MeToo allegations remain prevalent, why did the ad rub so many people the wrong way? Based on the comments provided by both genders, support and criticism of Gillette’s ad were not clearly divided by gender.

Evidently, the ad had at least some good intentions.

It brought public attention and sparked conversation of the need to eliminate toxicity from masculinity, asking men to look in the mirror, quite literally, and re-evaluate how traditional masculinity is perceived.

But perhaps, the ad was too ambitious and sweeping in nature. In the process of bringing light to the issue of “toxic masculinity,” the advertisement also alienated nearly half the population with its accusatory message that only some men have stepped up against the issue and therefore most men have sat idly by.

Quite frankly, it just wasn’t needed to get the message across.

Furthermore, Gillette’s use of buzzwords such as “toxic masculinity” that tie politics to methods of marketing make the ad’s intention quite blatant: to generate revenue. Accordingly, the statements made by Gillette, underlined with motives of commercial gains, failed to reach many of its customers.

Perhaps Gillette should not have equated masculinity with toxicity and instead, should have highlighted the bad behaviors that need to be eliminated— behaviors that may be displayed by both men and women.