Did Gillette get it wrong?


Have you seen the newer Gillette commercial, the one about Men being the best they can be?  It’s been pretty hard to miss with all of the buzz that it’s gotten. What did you think of it?

The thing that’s struck me is the amount of backlash it’s gotten. Especially around the term toxic masculinity.  But rather than share my own opinion of it, I thought I’d interview my husband and get his feedback. The commercial is geared towards men, so who better to ask about this than my resident, well, I guess man.

Me:        Have you seen the new Gillette commercial?

Him:       No

Ok, I should have checked that first.  I stopped and had him watch it so he could speak intelligently about it.  Or at least speak about it. Anyway, we started again.

Me:        Now that you’ve seen the commercial, what did you think as you were watching it?

Him:       It’s different.  Doesn’t really do anything for me as far as buying more razors. I’m probably not going to buy any less either.

It seemed as though the commercial didn’t really strike any cords with him.  Now, the thing you have to know about my husband is he’s a little on the reserved side. But, he’s also very judgemental.  I knew there was probably a stonger opinion in there.

Me: Did you know that there’s been a lot of backlash against this?  A lot of people have taken offense to the term toxic masculinity.  They feel that men are under attack in this ad.  Did you feel under attack?

Him: (chuckles).  No, I didn’t feel under attack.  I don’t know why other guys would.  Unless they’re just not very secure in their manhood.  The ad is about stepping up and demonstrating good behavior.  Setting a good example.  This is basic leadership stuff here.

Look- I’m a father, and I’m in a leadership role at work, I’m part of the Dad’s Club at school.  These are all places where I’m expected to demonstrate good behavior.  Our kid is in basketball- the coach is expected to demonstrate good behavior.  Our kid is in Cub Scouts- the Den leader is expected to demonstrate good behavior. 

It all goes without saying.  I don’t need a commercial to tell me to do this, I already do.  Most of the people I know do it too without being told. It’s just the way we were all raised.

Now, I know guys who don’t always exhibit the best behavior, or who often do things they shouldn’t.  But I wouldn’t call it toxic masculinity.  It’s immaturity. But these are also the guys who aren’t climbing very high on the ladder usually. It’s not the kind of guys I’m usually hanging out with nowadays. 

I got his point.  But, I know some of the people who responded negatively to the ad, and they’re people I would consider to have pretty good character. And some are even female. So I don’t think the backlash was because of their own guilt.

Over the weekend, I saw another advertisement which was billed as the ‘rebuttal’ to the Gillette ad.  It’s for a Watch company, and I had my husband view it.

Me: What did you think about this advertisement?  Does it change the way you feel about the Gillette ad?

Him:  It’s another interesting ad.  But, I’m not sure it’s really a rebuttal.  I believe all of the stats they’ve shared are probably factual, but I’m not sure they make a very good counterpoint. There’s two parts to this ad- one is celebrating the leadership some men exhibit, and the other is highlighting some statistics about men. The Gillette ad never suggested men don’t do great things.  

And about the statistics that were shared. Men account for the majority of combat deaths? That’s probably related to the fact woman haven’t been given much opportunity for combat roles.  Now you could say that this is because of this reason, or that reason, but it doesn’t really make a point counter to the Gillette ad.   

Really, the whole ad almost kind of has a woe is me type feel to it.  I don’t know, it just doesn’t make me want to buy a watch any more than the Gillette ad made me want to buy a razor.  But both ads have generated a lot of interest, so maybe they’re both successful.

Me: Do you feel like the Gillette ad is man bashing?  Do you feel like it’s harder to be a man in today’s climate?

Him: No. I don’t.  It’s no harder today than it was five years ago, or ten years ago.  I think the problem is some men get fed a lot of news about the woman’s movements, and then they feel under siege.  That’s one of the problems with online news and social media.  If someone likes an article that expresses some of these movements like #metoo as man bashing, they’re going to get fed more posts like that.  The individual gets fed a constant stream of content that reinforces their point of view, even if it’s biased or not based on fact. I’m not stuck in that feedback loop, so it doesn’t register for me. Frankly, I’ve got 99 problems, and #metoo isn’t one of them.

Me: So let me bring it back around to my original question, why do you think so many people have taken offense to the Gillette ad, and do you think it’s justified?

Him: Honestly, I don’t know how it gets certain people so triggered.  The ad just doesn’t register very strongly with me.  It’s not a bad ad, it’s not a great ad, it’s just an ad with a message encouraging men to be better men.

Me: What about toxic masculinity? You heard at the beginning of the ad the news clips that were playing in the background referencing this. How does that term make you feel?

Him: It’s a strong term.  I know the behavior it’s referring to, and it’s behavior that I don’t do. So I don’t feel like it’s referring to me when I hear that term. But I guess I could see how others might.

If a man behaves poorly, address that man. When you use the term toxic masculinity, it almost comes across as though masculinity is toxic.  I know that’s not what is meant, but it’s easy to see how it could be construed that way.  That was probably Gillette’s mistake, including those audio clips in the ad with that term. That seems to be what specifically got a lot of people fired up.

There’s probably a better way to refer to the bad behavior certain men exhibit than the term toxic masculinity. I have a feeling that phase is now for many guys like XXXX is for certain girls (rhymes with runt). It’s just a term I wouldn’t use to describe bad behavior by certain guys. Just call it what it is- bad behavior by certain guys.

So, did Gillette get it wrong? Maybe a little yes, maybe a little no.  Certainly not to the extent my husband got riled up about it, but a lot of others have.  Should they have?  My husband doesn’t seem to think so.

The ad has gotten Gillette a lot of attention.  I can’t help but feel they’ll consider this ad a success.  Under that criteria, it’s hard to say they got it wrong.

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