Story by Anna-Jo Stuart, Columnist
Photo courtesy of YouTube.com
Recently, Gillette aired a new commercial addressing toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is a term used to describe the societal belief that men should be physically strong, unemotional, controlling, and aggressive. This belief system puts men in a box of negative expectations, that in many cases, lead to violence, sexual assault, and unhealthy means of coping with emotion.
The tagline of Gillette’s new commercial is that the current cultural expectations for men are not “the best a man can get”. Men need to support one another and hold each other accountable when it comes to standing against masculine stereotypes.
Some specific examples that appear in the commercial are two boys fighting and their fathers saying, “boys will be boys”. A businesswoman in a meeting is ignored by her male counterparts. Other scenes included boys being bullies, and men harassing women. Each example shown also has a more acceptable solution paired with it.
The ad argues that men should be teaching the next generation to fight against toxic stereotypes. It challenges us to accept that men can express emotion and have interest in activities that are not necessarily “masculine”. It also promotes treating women equally and being nonviolent.
I believe that the commercial was nothing that extreme. It was advocating for some basic rights for both men and women. Don’t harass women, don’t be a bully, don’t use violence, and treat people equally. I thought that it was a positive ad, I especially liked the idea that men should take the task of changing the current male stereotype into their own hands. For example, there is a scene that shows one man beginning to catcall a woman walking by, but another man steps in and says that “that’s not cool”. I think that it was good for Gillette to not just point out examples toxic masculinity, but to offer solutions as well.
Not everyone views this ad as positive though. In fact, it has started quite the controversy. The commercial has about 700 thousand likes on YouTube and 1.2 million dislikes. Most of the negative feedback that I saw seemed to be coming from men who view this commercial as an attack on their manhood. They said that companies should not be getting involved in politics. Throughout the comments section of this commercial, men make it clear they are upset with the depiction of masculinity and claim that they will no longer buy Gillette products. One prominent individual that adamantly opposes Gillette’s ad, is Piers Morgan. Morgan claims that this ad attacks men and tells them that they are terrible people who hurt society. He will be boycotting Gillette.
I disagree with Piers and many others because the ad points out that while some men engage in harmful activities, they have the power to make a positive impact on male culture. I believe that the biggest issue with this ad is that people have a hard time hearing criticism on a societal belief that we have all taken part in. It’s hard not to view it as a personal attack on our character. Gillette is not saying that men are bad, it is saying that we, as a society, need to raise our standards for men so that boys can reach their fullest potential. This ad was meant to start a conversation, not degrade men or solve the world’s problems. I think it’s done a great job at just that.