Gillette commercial and the chronically offended

For 30 years, Gillette has been using the slogan “The best a man can get.” Gillette is an American company that principally caters to men by manufacturing grooming products such as razors. Their slogan might have been a bit vague but it certainly isn’t controversial.  “The best a man can get” shouldn’t be a controversial proposition: The best a man can be is kind instead of cruel, generous instead of petty, protective instead of predatory. After the launch of their new commercial however, people did not seem to see it that way anymore because ever since it surfaced, this has been all the internet seems to be talking about.

What’s so wrong with the advert?

The Gillette advert takes on some of the most pressing social problems, bullying and sexual harassment and misogyny in the media. The advert begins by showing a boy getting cyber bullied and called a “sissy,”a group of entertained audience laughing along as a man on a sitcom set grabs at a woman’s behind, a businessman in a corporate boardroom mansplaining to a female employee – while a voice over notes that men keep on “making the same old excuses”: Boys will be boys. I haven’t only seen random strangers on the internet saying it, but at my own home by my own family. We have been excusing bad behavior by men for generations. 

The advert then transitions into men stepping up and being the better version of themselves. Intervening against sexual harassment, a man teaching self-love to his daughter, promoting peace over violence, all while little boys watch and absorb. “It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more,” the ad concludes, “that we can be our best.” Throughout the short film, Gillette tries to tell men that they can be kind and nurturing for their future generations but this simple straightforward message seems to have triggered a huge response among people. The video has generated only 527K likes but over a million dislikes. Even considering the fact that lifeless trolls has opened multiple accounts just for the reason that they can add to the number of dislikes, the numbers are staggering. While the commercial was inspiring and asked men to not only to treat women better, but to treat other men better as well. But the fact of the matter is that,you can always find a way to be offended if you are determined enough.

Corporate giants and social stance

Corporations have been jumping on the social activism train for some time now. We have seen in from Pantene, Dove and Nike. I am sure we haven’t forgotten about Nike’s commercial featuring Colin Kaepernick. We had witnessed almost the same kind of backlash from a certain community. One pattern I have always noticed is that any righteous message delivered to a mass population always gets similar reactions as long as it does not cater to every demand of the privileged. The privileged be someone belonging to the racial or ethnic majority, it might be because someone holds a patriarchal mindset which is often considered “cool” in our patriarchal society or a religious majority.

A billboard featuring former San Francisco 49ers quaterback Colin Kaepernick is displayed on the roof of the Nike Store on September 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

On the contrary, being sensitive and showing empathy towards other human beings is considered emasculating. When I was explaining to someone about why the backlash was due to fragile masculinity, a random guy asked me how I would define “fragile masculinity”. This term is closely relevant to another term called “toxic masculinity”. Toxic masculinity refers to the idea that cruel and predatory behavior is part of men’s natural makeup. There’s a stereotype that feminists hate men, but the opposite seems to be true: Anti-feminists who claim to be defending men are the ones who actually seem to have a fairly low opinion of themselves. Thus, when a man does not meet their criteria of manliness, they are bullied and mocked. These particular men have their masculinity held up like a house of cards and the slightest bit of murmur about them being imperfect crashes it and this is referred to as fragile masculinity and that is when these men feel emasculated.

Gillette ain’t no saint

Obviously, Gillette was not promoting equality out of the goodness of their hearts. None of the bold advertising we’ve seen in recent times has been but it does not have to be either. Gillette needs to sell their products and as the saying goes, “No such thing as bad publicity”.The commercial generated all the buzz they needed and they indeed needed it. In the past decade, more men have started to opt for the “ragged” look instead of the cleanly shaven kind. Their profits have also been undercut by more affordable brands of grooming products. So even though the Piers Morgans of the world have threatened to boycott Gillette, that might end up generating more publicity. Feminist men and women might buy more Gillette products to counteract the loud and angry men. 

I mean come on, large companies like Gillette don’t advertise on concepts they think will tank their profits. This is why so many advertisements have been so sexist for so long.

Buying consumer goods will not bring on gender-equality, but that does not mean that the commercial is bad. These are definitely pleasant changes from seeing misogyny serve as a tool for capitalism. If corporations use their platforms to stand up while also benefitting from the advertisement, it’s a win-win. This is why Nike’s commercial was a success. People tend to put a higher value on brands they think has a better moral compass.

The Gillette commercial was inspiring and motivating, not controversial. But if you are like Piers Morgan and think that the proper reaction to it is tweeting about an imaginary “war on masculinity”,then sadly Gillette was wrong. You are petty and this is as good as you’re ever going to get.