Gillette vs Toxic Masculinity

Opinion by: Stephanie H.

Edited by: Kody T.

Visual by: Sandro L.

Gillette is taking on toxic masculinity. Based on the furious reactions towards the ad released by the razor company, this message against this harmful trait is more needed than may have been realised.

In a 2 minute advertisement, the brand tells men to “say the right thing” and “act the right way”. The video is a montage of male bullying, harassment, and sexist actions and shows other men intervening to stop the behaviour. It plays on the company’s slogan “the best a man can get”, and replaces it with “the best men can be”. The video has now clocked in 29 million views and has 1.4 million dislikes versus 768,000 likes.

The ad has created a wave of angry division around the world. When I first watched the video, I didn’t see anything wrong with it — I could see how there was controversy, but in order to understand what was happening, I went to the comment section. It was interesting to see the majority of the comments came from men and it was also alarming to see the number of people that claimed that what needed to be discussed instead of “toxic masculinity” was “toxic femininity”. For example, one commenter asks, “just wondering, when will the ad for toxic femininity air?”. Another states, “this condescending and insulting ad is what happens when people get drunk on the kool-aid of toxic feminism”.

In order to fully understand, I think it’s important to define “toxic masculinity”. In psychology, toxic masculinity, as defined by Terry Kupers, is “the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence”. In other words, toxic masculinity is the idea that stereotypically masculine gender roles restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for men to express. Toxic femininity, in relation, is a term used by men’s rights advocacy activists to construct a false equivalence between toxic masculinity and patriarchal limitations on women’s gender presentation and expression.

In my opinion a lot of the controversy seems to be over nothing. The ad is not an attack on men — it’s an attack on inappropriate and abusive behaviour displayed by men. So if the majority of men don’t engage in that kind of behaviour, then why do so many feel the need to defend themselves? Why are so many men boycotting the brand? What is the problem?

On Gillette’s website, it says “it’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive, and healthy versions of what it means to be a man”. While I agree, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a commercial. While they may be attempting to push an agenda that seems political, their main goal as a company is to sell. The ad is supposed to reach as wide an audience as possible. It is supposed to attract as many consumers as possible. That’s not to diminish the efforts of the brand to incite change — Gillette will also donate $1 million every year for the next 3 years to organisations that help men become good role models, such as The Boys & Girls Clubs of America. It’s important to display positive interactions for men and diminish the effects of toxic masculinity. It’s also important to remember that the brand is selling a product. Many other brands, such as Milk Makeup and Chobani, also use the method of promoting a lifestyle and behaviours to sell their products.

I think that the boycotting was inevitable and so was the backlash. Anything to do with this specific subject always appears to be so. That said, if you’re interested in something that discusses the topic with a bit less candor, then I would recommend watching Pixar’s new Sparkshorts: “Purl” on YouTube.

Honestly, to me, the anger is too overdone. If I were to say anything it would be: calm yourself. If calling out men on toxic behaviour is offensive to you, then a razor commercial shouldn’t be your main focus or your biggest concern.