A few weeks ago, Gillette released an advert entitled, “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.” Despite the fact that the advert’s main message is holding other men accountable for their bad actions, and encouraging the younger generation to be better, it has caused a massive divide in people’s opinions. This has ranged from praise and admiration, to disgust and horror.
The advert focuses on many aspects of toxic masculinity, including sexual harassment, sexist attitudes and behaviour, bullying, and aggressive male behaviour. These issues, though present in society for generations, have come to the forefront in recent years. Many movements on social media, such as the #MeToo movement, have encouraged woman to share experiences they’ve kept hidden for decades. This, of course, shines a light on the men they are accusing.
Although the advert has received praise for the subject, many critics have inevitably spoken out against the polarising issues. These detractors have become fixated on the idea that the advert is threatening masculinity, and grouping men all together in a collective. This is wrong.
Toxic masculinity is not all masculinity. Toxic masculinity is a specific part of masculinity that has a negative impact on both women and men. Toxic masculinity has a destructive impact on male sensitivity and physical strength, with phrases like “boys shouldn’t cry”, “man up” and “throw like a girl” commonplace upon society.
Male suicide rate is alarmingly high, and is the biggest killer of young men, partly due to these archaic ideas being frequently imposed on them. Throwing off toxic masculinity doesn’t mean throwing away all essence of what is manly, but rather only discarding the parts that have detrimental consequences. Shunning attitudes that don’t benefit either party is not a bad thing.
The reaction to the advert reflects the desperate need for a campaign like this. If your masculinity is threatened by an advert that just tells you to be a decent human being, you may be doing masculinity wrong. It could be stated that a company who make products for men should not be catering for women’s issues, but toxic masculinity is not a solely that. If anyone is going to make a video about the impact of toxic masculinity, that could reach the most suitable demographic, it would be a male-orientated product company.
Although the cynical view, that it is just a ploy to sell more razors, is not unmerited, that does not invalidate the message. This is reaching thousands of men, both young and old. If a large company wants to use its vast influence to spread a positive measure, there really isn’t any harm in that. A big deal has been made over nothing. The advert does not challenge men’s masculinity, it’s just telling them to speak out and look out for actions that have been wrongly justified for years.
Many long-time users of the brand, appalled by the content of the advert, have now decided to boycott them. Despite all this, Gillette doesn’t appear to have suffered a great deal. It may have lost some of its older, and more conservative, consumers, but the goal with this advert wasn’t to reach them. It was to reach the younger generation, who are ready to shake off the old, harmful attitudes of the past, and embrace a respectful future.
Sales may not have been drastically affected, and the brand may decide never to broach this topic again. However, the increasingly amount of discussions generated from the advert, no matter the controversy, will be all the lasting impact it needs.