"My flabber was completely gasted." - Rating Pending
Q:

Dear Guesthouse,

After reading your answer to the question on how to be a better feminist (specifically, your third bullet point on men), I would be very interested to know what your thoughts are on the recent controversial Gillette ad.
(Other writers can chime in, of course!)

-My Name Here

A:

Dear friend, 

YES! Thank you for asking me this! 

Personally, I really loved the Gillette ad. In fact, it made me tear up a little bit at the end. Here's why: 

1) The ad is not saying that men are inherently bad or violent or perverted. It does not try to claim that all men are groping women in the workplace, bullying other people, being aggressive, etc. It literally opens with emotional close-ups of men looking in mirrors, clearly disappointed with the current state of things. They want the world to be a better place, and they want to help by doing their part. THESE are the kinds of men I know in my life. People like my dad, grandpas, boyfriend, ward members, etc. They represent the best that men can get. The sheer number of good representations of men in that ad makes it obvious that Gillette doesn't think that men are menaces. They're targeting the few who ruin what being a man means for the rest of the world. They're saying "Hey you guys who are good people. Don't you think we can show that we're better than this? You can help!" 

2) The ad is encouraging men to become a part of something bigger and better. It's not saying you have to become an activist, or that unless you join a feminist march you're not really doing a good job. It's not saying that you have to become a lawyer to defend women in sexual assault cases. It's just saying that there are good men out there who can make sure they do little actions to stop toxic masculinity in everyday life. They can represent the best that man can get. In the midst of so much anger and inequality and sadness and confusion, no matter who you are, you can be a part of something bigger just through your actions. That was the point of my ideas to support feminism - you don't have to be super notable or famous or powerful to show that you care about toxic masculinity. You can help by doing any of the things mentioned in the video and more. 

3) The ad is teaching men that boys learn from their actions, so they should be good examples. This is so important. I think the way they ended the ad was brilliant. Even though we can't necessarily make everything all better now, we can make progress. We have a responsibility to teach the upcoming generations how to be better people. And that is an excellent message. 

4) The ad reminds men of their responsibility. This is the part I know for a fact caused the most controversy. Because I was curious and miraculously had enough energy to deal with Internet arguments that day, I read through the comments on Youtube to see exactly why this video was controversial - especially since I thought it was so amazing. The overwhelming majority of comments that were negative were from men who said, "I've never killed anyone, I've never raped anyone, I've never groped a woman, I've never done anything wrong! How dare Gillette, a razor company, tell me how to live my life! I'm doing fine, I don't need to do anything better!!!" Okay, sure. I can understand why they would feel that way. But here's the thing. People with privilege really don't like having their privilege pointed out to them when you couple it with responsibility. They hate it. It's the whole reason we've got issues in the first place. And those men probably haven't done anything wrong, and that's great. The ad wasn't telling them they have to take responsibility for the terrible actions of some other men. It was saying you have to realize your privilege and use it to help other people whenever you're able to, even and especially in small everyday ways. 

People suck at taking criticism. In general, human beings are incredibly averse to acknowledging their own failures. We hate taking responsibility for things, especially when we're removed from the actual problem. So that's why you have a bunch of men (mostly) on the Internet getting angry that some company posed an important question about an important issue. It's much easier for laypeople to sit back and refuse to participate in controversial issues. They'll take offense that Gillette is claiming that men need to take care of the issues surrounding toxic masculinity, and then they'll go back to acting like nothing is wrong. Issues like this persist because people don't wanna get involved with things that "aren't my problem." 

Anyway. I can understand why the ad may have been controversial to people who don't want to get involved... but I think to those of us who are okay with constructive criticism and care about toxic masculinity, this was an amazing ad. Guppy was right to say that women have a responsibility in stopping toxic masculinity culture too. I don't think they necessarily needed to be in the ad because it was directed at men (Gillette is, after all, primarily a man's razor company.) 

Cheers, 

Guesthouse

A:

Dear you,

Guesthouse's answer is fantastic. I just want to add that some people are upset because they think it's attacking all men and masculinity. That's not true. It's addressing the problems with toxic masculinity. There are many, many things about masculinity (and femininity) that are great: being confident, strong, emotional, helpful, etc. But it can turn toxic when these traits are taken too far: hurting others to prove one's own manliness, never crying or showing emotion, etc. These are harmful traits for anyone, both male and female.

That leads me to my second point: I do wish they had included women as part of the group reinforcing toxic masculinity. The line of men repeating "boys will be boys"? Women would definitely be in that group, as “'Boys will be boys' is something some mothers say, too, when their sons attack other boys or lift up girls’ skirts." This article really opened my eyes to this, because it's true: while toxic masculinity plays out mostly among men, it is both women and men who enforce it. While I still really loved the ad, I hope the next ad addressing the same issue will also include the role both men and women play in upholding toxic masculinity and how both need to be better.

-guppy of doom

A:

Dear yo name,

I agree with Guesthouse and guppy of doom. I liked the ad and loved its message. I just wanted to hit 3 quick little points:

  1. I think the ad was a brilliant marketing move. The ad has generated so much buzz and been talked about so much. Great press for Gillette.
  2. A lot of people feel like the ad is attacking masculinity instead of toxic masculinity. When I first heard the ad I didn't hear the word toxic. The way the jumbled voices are it's kind of hard to hear the word toxic, so the first two times I saw the ad I didn't know it said toxic masculinity. So, kind of nitpicky, but for people with hearing issues it starts of sounding like an anti masculinity ad. I've also seen several news sites write headlines calling it an ad against masculinity, so some people are starting off with bad perceptions because news outlets are portraying it as more controversial than it is to generate site traffic.
  3. The message Gillette brings up really isn't that controversial. It simply asks men to be better. However, Gillette has objectified women in some of their other marketing, and charges more for its women's' razors than for its men's razors. I can see why people would feel upset that Gillette is trying to give them a lecture even though their spot record isn't perfect. I don't think that negates the message of the ad, but I do hope that Gillette decides to join in with men in bettering our culture.

Overall though, this is not only a great ad, but actually a pretty inspiring video. Who would've thought you could make an inspiring, activist razor advertisement.

Peace,

Tipperary