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Gillette Ad Tackles Toxic Masculinity

Gillette recently released a powerful ad that stands with the values of the #MeToo movement. The ad is nearly two minutes long and its message is clear: We can no longer let boys and men get away with poor behavior simply because “boys will be boys.”

The breakdown

The first and second halves of the ad are drastically different. There is a tone shift in the middle of it in which the focus changes from showcasing the ways that men can be harmful to others to showcasing the ways that men can help eliminate that harmful behavior.

At the very beginning of the ad, there is a voiceover with mentions of sexual assault allegations in the media and the rise of the #MeToo movement. The movement has become a worldwide campaign to bring attention to the issue of sexual assault and harassment. The ad then shows men engaging in harmful actions – such as bullying young boys and harassing women – as someone asks, “Is this the best a man can get?”

Fact: It isn’t.

Gillette’s ad is bringing attention to the fact that men have been able to engage in these activates with very minimal repercussions for centuries. It’s long past time that action is taken and we teach future generations how to act properly, and this is what Gillette is aiming to start doing with this ad.

Now, it’s important to note that the ad is not saying that all men engage in the demeaning actions that the ones in the ad did. It is simply providing us, as a society, with an example of how not to behave and treat women or other people in general.

It’s also important to recognize that men aren’t the only catalysts of toxic masculinity in our world. Many women raise their children with the ideals of it without meaning to because it is so ingrained in our society. I have heard the phrase “boys will be boys” said by a number of female teachers in my life to excuse the immature behavior of boys in my classes. When did this become acceptable? Who coined the phrase? I just have a few questions for them.

How it’s being received

It’s no wonder that after its release, the commercial immediately went viral and began receiving mass amounts of attention from all kinds of people. Gillette is a company known for putting out ads that promote masculinity in the past. This ad is new territory for them, and it is one that we all need to see. 

Many celebrities have expressed their thoughts about the ad. Melissa Fumero said that she wants her son to grow up in a world like the one presented in the second half of the video. Terry Crews, one of Fumero’s co-stars on NBC’s Brooklyn 99, is featured in the ad. “Men need to hold other men accountable,” Crews says, in a short clip that appears about halfway into the commercial.

One of the most intriguing aspects about this ad is the amount of backlash that it is receiving from men. Hundreds – if not thousands – of people have made posts and comments about how they will never be purchasing Gillette products again. Many threw away all products that were associated with Procter and Gamble, Gillette’s parent company.

The ad promotes behavior that should already be the norm in our society, so if men feel threatened by the things that the ad is showing them are wrong, such as catcalling women and bullying others, then isn’t there a bigger issue at hand? Those are the same men who are doing those things in our society, so it is no wonder that they would become upset after being called out for their behavior. When it comes down to it, the men who are outraged by the ad are the ones who need to see it the most.

Not only men are seemingly disgusted with the ad, though. There are a multitude of comments and Tweets in response to the video made by women who are attempting to protect the men who perpetuate these ideals of toxic masculinity. It is so ingrained in our society that to some people, the thought of its absence likely seems ridiculous. So many women were raised with the notion that men are more powerful than them and therefore have the right to do whatever they please, and that needs to change. This commercial is helping initiate that change.  

Why it matters

We’ve all heard the phrase dozens of times. “Boys will be boys” perpetuates toxic masculinity in our society by allowing males to do things that may otherwise be unfair or unjust. The ad is aiming to redefine masculinity in a world where males still – unfortunately – hold more power than women, whether they know it or not. With every small action, such as the ones that are taken in the second half of the ad, we can show the next generation of young boys how to treat others with respect.

Although it’s saddening that there even needs to be a conversation about the “correct” treatment of women and people in general, it’s one that needs to be had. This ad is a conversation starter, and it’s opening up a dialogue to talk about some of the things that we still need to work on as a society.

Call to action

I can only hope that some people were able to pick up on Gillette’s message and see its urgency in our world. This is an issue of equality, and we need to raise our children to treat others – no matter their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation – equally.

Gillette’s tagline has always been “the best a man can get,” but they’re reinventing its meaning and letting the world know that men need to be held to a new standard. From this point on, their tagline is “the best men can be,” and they’ve started a movement to help initiate some much-needed change in our world.

One of the most pivotal points in the ad is when it is stated that “there will be no going back.” After this line, the actions in the video are more positive, which provide viewers with examples of better actions to take in certain situations. There is also a special moment in which a father tells his daughter to repeat to herself that she is strong.

I sincerely hope that there is no going back. With regards to the current political climate, we need to make big changes in order to ensure that things change for the better in the future. By releasing this ad and showing men and women alike what is right vs. wrong, we are taking a step in the right direction. It might be a small step, but progress is still progress.

No longer can we allow phrases like “boys will be boys” to slip by unnoticed. Instead, let us teach our children to respect all and lead with love in mind. Thank you, Gillette, for showing us how we can be better and reminding us that love and respect for others will always trump hate.

Jessica Hernandez is a University of Florida Senior doublte-majoring in Economics and Sustainability Studies. She has a heart for activism, is an avid reader, a lover of vegan food, and a member of the rock climbing team at UF. She can often be found reading books in her hammock or trying vegan food at restaurants in Gainesville.
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