On January 13th, Gillette Razors released its newest ad campaign: ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.’ Comprised of real news stories and scripted scenes, the ad tackles the issue of toxic masculinity in society. In the beginning, a narrator asks the question: “Is this the best a man can get?” in reference to Gillette’s previous company slogan. Clips depicting bullying and sexual harassment by the hands of men and boys are shown, including a particularly poignant scene which captures a chanted repetition of the phrase: “boys will be boys.” All of which refers to the offensive standards which have remained acceptable for men. The ad then takes a turn by showing men reprimanding other males for these ‘masculine’ actions, rather than allowing them to happen–another aspect of toxic masculinity. It ends with images of children, noting “the boys of today will be the men of tomorrow.”
Gillette’s goal with the release of this ad was made abundantly clear: to end toxic masculinity. The first and most frequent responses, however, were from individuals who believed the razor company sought to insult male culture as a whole. Tweets from countless people countering the ad flooded twitter, including one showing a Gillette razor in a toilet with the caption “Goodbye Gillette, hello Schick #GilletteAd.” These retaliations to an ad which simply made a message to be conscious and more aware of toxic masculinity, prove how prevalent the stereotypes of male superiority have become. Instead of making an effort to understand its true meaning, they fight back. With the inclusion of several male figures in the ad, including Terry Crews, reprimanding these acts of hyper-masculinity, it should be obvious that Gillette’s aim was not to insult men, but rather to express how these actions are unacceptable. Because this male superiority complex has played a sizeable role in society for decades, it has become conventional, and therefore okay to continue.
This is not an issue of masculinity, but rather an issue of the sense of invincibility which is now seen to go hand in hand with masculinity.
The most important part about Gillette’s production and release of this ad is that it has sparked a conversation many choose to ignore. In the midst of countless sexual assault accusations coming to light–those of R. Kelly, Brett Kavanaugh and the entire #metoo movement–there is a need for validation of those claims, as few males tend to accept them. To receive that validation from a razor company with a target market of predominantly males proves the prevalence of toxic masculinity and simultaneously empowers the women who have bravely spoken out about their sexual assault experiences. Although Gillette received mainly negative feedback from the audience they sought to inspire change in, they have taken a monumental step in the new standard of holding men accountable for toxic masculinity, and making them the best men can be.