The best a man can get has been the slogan for the razor company Gillette for thirty years.
Since 1901 Gillette has consistently been a leading innovator in blade technology and a staple in many American households. Its newest ad reached a wide audience and made consumers look at what the best a man can get truly looks like in a world of rampant toxic masculinity.
The ad, which features themes of sexual harassment, bullying and “mansplaining,” sparked controversy across media outlets. The main goal of the ad was to tackle toxic masculinity in the era of the #MeToo movement and create a culture in which men are responsible for their actions and the actions of their peers and future children.
While it may seem like a negative thing for so many people to feel strongly opposed to the company as a result of this new ad campaign, Gillette certainly knew the task of changing the mindset of entire generations would be met with opposition. In fact, the company likely hoped it would.
The ad is correct in identifying the toxicity of masculinity such as sexual assault and bullying. However, the ad failed to provide any solutions to the problem and rather called out an entire gender for the sake of exploiting people’s political beliefs for a chance at boosting sales. The company showed the world a problem, but offered no long term solutions. Sure, we got the hero dad who steps in to break up the fight between two young children, but that does nothing to teach men how to better themselves.
Gillette simply made an ad that created a larger rift between the American people. It poured salt in the wound and never offered a mechanism to stop the pain, all while looking to rake in more money from a now further divided American public.
Where there is toxic masculinity, there is also positive masculinity. There is both good and bad in every facet of life. The ad presented a view of masculinity as either right or wrong. Men and their masculinity, however, are not just black or white. The ad failed to acknowledge the grey space in between. A man can exhibit toxic traits while simultaneously possessing the not-so-toxic traits. But, with ads like Gillette, men cannot even begin to identify or showcase the virtues of masculinity.
Even despite the many negatives behind the ad, it has already proven to be a good business decision. Last year, P&G, the makers of Tide, Bounty, Gillette and other products saw 2018’s second worst stock in the Dow. Gillette needed to reach a much larger audience than before. It was in dire need of a controversy. What better chance than to take an ad focused on the company’s main consumers — men — and air it in a world where ideas of masculinity are more controversial than ever? The company saw the age of #MeToo as a perfect time to bring in revenue.
To be frank, Gillette does not care about toxic masculinity. It doesn’t care if young boys continue to be bullied or women continue to be harrassed. It is nothing more than a company that sees the strife of the nation as an opportunity to make money and gain back the lost profits of 2018. Activism has become commercialized, and the American people allow multimillion-dollar companies like Gillette to pretend to care. We live to consume, whether it be material goods or the hope of a better world.
Companies like Gillette will never give us the satisfaction of a better world. When we support or boycott companies that enter the sphere of controversy, we are making an attempt to feel good about ourselves for being politically minded and engaged in the world. But the glaring problem with using our wallets as political statements is that change is never enacted. Consumers will never make a difference in the world by throwing money at big businesses or flushing razors down the toilet.
The Gillette ad did spark a conversation, but the problem is still not fixed. Gillette’s ad showed us the worst a man can get, but lacked the innovation to show consumers the best one can be.
Regardless of whether we actually change the behavior of men or not, Gillette will still reap the benefits of the publicity. That’s all it really wanted anyway.