It has become increasingly popular for large, multimillion-dollar corporations to use their platform to make social statements. Nike, for example, released an advertisement in 2018 aimed at encouraging people to stand up for what they believe in during the U.S. national anthem protests. Pepsi also ran an advertisement in 2017 with the intention of sending a message of global unity amidst the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality.
While these types of advertisements have received mixed feedback, they continue to be a prevalent marketing tactic. The most recent example of this is Gillette’s 2019 advertisement titled “We Believe: The Best a Man Can Get.”
Gillette has become the latest company to follow this trend of providing social commentary within advertisements. The company released this commercial on Jan. 13 addressing topics such as bullying, sexual harassment and toxic masculinity. The ad has stirred controversy across the nation and currently has approximately 1.2 million dislikes on YouTube, making it the 28th most disliked video in the site’s history.
While many have taken aim at the advertisement, claiming it is part of a growing trend to attack men, the new Gillette ad raises important concerns about age-old ideas of masculinity.
In the spirit of questioning traditional masculine standards, Gillette’s advertisement counters its company slogan, “the best a man can get ” with a question: “Is this the best a man can get?” This new take on the concept of manhood refers to the toxic masculinity and sexual harassment prevalent across the world. These concepts were addressed throughout the advertisement as a call to action for everyone to raise the standard for men and redefine masculinity.
One theme largely discussed throughout this advertisement is toxic masculinity in today’s culture. Toxic masculinity is the concept that being a man requires being aggressive, unemotional and dominant. This definition of masculinity puts boys into a box with no path to socially accepted manhood other than to conform to the societal view of an ideal man: a man who is entitled to sex, entitled to power and entitled to certain privileges; a man who must sacrifice any sort of emotional vulnerability in order to be considered masculine.
The ad consistently challenges these traditional ideas through a variety of tactics. For example, the ad takes aim at the phrase “boys will be boys,” a common excuse used to justify violent behavior and solving issues with fists instead of words.
A redefinition of masculinity, such as that hinted at in the Gillette ad, is necessary in today’s culture. Toxic masculinity confines men; it teaches them that traits not related to traditional masculinity should be hidden. By calling out the forces behind toxic masculinity, such as passive oversight and emotional unavailability, Gillette has helped spark a national conversation about overarching problems with men in the United States and how to change it.
Another point the advertisement makes is to acknowledge the frequent occurrence of sexual harassment. Not only does the ad expose the trivialization of sexual assault and exploitation in media, but it also provides examples of ways to improve this practice. The ad showcases both hypothetical instances of men standing up to sexual misconduct as well as real-world models of men who fight against issues having to do with sexual assault, such as Terry Crews.
Men need to establish among themselves that it is not okay to take advantage of those in a position of less power or of a different gender. Of course, not all men are perpetrators of sexual harassment, but many women are the victims of it. Approximately 81 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in some way, shape or form. Sexual harassment has tragically become normalized, and this advertisement calls for a revolution in the way men view women and interact with them.
Gillette’s advertisement promotes men holding each other accountable and, to quote the advertisement itself, “To say the right thing, to act the right way … through ways big and small.”
Although the advertisement may be seen as an attack on men, it is actually an attack on the societal expectations of men as well as a guide to a better future for both men and women. Gillette’s advertisement serves as a call to action for men to take a deeper look at how they carry themselves, define masculinity and treat others in an effort to inspire coming generations.
Gillette’s advertisement closes with the message “It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best.” This final statement exemplifies the overall message that men can do better. Men can hold each other accountable, they can fix their behavior and they can leave a positive environment for future generations.
Gillette’s ad is a call for a better future. The company asked a question of men across the country: “Is this the best we can do?” Hopefully men can look inward and answer this question with a change in the way we view masculinity.