Are you one of the 8.5 million people who’ve watched this video in the past couple of days?
If you’ve been here for any length of time you’ll know that I have some *thoughts* about this commercial and the response to it. Hi, rabid intersectional feminist, right here.
First and foremost: I don’t love that Gillette is leveraging various traumas for marketing. I’m not just talking about sexual assault and harassment but also bullying. That shit is rough, and as much as older generations like to think that it’s a normal part of growing up and that kids today are just too soft, technology has given us so many new and terrifying ways to torment each other. It’s why so many schools have enacted zero tolerance cyberbullying rules and why campaigns like the one Rimmel is involved with are even necessary.
Second, Gillette’s market share over the last decade has tanked, from 70% to under 50%, thanks to razor subscription services like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. You know, companies who don’t still employ discriminatory pricing models, i.e. the “pink tax“. And have you noticed how many men are currently rocking full beards? Gillette needs help, and I’m sure they’ve picked up on the fact that companies with a sense of social justice get attention, and attention means sales. Also, a substantial portion of Gillette’s consumer base is women, so making a commercial that acknowledges some of the near-universal experiences we’ve had, like workplace harassment, is going to resonate with us. We’re going to remember that when we’re shopping, and maybe we’ll spend our money on their products.
Now, this is not to say that I don’t like the commercial; frankly, I was so moved by it that I actually cried. Regardless of their motive (which is money. I’m not an idiot), Gillette is calling on men to be better. To hold each other accountable for their actions and to be decent human beings, not only to women but also to each other. It’s a message we don’t hear very often, but we should. Toxic masculinity is a thing and it’s gone unchecked for far too long. Previously only “feminazis” and “social justice warriors” used the term, but now this huge company is recognizing it, and it’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
The backlash has been swift and, predictably, come from predominantly straight, white, Conservative men. Just looking at likes vs. dislikes and comments on the video it’s apparent that some people have a massive problem with the message that Gillette is sending. The ratio of dislikes to likes is currently about 5:1, with over 150,000 predominantly negative comments. Right-wing news outlets like Fox News and Red State have published opinion pieces that range from mildly offensive and idiotic to hateful and violent. I won’t link them here because I don’t want to increase their stats, but they’re easy enough to find if you’re so inclined.
So I ask you: what’s so offensive about asking men not to hurt people?
Sure, I acknowledge that it’s not all men and that some women are abusers too. The problem is that when it comes to domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, really any category in which someone is being hurt, the person doing the hurting is far more likely to be a man. In some of those cases, it’s possible that the man didn’t even know he was being shitty because of the way we socialize men and women. Some of the best and most kind-hearted men I’ve ever known have, at one time or another, used sketchy coercive tactics to get women into bed or had no problem relentlessly mocking one of their bros for showing emotion. These are fundamentally good people who take care of their families and help their communities, so where’s the disconnect?
The last part of the video is about how men can lead by example when it comes to bullying and harassment, and the little boys who see it now will be better men for it. I’m on board with this message. I can only hope that by the time my young nieces and nephews are adults, commercials like this won’t be controversial or necessary.