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The Mud on Gillette’s Face

Gillette, the 118-year-old shaving company, has some mud on its face. (Or maybe that’s shaving cream.) The company just released a controversial commercial [1] as part of a new campaign urging customers to aspire to more than just “the best (shave) a man can get.” Now, they’re supposed to become “The Best a Man Can Be.” What that means, of course, is that men should embrace the spirit of #MeToo, and learn how to support women and girls.

On a level of corporate strategy, this might just be an effort to compensate for the fact that Gillette still advertises on Fox News, even as many other companies [2] have abandoned the right-wing network. They may have overshot though, because the new ad provoked so much anger that some have called for a boycott [3] of Gillette products.

The commercial opens with an image of a man looking in a mirror, as a news reel in the background spouts buzz words: “bullying…violence…toxic masculinity.” A voice asks us, “Is this the best a man can get?” Next we are treated to a montage of stereotypical “bad men,” as they grope and patronize women, mindlessly couch-surf, and stand around smoking grills while their sons engage in vicious brawls. Then comes the dawn: the #MeToo movement stuns our handsy Neanderthals into silence, after which we are offered a tutorial on how men can be better. Mainly, this involves setting a good example for young boys by supporting girls and women and confronting those “toxic” men who haven’t yet absorbed the #MeToo message.

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It’s hardly an exercise in subtlety. But really, can we expect the entitled louts of bro culture to absorb anything too nuanced?

Gillette is in a pickle here. They have needlessly offended customers, but apologizing for the ad would probably just make the situation worse. In the unsubtle world of corporate messaging, an apology would be read as a wholesale abandonment of the message. “Actually, we changed our minds. Sexual harassment isn’t that big of a deal. As you were!”

What Gillette can do is learn from this incident. It might even be possible to do some damage control if they think through their next step more carefully. I don’t really expect a shaving company to teach boys how to be men, but positive messaging for boys is so sorely needed right now that I’d cheerfully accept it from almost anyone with a platform.

Still, this ad misses the mark for a couple of important reasons. First of all, if you want to empower decent men, don’t start by implying that they were all basically incorrigible until women taught them how to do it right. I’m not implacably opposed to #MeToo; I think it’s had a mix of positive and negative effects. But the whole point of the ad is that boys and young men tend to model their behavior on other men. That’s absolutely right, so why not present some examples of men who have been setting a good example for more than just the past 18 months? You could feature a man reflecting on what his father or grandfather taught him about treating women with decency and respect. That monologue could be interspersed with some #MeToo references, but the presence of the honorable ancestor would dispel the impression that Gillette assumes its customers were mostly shameless lechers until Ashley Judd took them to task in October 2017.

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Gillette execs might also consider a further question: what does it take for a man to be “the best he can be”? Obviously he should get an excellent shave, refrain from catcalling or groping people, and…anything else? To me, that sounds like a pretty low bar. When I think about the future I want for my five sons, “not becoming Harvey Weinstein” isn’t the only item on the list. Manhood involves more than just behaving properly around women, as important as that is. Perhaps people would respond more favorably to Gillette’s ads if they didn’t imply that controlling men’s basest impulses is about the best we can expect from them.

Masculinity is a thorny topic nowadays. But if Gillette is planning to brave these turbulent waters, they need a more substantial message. Instead of insulting men with a litany of brutish stereotypes, show us examples of men who contribute something good to society. Show us hardworking men who come through for their families even in difficult times. Remind us of the many honorable men who have thrown themselves into mortal danger to protect innocent lives. (Men do this far more frequently than women, by the way. Women can show heroic courage in other ways, but when a bystander jumps in to stop a homicidal maniac from massacring dozens, that person is usually a man.) Remind us of men who are honest, resourceful, and indomitable in the face of corruption. We’ve just marked the 10-year anniversary of Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s successful landing of U.S. Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after a catastrophic engine failure. I’d call that an inspiring example of a man being “the best he can be.”

Young men need discipline, today as ever, and sometimes that does call for policing of a #MeToo variety. Especially in our time, though, young men also need to be assured that they have the potential to be more than just barely controlled reprobates. It shouldn’t be too hard to send that message, because manly excellence is appealing to almost every audience. (That’s why movies and television dramas are generally well-stocked with brilliant, brave, and brawny men.) Even if it’s just corporate virtue-signaling, I’m prepared to applaud anyone who successfully persuades American boys that “you too can be excellent!” It’ll have to be better than this though. After a century of manufacturing men’s products, Gillette should know a little bit more than what it’s shown so far.

Rachel Lu is a senior contributor at The Federalist and a Robert Novak Fellow.

64 Comments (Open | Close)

64 Comments To "The Mud on Gillette’s Face"

#1 Comment By Alex On January 17, 2019 @ 2:58 pm

Oh, and you do realize that the writer’s income is dependent on riling up dummies, right? Her hands aren’t clean either–she wants to keep this pointless rage going so she can churn out more low effort “journalism” to enable her own lifestyle.

#2 Comment By Cole On January 17, 2019 @ 3:44 pm

SomeKindofDruidDude, the point is in the subtext; there’s an implied criticism of people who don’t sign on to MeToo, that they’re all basically the sort of men shown in the video, AKA everything wrong with the world. Of course, there’s plausible deniability, since they don’t come right out and say as much, but there’s a long, angry history behind vids like these. Most of it’s fairly stupid–people talking to each other about how dumb and wrong those people over there are–but it’s not coincidence, for example, that it’s the white dude who catcalls the woman, and his black friend who corrects him.

Essentially they call men (particularly white men of a conservative persuasion) thugs and brutes, but in such a manner that they can disingenuously pretend that they were just criticizing terrible behavior in general and clearly the ad must have hit close to home for some people, etc. The ad was very deliberately created to manufacture this response.

#3 Comment By Rick Steven D. On January 17, 2019 @ 4:14 pm

I’m so lost here, as Sonya Friedman once said while interviewing Camille Paglia on Sonya Live. Shouldn’t conservatives APPLAUD the Gillette ad? Harkening back to an older definition of masculinity, everything encompassed in the idea of the ‘gentleman’? Instead of the National Lampoon’s frat party that masculinity has degenerated into in this country? This myopic focus on the (admitted) insanity of the left is distorting so much. I realize we’ve never had an aristocracy in this country, with the elaborate honor culture that it imposes upon men. (Mrs. Trollope’s admittedly biased Domestic Manners of the Americans, in contrast to Tocqueville, gives a REAL sense of what might have been lost while we gained our highest egalitarian ideals). But can’t we aim at something better, for Chr—sakes? And PLEASE give up the victimhood-envy already! Eight years of self pity while Obama was in office drove me up the f—ing ben, and it’s still going on(and I guess you can see where my own manners could stand a little improvement, but I’ve always been a bit of a barbarian. Blame eight years in the New York City Police Department).

#4 Comment By JohnInCA On January 17, 2019 @ 5:44 pm

If an ad saying “be a man, don’t be a d*ck” offends you, that’s probably because you’re not meeting that standard and you know it.

#5 Comment By Fayez Abedaziz On January 17, 2019 @ 10:38 pm

Everything in this article is quite right, it is common sense.
Yet, do people know where the ads in today’s media actually come from? No.
The ad agencies come up with ideas and present them to companies marketing departments.
So, let us see who, in this case, are the people at the ad agency that came up with this.
And, why are so many (most actually) of the bullies and criminals, including the domestic violence guys from places like pro-athletics and from the cities-inner and just around there?
Also, notice how the majority of the ads with men in them, show the guy as being dumb or silly? And, aren’t most photos and articles on every media about how a females figure/ body part looks. And all the sexual hints and so on?
And the American male is now to be bullied into being without eyes and opinions? By the way, the media all over the place can just cool it on putting down white males, okay?
And, I am from the Arabic Middle East and I see that so easily. Enough already.

#6 Comment By JimDandy On January 18, 2019 @ 12:06 am

But, like, this girl in New York? She, like, went to a party with her date and Aziz Ansari was there? And she like totally gave him her number and they had a date? But, like, it wasn’t, like, totally perfect and didn’t totally transform her life and solve all her problems in life so she ended up giving him oral sex and then the next day she, like, regretted it? So she called him out on being a disappointing date? And Aziz never even went to jail! Yeah, his career got destroyed, but will that last forever? I mean, he’s still alive, unfortunately. If it wasn’t for #Metoo, where would be we be as, like, a society? OMG. SHM. Hopefully the next entitled male celebrity sees one of those Gillette ads and treats fangirls like the queens they are!

#7 Comment By sglover On January 18, 2019 @ 4:36 pm

Love to see “serious” right-wingers, ever so concerned with “values”, lose their minds over a TV commercial for throw-away razors. A commercial whose basic message is, “try not to act like a perpetual 13-year-old, and be sure to buy lots more razor blades!”

You clowns are always and forever the best self-parody.

#8 Comment By Feanor Korsikov On January 18, 2019 @ 9:25 pm

I don’t want corporations pushing the ideologies of the left, right, or middle. Period.
This applies to vendors of razors, beer, ice cream, or any other consumer goods. My views in that sphere are literally none of their business.

In the case of Gillette, how conference rooms full of executives and advertising gurus could have fit all of their heads up the same posterior is a mystery.

#9 Comment By Sisera On January 19, 2019 @ 10:49 am

Housekeeping:
Seems AmCon comments are being overrun by the Woke buzzword crowd.
“Rightwingers” “bad”

‘when you disagree with our wokeness you’re actually the triggered snowflake, haha’

What does this bring to the table?

#10 Comment By Ray Woodcock On January 19, 2019 @ 4:56 pm

Nice job, Rachel. Thank you.

#11 Comment By Ben Neviss On January 20, 2019 @ 9:28 pm

I find the whole metoo movement pretty amusing. It seems to be another case of liberals eating liberals. I know, feminists wanted so badly to pretend it’s got something to do with Trump, but their trap has snared far more famous lefties than anything else. Maybe someday they’ll have the guts to go after those notoriously enlightened rappers who prove daily that women are nothing more to them than walking T&A.

#12 Comment By JeffK On January 21, 2019 @ 7:01 am

I read all the caterwauling about the Gillette video, so I watched it. Twice. It has a fine message. Not nearly as preachy as I had imagined.

Right wing snowflakes trigger very easily. Predictably too.

Why?

#13 Comment By Chris On January 21, 2019 @ 11:16 pm

This article is the primary reason why the Church is dead in America. The best you got, is replicating the Anarcho-Tyranny that is running amuck in the West. Since, if you dared to try to tell young women to behave, the hell you would get, so you focus all that pent up need for self righteousness for boy’s, young men and men.

These truly are the End Times. The Apostle Jude spoke of how all natural affection will depart.

Young men, by and large are disciplined. Heck, a large, larger then any prior generation, of young men, are still virgins and law abiding citizens.

After a lifetime of betrayal, you wonder why young men are walking away from a highly anti male society. They don’t regard themselves as evil, they regard individuals like you to be evil.

The West has become a woman worshiping, Matriarchal nightmare.

#14 Comment By TamB On January 26, 2019 @ 1:28 pm

There is no truth in advertising. Why would anyone look to a corporate entity for advice on how to be a human???

I wish I had a dime for every pharmacuetical commericial that shows perfectly healthy people living normal lives, while the ad spews the horrible side effects their questionable overpriced drugs. It doesn’t matter what corporations have to say, it’s all about the bottom line.

My choice is to ignore them completely.