Gillette is “the best a man can get”. At least, that’s what their marketing team have been telling everyone for the past 30 years. As with most product taglines, if you analyse it too much, it becomes ridiculous – is a sharp razor is really the best scenario a grown man can hope for? – but the phrase is supposed to be aspirational, to tell men that they should strive to be the best, to achieve the most and to do it with a Gillette razor in hand. Unsurprisingly, men have been OK with this messaging so far, but as of this morning, they changed their minds when the company premiered its new advert.
The clip, titled “We believe: the best men can be”, tackles toxic masculinity head-on. It challenges the “boys will be boys” excuse men afford each other so they can get away with bullying and harassment. It explicitly references the #MeToo movement, how women are ignored and talked over in boardrooms, and the way men treat women they don’t even know on the street – following them, telling them to smile. “It is only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best,” reads the closing caption. This, it seems, is what it takes to upset the men who thought they were the best just because they shaved their chins.
Women are sold products on the back of our insecurities manufactured by brands; men are sold the idea that they are already the best, this product is the best – they deserve it
Comments under the video on YouTube are accusing the ad of misandry and feminist propaganda, and many are adamant they will never buy a Gillette razor ever again. Leader of the pack Piers Morgan said on Twitter, “I've used @Gillette razors my entire adult life but this absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away to a company less eager to fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity. Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.” Men, in this instance it seems, are only men if they’re allowed to pinch a woman’s bum and encourage their sons to fight.
The ad itself was directed by Kim Gehrig, who was also responsible for Sport England’s brilliant This Girl Can campaign. As expected, her involvement in Gillette’s new campaign has acted as a catalyst for further sexism, with right-wing Canadian commentator Ezra Levant comparing Gehrig’s role to that of a middle-aged man directing a tampon advert. But let’s not forget that adverts for sanitary products used blue liquid until 2017, lest someone feel so repulsed at the mere suggestion of period blood they can no longer watch television.
The real reason some men are upset with Gillette is because they are finally having to confront their own behaviour as wrong and damaging. Women are told we’re wrong all the time – we’re too fat, too skinny, too hairy, too loud, too opinionated. We are well aware of how society views us and are sold products on the back of our insecurities manufactured by brands; men are sold the idea that they are already the best, this product is the best – they deserve it. Gillette’s so-called “attack” on toxic masculinity flips this falsehood on its head and asks their customers to do better, to be kinder people and to act on other people’s wrongdoings. That’s why men are angry. Because they’re scared.