Engaging with the #MeToo movement, they play on their famous tagline, switching out “The best a man can get” for “The best men can be”. In just under two minutes the advert features clips of news teams reporting on the #MeToo movement; images showing sexism in films, boardrooms and on the street as well as violence between boys, with a voice-over saying: “Bullying, the MeToo movement against sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, is this the best a man can get?”.
Focussing on such powerful topics, the video went instantly viral, with the advert now being watched over 21 million times and generating both positive and negative reactions. In fact so negative in one case, a man threw his razor into the toilet. I don’t know about you but I’ve never been so angry about something that I’ve thrown it in the toilet, taken a photo of it and then posted it on Twitter. And when did we become a society that the idea of not being carbon copies of Harvey Weinstein was a controversial one?
Of course any “assault on manliness” bought out the Twitter police. Piers Morgan, fresh from his battle with Greggs and their vegan sausage roll was spun into an apoplectic rage. Taking to social media he declared a boycott on the brand, demanding that they just “Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men”. We are only halfway through January and he’s managed to boost two companies’ bank balances by creating faux online controversy and an opportunity for opinion pieces debating his reactions. He’s able to whip up free publicity with every new tweet and it’s something brands are aware of.
We’re now in an era where we can now say no to adverts. We can fast-forward through them on the rare occasions we watch TV and use ad-blockers to ensure we’re not interrupted online. By choosing a topic that appeals to us “woke millennials”, it can reposition an established brand that was beginning to look old-fashioned against its new subscription-based competitors. Although the message of the advert is inherently good, it’s not perfect and there is certainly opportunities to raise a cynical eyebrow. Women who have been abused definitely did not establish the #MeToo campaign to help sell more eight-bladed razors to those of us distracted by artsy short films. In a report from Amnesty International, it implicated Gillette’s overseers, Procter & Gamble, from profiting from child labour. So it’s understandable if we don’t now see them as a force for social justice.
But those don’t seem bothered about the advert exploiting a cause for profit. Instead, they see it as an attack on their definition of masculinity, but when the definition includes so many negatives, does it not deserve to be attacked? If these outdated macho stereotypes are still an important part of their being, it shows exactly why adverts like these are required. No one should be made to feel alienated or abused and with so much backlash, it’s become obvious that the conversation of what it is to be a modern man needs to happen. No matter what Twitter says, the advert isn’t blaming all men for what’s being highlighted in the video. It’s asking the many to try and influence the few into changing their ways for the better. The American Psychological Association issued new guidelines advising that masculinity characterised by dominance, aggression and emotional repression can be harmful to men’s mental health and as a society that is now more understanding on the topic of mental health we should be doing everything we can to help.
We can show that men can be whatever they want to be and not face the stigma and repercussions of the past. As allies to the positive changes that are happening in the world, we ensure these changes stick until one-day oppression becomes something of a distant memory.
And who doesn’t want to move away from a society where a man has to cut his hand pulling out a razor blade from a toilet U-bend to prove his masculinity?