Men’s grooming product company Gillette recently joined the ‘woke’ league; the new Gillette ad addresses toxic masculinity and says that men can be better than bullies and harassers. But, it has received a lot of flack. Clearly, Not All Men (or women) believe that men have any need or ability to grow. But the believers of regressive patriarchal ideas are not the only critics of this ad, as Gillette has also been accused of commercialising the #MeToo movement.
New Gillette Ad on Toxic Masculinity Receives Criticism
Gillette’s new ad says it believes that men can be better than bullies and harassers; it calls out men who hurt people for being different from them or nor masculine enough, assault women, or crack misogynistic jokes. It addresses the casual dismissal of such toxic chauvinism with the excuse, “Men will be men.”
Essentially, it challenges the idea that men are inherently violent, thoughtless, and hurtful, or that they are biological rapists, homophobes, or bigots. The short film tries to establish something that feminists have been screaming for decades; it says that men have the capability to think and identify the toxicity that’s instilled in them by the patriarchal society. It says that men can go beyond such regressive practices to become compassionate, accommodative, respectful, loving, responsible, and even vulnerable. It says that men should hold other men accountable for rape, assault, violence, and other such actions, instead of showing gender-based loyalty. Without resorting to generalisation, the ad celebrates manhood in different forms.
This hurt some men, who decided to boycott Gillette. People have deep-rooted associations of hyper-masculinity with ‘being men’. Thus, they came to the conclusion that asking men to be better than bullies and harassers is a way of dictating them to stop being men. The Youtube video on Gillette’s official page has about 5 lakh Likes, and almost 10 lakh Dislikes. And, it’s not just men with fragile masculinity who have got burns on their sensitive skin; women have defended such malignant behaviour, too. Suffice it to say that they suffer from internalised misogyny. It’s sad to imagine that they have been exposed to so much male chauvinism that they are adapted to it.
Woke capitalism etc.
Keeping aside the pterodactyl screams and juvenile whining from the man-babies and the female gatekeepers of patriarchy, there’s another accusation against Gillette. Apparently, it is one of those brands that suddenly realised that social issues are sellable, and hence, decided to commodify the anti-patriarchal agenda of inclusiveness that feminism and queer activism have talked about for ages. According to the more intellectual critics of the new Gillette ad, the brand just hopped on the bandwagon to become part of the woke capitalism where the sentiments of people and the much-talked-about social issues are commercialised by brands as a PR activity.
Many people have been cheering for this criticism. It could be their attempt to show that they have recognised and beaten the ingenuity of the alleged woke capitalism. It could also be that they have forgotten that we are all part of society with a capitalist structure, and we can’t really opt out of it. In this situation, even if a brand co-opts a social issue to become part of the trend, it still helps to bring attention to the issue; it takes a taboo or ignored subject to the drawing rooms of people, compelling them to start talking about it. Since we can’t boycott capitalism in the foreseeable future, isn’t this negotiation with capitalism still better?
Many men have called for a mass boycott of the grooming products by the company, ignoring their brand loyalty. Gillette must have predicted the histrionic backlash it would receive after making this ad. This is, after all, the time of Donald Trump. But they went ahead and did this short film anyway. In the process, they alienated themselves from a large part of their target group. And, they are unabashed about their intention to shave off hypermasculinity and instil the idea of choosing to make a difference. They have no apologies for talking about using their own space in this society and turning it into a loving, non-violent space without hate and bigotry by standing up to violence, harassment, and disrespect towards the weak, the different, and the marginalised. And even if this is a capitalist move, it’s good to know that even capitalism doesn’t want Male Chauvinistic Pigs.