The Gillette Advert Is Cool, But…

Gillette’s new advertisement has everyone touched in some way: some think it’s revolutionary in the face of the #MeToo movement and the fragile men are just hella salty. Haters are posting videos throwing away their razors because how dare a brand pander to those social-justice warriors. But SHAAZIA EBRAHIM and FATIMA MOOSA aren’t here for fragile masculinity or the commodification of activism.

Get yourself a Gillette blade and shave off your toxic masculinity – is the message the Proctor and Gamble company are presenting to the world. The shaving and grooming company released the new ad campaign and initiative on Sunday.

Featuring a (cringy) short film called “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” the video already has 20 million views on YouTube.  The film presents toxic masculinity as bullying, fighting, mansplaining and cat calling and sexual harassment asking men if this is the best they can be? Instead, it calls for men to build a masculinity rooted in kindness, acceptance, and respect.

The advert – which is really not that controversial – has divided the timeline. Some are praising its positive message that we need to redefine masculinity and others are just butthurt.

Men are actually crying angry male tears that the advert implies that men are “not good enough” saying that they just want to shave without the politics. There’s also our favourite response: “What about toxic femininity?” Yes folks, masculinity really is that fragile.

Honestly, if this is the response we’re getting to an ad, it’s no wonder that women and queer people have to fight patriarchy in every sphere of our daily lives. And the fight is going to take more than a few ad campaigns.

Fighting toxic masculinity will take more than a razor

The effects of toxic masculinity are real and personal: it’s defined a real man as “dominant, powerful, unemotional, rational, entitled to respect and sex-obsessed”. Masculinity is always cast as the opposite of anything deemed feminine or queer and anything relating to those identities is considered an insult to those who have internalised this masculinity. Toxic masculinity has real consequences: the suppression of emotion, instigation of violence and violent behaviour (which is often meted out on women and queers), queerphobia, rape culture, and misogyny.

While it’s quite hilarious how touched men are getting, the ad campaign is anything but revolutionary. If anything it’s just another indicator of late capitalism and the way corporates are cashing in on activism.

Conscious capitalism is a farce

Corporates are getting “woke’. That should be something to celebrate, right? Unfortunately the wokeness and rise of social justice from big companies is a double-edged sword. It comes at time which is almost too opportunistic. The rise of Donald Trump in the United States of America (USA) and general fascist right-wing politics around the world has coincided with a growing politically conscious movement. It is all too easy for big companies to pander to the other side: liberals and politically conscious people.

Nike did it. In 2018, Nike released the huge ad campaign with former National Football League (NFL) star Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick famously protested against the police brutality in the US by kneeling during the anthem at games. He was kicked out of his team. In Nike’s campaign they featured him, Serena Williams, and other stars who have been vocal about political issues to show that their brand was now “woke”. There was a huge backlash against the company from Trump supporters and right-wingers.

It prompts the question: does making Trump supporters and, in the Gillette case, fragile men angry mean a company is tapped into politically correct discourse?

All big companies (like Procter & Gamble, which owns the Gillette brand) form part of the capitalist machine. It is impossible for companies to be part of the machine and still want to sell themselves as fighting for social justice. These companies are just selling a product. And in doing so, they are selling social justice and political correctness to make a profit. Phrases like ‘conscious capitalism’ and ’causesumption’ which are bandied around these ventures are nothing but pretty wrapping companies are putting on their products to make coin.

Without taking away the agency of consumers – if you want to buy a Nike sneaker or Gillette razor because you buy their message – that’s totally fine. But remember to #staywoke in the face of corporates trying to profit from the lived experiences of people facing inequality and discrimination.

All these brands are doing are undermining the very important and pertinent issues which they are supposedly trying to highlight. It becomes less about police brutality, #BlackLivesMatter, toxic masculinity, and patriarchy and more about the companies supposed moral high ground for tackling these issues.

All Gillette is doing is turning toxic masculinity – something with real consequences that feminists have been fighting against forever – into sellable symbolism. People who become victims of pervasive ideas of toxic masculinity are now erased so that a company can sell razors. It’s just not genuine.

Featured image via YouTube