Shave off toxic masculinity: Gillette just showed us there's room for change

Nairita Mukherjee
Nairita MukherjeeJan 16, 2019 | 18:39

Shave off toxic masculinity: Gillette just showed us there's room for change

Here's a piece of information most of us already know — but a reminder is still necessary:

'Toxic' has been declared the 'word of the year' by Oxford Dictionary. And 'toxic masculinity' is one of the most common applications of the word, as per the same list.

So, 'toxic masculinity' has not just dominated our minds, it's also dominated our social media feeds. As have phrases #MeToo, bullying, mansplaining, sexual abuse, etc.

This weekend, these phrases found a new fervour on Twitter, as Gillette dropped their new ad campaign.

The 'shave off toxic masculinity' campaign is as simple and as complicated as you want it to be.

The first half of the ad shows men engaged in supposed manly jobs — barbecuing, heading round table conferences, getting into brawls — with a message to the effect of 'boys will be boys' playing at the back.

Piers Morgan, however, happened to hear only this part of the message. As did a fair share of men on Twitter, who came out unabashedly bashing Gillette for portraying men in a bad light. And Twitter turned a battlefield.

Clearly, Gillette's razor was so sharp, it could cut deep enough for the men to bleed, and then run to their mommies to crib about it.

But then, the second half of the ad dabbed aftershave, as it were, on the cut.

Gillette's original tagline goes: The Best A Man Can Get.

This time, for the first time, they've tweaked it to: The Best Men Can Be.

I should rest my case here, but I have so much more to say.

The ad starts with glimpses of an older (typical) Gillette ad — a clean-shaven man at the receiving end of all the female attention he can possibly get, with one lady practically unable to get her hands off him. We've grown up watching such ads, and not just by Gillette, but by every men's product to make it to the supermarket shelves — perfumes, deodorants, aftershave, shaving creams, and the works.

Obviously, these are sexist, they objectify women down to mere props and eye candy. And some of us have been screaming at the top of our lungs to make the world realise that. 

Then, someone did. 

The singular fact that Gillette, the once-upon-a-time torchbearers of machismo and the alpha-male, in 2019 have taken a conscious decision to re-evaluate their stance, deserves applause. That it is backed up by P&G, one of the world's biggest consumer products manufacturers, goes to show that the message has been heard loud and clear.

Yes, finally!

The ad goes on to literally tear the projector screen (that was running the older Gillette ad) and show a father, his little boy in tow, running to stop a school kid from being bullied by a gang of boys. "Are you okay," he asks with concern, as he helps the terrified boy up. In another, a boy on the street notices how one male friend stops another's sexist advances at a woman passing by. "Not cool, man. Not cool," says the friend standing in-between him and the girl. We spot two little boys beat each other up until one of their fathers come running, "Hey, we don't treat each other this way. Okay?"

Yes, men can be — and have been — like this. We've seen it. Heck, we've had to bear the brunt of it. But here's the thing — they don't NEED to be like this.

"Because the 'boys' watching today will be the men of tomorrow," reasons Gillette. 

Twitter's reaction over the ad depicted three distinct strands of opinion — one which criticised the ad for showing men as the perpetual perpetrator, another which supported the ad simply because it had something to do with getting rid of toxic masculinity, and a third which simply wouldn't accept it because it was coming from Gillette with its history of creating this brand of men. 

And the last one is why we are raising a toast to the ad. 

For when we call out bullies, sexual predators and mansplainers, we do so with this little slither of hope deep down that there is room for change.

Gillette just showed us that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

Last updated: January 16, 2019 | 18:39
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